I like to think of my violin case as a sample of London’s passersby, a little petri dish with all the odds and ends they chuck in, money, chewing gum, the odd tissue. Not to mention the infuriating tourists with their dollars and baht and rand.
Busking isn’t what it used to be, you have to be licensed and have a pitch now. To get a two hour spot, I have to hang on the end of a premium phone line for an age – and you never know where it’s going to be. Everyone wants Piccadilly, no one wants Elephant & Castle. So much for the carefree, wandering minstrel.
It used to be a free for all, rushing down into the tube as early as possible, elbowing for the best spots, negotiating your territory but that’s all gone. I kind of miss it.
I play the violin – with an orchestral backing track, it’s too screechy in the tunnels for most people to stomach – all the old classics. Most people walk straight past, some people put money in or give me a smile, others can’t hear a thing (though I sometimes win the battle of the ipods) and I get the odd heckler too: “Don’t give up the day job!” or just simply: “Yer crap!” It’s water off a duck’s back, they’re only in the underground in the first place because they’re undertaking a hot, sweaty journey to an office and a mundane little job they can’t escape from.
I gave up on being spotted by a music producer a long time ago. These days I do it for the fun…and the dirty money.