Lincoln’s busking boom

Go to any city centre on a sunny weekend and you are bound to hear the sweet sound of music.

Buskers come in all shapes and sizes, anything from a student with a guitar, an eccentric man with a recorder or even a five piece rock ‘n roll band.

Busking is a past time that many students have undertaken, not only for a little extra money but also for the experience with a few performers even making it a full time job.


Busking is a living for Tim Yates and Paul Young from Blackbeard's. Photo: Samantha Viner

Some city councils frown upon busking and have started to enforce busking licenses which will only be given once the street performer proves how well they can perform.

Jack, 24, is a busker from London. He used to study at the University of Lincoln and has been busking for the last eight years. He sees it as a hobby: “It’s for a bit of pocket money…it’s just good fun to come out on the high street. It’s like people watching but you get paid for it.”

Jack has had mixed responses to his performances in the city centre. “I usually get a good reaction, there might be a little chav kicking off or something but it’s a laugh isn’t it? I just like practising my songs.”

For Jack it’s clear that busking is a way to try and impress the ladies: “That [as a girl walks past] is an amazing reason for busking. I just get to stare at hot girls all day.”

Some performers make a living from busking, Blackbeard’s Tea Party, a folk band from York, have visited Lincoln half a dozen times. Paul Young, 25, plays guitar, melodeon and fiddle in the band and has been busking “pretty much as [a] full time job since 2007”.

He said: “We’ve always had a good reception in Lincoln. A lot of cities tend to have people whose job it is to wander around being busybodies, I think you do get some people like that in Lincoln but the ones in Leeds especially think it’s their job to stop buskers.

“People don’t think about whether its actually a problem and similarly with shops the security will come out and be just like ‘Don’t play here’.

“But on the other hand some shops pay us to busk outside so it’s clearly debatable whether it’s a good thing for them or not. In fact we had security guards come out here but there was a big crowd so I think they knew they’d have gotten booed.”

Performing on the street is important for the band as it helps to promote their music. Blackbeard’s Tea Party also sell merchandise such as CDs and shirts when they go into city centres.

Young and co have managed to make a living out of busking: “If you put in full time hours you can make full time money and you can certainly make good money out of doing it.”

“It’s a lot harder making a living if you’re a singer/ guitarist but because we’ve got more of a sort of wow factor and novelty it works and I know of some buskers who do very unusual things and make a fortune, it’s all down to what you do really.”

Young expects to be busking for as long as the band is together “unless we get to the point when we get really famous and make loads of money so we don’t need to. But I think as long as we are a sort of working gigging band I think it will always be something that’s helpful.

“I mean if you think about a band which is quite famous and successful if they went out and did a days busking in a city it would be a big publicity event lots of people would see them so I think it’s always a good thing to do and I think we’ll always enjoy it.”

Buskers will always be a part of any busy city centre scene, we may not like all of them but they’re here to entertain and most of them manage to do so.

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