From the underground to the high street - National Busking Day arrives

17 July 2015

Live music and street performance across the UK this Saturday 18 July, including Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Canterbury, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Gateshead, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Margate, Newcastle and York Hundreds of musicians and street performers are set to hit town centres across the UK this Saturday 18 July, when the first National Busking Day takes place celebrating the role that busking and street performance have had on city life over the centuries. Shopping centres, high streets, parks and railway stations will provide the backdrop to performers from the UK and overseas, bringing music, magic, street dance, physical theatre and street art. Towns and cities taking part include Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Canterbury, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Gateshead, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Margate, Newcastle and York. The Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who has initiated National Busking Day with partners around the UK, said: 'We are thrilled to be joining up with other cities around the UK for the first ever National Busking Day. From Chaucer to Shakespeare and beyond, the tradition of the wandering bard and minstrel remains hugely evocative. Musicians and performers continue to use the streets and public spaces to reach audiences and develop their craft and it has played an important role in the careers of many artists from Ed Sheeran to Eddie Izzard. Music tourists alone contribute almost £660m to London's economy each year and street performance and outdoors arts are increasingly being recognised for their value in enhancing the experience of public spaces for shoppers, visitors and commuters.' Musician and writer Hugh Cornwell, founding front man of The Stranglers and member of the Mayor's Busking Taskforce, which helped develop Busk in London, said: 'At last we have it, a National Busking Day. A showcase for all that UK talent that's waiting to be discovered!' Rod Stewart, Pierce Brosnan and internationally renowned percussion group STOMP are just some of the performers who have developed their acts on the streets, yet, despite its presence in urban life for centuries, buskers and street performers have sometimes faced problems, with confusing rules and even the occasional risk of arrest. The Mayor of London is committed to promoting and supporting street performance across the capital and this year launched Busk in London, the world's first ever city-wide street performance scheme, which aims to make it simpler for artists to perform in public spaces. It includes London's first Buskers' Code, common sense guidance devised by performers, councils, businesses and the police. Busk in London is backed by official partner Ticketmaster Rising and supported by City of Westminster Council, Heart of London Business Alliance, Network Rail, Northbank Business Improvement District, New West End Company, PRS for Music and Transport for London. The aim is to build on the success over seven years of the annual Gigs busking competition, which also kicks off this weekend, as well as London Underground's long-running busking scheme. It also builds on the popular London 2012 cultural programme, which saw artists bring a variety of arts and entertainment to high streets and town centres across the capital. The Mayor added: 'One of the things that make London such a vibrant city is the casual way you can encounter a wonderful piece of music or dance or even magic on the streets. It's this spirit of creativity that makes our city so welcoming. I hope this initiative will encourage all cities around the UK to value our fantastic street performers even more.' In London, Trafalgar Square is providing the centrepiece of the action, with specially selected performers from the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and Argentina entertaining visitors around the iconic location from 12pm-6pm. Performers will also be putting on a show for passengers travelling on a special New Routemaster bus running between Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park on the 9 route. Other locations include King's Cross Square, St Paul's Churchyard, Leicester Square Gardens, Southbank, Covent Garden and both Westfield shopping centres, as well as London Underground and mainline stations. National Busking Day also kicks off the Busk in London Festival, which includes performances around London for three consecutive weekends in July and August, plus the start of live performances by young musicians who have entered this year's Gigs, the Mayor's annual busking competition. Gigs is giving talented youngsters aged 11-25 the opportunity to perform in high profile locations around the city, so they can get their music heard and hone their performance skills. Steve McNicholas, director of STOMP, who helped launch National Busking Day in King's Cross Square, said: 'Stomp is proud to be going back to its busking roots and celebrating street entertainment in the UK. Our show grew out of a dustbin drumming routine we used to perform in Covent Garden in the Eighties, and wouldn’t be what it is today without our years on the street playing to the toughest, and best audience in the world.' Bob Harris, known for his work presenting on Radio 1 and 2, as well as the legendary Old Grey Whistle Test, said: 'Busking is an important part of our musical history and culture, a time honoured way for young musicians to hone their skills, learn to be brave and get their music across to people. The experience is challenging, inspiring and rewarding and I am proud to be a part of the UK's first National Busking Day.' Andrew Parsons, Managing Director, Ticketmaster UK, said: 'Artists like Ed Sheeran started out busking on the street and we have all seen what a meteoric rise to fame he has had since. As a brand, we love working with these big stars but we are also passionate about the next generation of talent, which is why we have teamed up with Busk in London for National Busking Day. We look forward to unearthing and celebrating all of the amazing talent out there with the Mayor of London and this fantastic initiative.' Gareth Powell, London Underground's Director of Strategy and Service Development, said: 'Busking on the Underground network has been a rite of passage for London musicians for generations, and buskers today are brightening up journeys for millions of daily Tube passengers. We're committed to nurturing this iconic tradition and are delighted to support the first ever National Busking Day.' David Biggs, Managing Director for Property, Network Rail said: 'Stations are great venues for the performing arts and we are delighted to be supporting emerging talent during National Busking Day. Exciting events such as these bring theatre and entertainment to millions of people using our stations, making their experiences more enjoyable and fun. We remain focused on turning our stations into great destinations for everyone.' More details about National Busking Day can be found at Notes to editors 1. The Mayor is determined to make it the most busker friendly city in the world and ensure London retains its status as one of the world's greatest cities for music, creativity and performance. A recent UK Music report estimates that music tourists alone contribute almost £660m to London's economy each year. 2. National Busking Day locations include: Victoria Square, Belfast; High Street, Birmingham; Brighton Pavilion Gardens; The Bearpit, Bristol; Club Burrito and Longmarket, Canterbury; the Brewhouse, Cardiff; the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, with the castle as backdrop; Exeter Street Food at the Guildhall Shopping Centre, Exeter; SummerTyne Festival at the Sage in Gateshead; Glasgow Buchanan Street; Trinity Leeds; Liverpool One; St Ann's Square, Manchester; the newly opened Dreamland in Margate; Grey’s Monument, Newcastle; Parliament Street, St Sampson's Square and the Shambles Market, York. Exeter will also host a pre-National Busking Day event on 16 July at Piazza Terracina, Exeter Quay night market. 3. Busk in London, which is backed by official partner Ticketmaster Rising and supported by City of Westminster Council, Heart of London Business Alliance, Network Rail, Northbank Business Improvement District, New West End Company, PRS for Music and Transport for London includes a 'one-stop-shop' website,, bringing together information previously scattered around the web, so that musicians and street performers can quickly access busking locations across the capital. It includes London's first Buskers' Code, common sense guidance, devised by performers, councils, businesses and the police, which aims to help and support buskers play at and seeking pitches across the capital. 4. The Mayor's Gigs busking competition is an annual event that has become London's biggest free music festival. Open to Londoners aged 11-25, Gigs is a key part of the Mayor's Music Pledge, which aims to strengthen and promote music education for young people, as well as supporting London's creative industries. Each summer Gigs transforms the capital's busiest, most iconic public spaces into a stage for talented Londoners. Gigs attracts hundreds of applications and is seen by millions of people Gigs live performances will take place from 18 July – 8 August. Online voting is open from 10-30 August. The Gigs Grand Final will take place at Westfield Stratford City on Sunday 6 September. For more information: 5. Ticketmaster Rising is an initiative created in conjunction with the Mayor of London's Busk in London campaign. It brings together videos, songs and sketches from some of the very best in undiscovered talent from across the Capital and the country. Fans are able to scroll through content to discover their next favourite act, share it with their friends and recommend artists that they have come across elsewhere. More information about Ticketmaster Rising can be found at 6. Busk In London and TfL, are holding auditions for the London Underground Busking Scheme as part of the Busk In London Festival. For the first time, selected performers will audition in public in front of a panel of music industry judges, TfL staff, and representatives of the busking scheme. 250 performers have been shortlisted, following an online application process, to take part in the public auditions. The auditions will take place at Canary Wharf, The O2, Leicester Square Gardens, Trafalgar Square and Tottenham Court Road between 27 July and 5 August. In addition, London Underground will be hosting several of the Busk in London Festival performances at its busking pitches in King’s Cross and Tottenham Court Road stations. These performances are scheduled to take place on 25 and 26 July, as well as 1 and 2 August. 7. The Busking Songbook, published by Wise Publications, is also being launched to coincide with National Busking Day and includes 60 top busking hits, selected by buskers, as well as advice about performing in public, providing a great introduction to busking. For more details and to purchase go to: or musicroom stores. @BuskinLondon @LDN_Culture #Gigs2015

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