Old entries from simpler times: Busking

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Whilst going over (and deleting) unwanted content on Facebook, I came across a few bits and pieces. I miss busking.

Found this old post from 4th August 2007.

Day five of ‘my’ Fringe, and the thought police are out in force. It feels like day two to me, but a lot has happened (including a technical rehearsal that finished at midnight, a street urchin and a stand-up routine about health and safety). The Fringe is getting started proper and potential audiences wonder round the city being picked off by hungry flyer-ers.

Thus far, things have been quite slow and civilised. The Fringe has definitely been Brewing, but to-day the Royal Mile has blossomed into the Fringe that I know and love. Lucky for those crowds of innocents, they have Fringe Staff to protect them from vagrants and unlicensed performers. Such as myself.

For a few days now I’ve positioned myself on the Mile, sometimes sitting on a bollard, sometimes standing, sometimes leaning against a wall at a jaunty angle. It’s a great way to pass the time; one can’t be seeing or working in a production all the time, there’s only so much flyering to be done, and a finite amount of money and time that can be spent in pubs or cafes with friends. So every day I leave with my melodeon (look it up), take the 23 into town and pass the time playing music.

I don’t seem to have made any enemies : my adoring public have so far stood me about fifteen quid a day (which, considering I only spend an hour or two tops and it’s for fun anyway, isnae' ba'). I am not, as it were, a public nuisance. I do have one character, a man playing a guitar rather feebly and ‘singing’ who eyes me across the street with mistrust and not a little hostility (and considering I’m playing jolly traditional music and he’s playing bleary nonsense isn’t such a surprise). But he’s my only ill-wisher.

Then there’s Lee, a real street urchin. He can’t be more than ten or eleven, he’s always to be found sitting on the steps of some Building or other (the same building, I just don’t know which one). He has an accordion, and can play two tunes, the first of which is ‘Amazing Grace’ and second uses five consecutive notes. Repeatedly. He seems to enjoy himself. Many are the hours (well, time enough) I’ve sat and chatted with him about this and that. He came up to me as I was packing up once and said ‘eh, you were playin’ that accordion wan’t yeh. I got one, come with me'. And that was that. There’s a whole community of street performers (including a man who I don’t think ever takes off the silver paint that covers every visible part of his body).

And then in wade the Fringe Officials with their jackboots, following orders. I have great sympathy with them, but I don’t agree with their manifesto (which includes coming up to me, asking if I have a permit and telling me to move on). The man in the Fringe office blithely tells me that I’m only breaking the law if I don’t move on when asked to, and that is that. So I am banished to the Fringes of the Royal Mile, out of sight and out of mind of the Fringe Officials. I did test the water by busking just inside the permimeter but I was asked to move. And I wasn’t about to break the law. A busker’s pass is out of the question as long as I’m involved in some other Fringe Activity. Which I am.

The Swingers (for it is this) is in the Baby Belly on Cowgate in ‘The Caves’. It’s an incredible venue (literally, you wouldn’t believe it). It’s housed in one of the many hollows under bridges that are to be found in Edinburgh. It’s cold, dark, with high stone walls and valuted ceilings. Water drips from the walls and a deathly cold shrouds everything. But the play’s good fun and the audience enjoy it.

And that’s what counts. I haven’t told you about Uncle Edwyn’s amazing hedge or the Tale of the Baggage. Or the health-and-safety themed standup (he was very good by the way). But that’s for another day and other note. With pictures.

I’m including a photo of Uncle Edwyn’s hedge for your amusement.


And from the 4th April 2008

Today the following things happened:

• I woke and it was sunny

• I handed in 24,000 words of dissertation

• A woman stopped me in the street and asked me the name of a flower (it was a bluebell)

• I went into town with an instrument and bumped into a friend and we started playing music in the street

• I made £15 busking

• An American girl came up to me whilst I was playing and gave me a bottle of wine

• A South African girl came up to me and played me some SA folk music from her iPod

• I bought a tube of smarties

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