Tales from the Street – to Busk or not to Busk

The day that changed the cause of my life was in the summer 1990! Whilst on a world wide tour doing odd jobs but mostly  selling my hand crafted Jewelry – I returned to the UK for a brief time and  during my stay I went to Covent Garden to visit a shop known as The Bead Shop to replenish my withering stock that i needed  for my hand made crafts.

After  this  I went to the well known street performers pitch at the piazza in Covent Garden . Here  I watched a circus performer who had a huge audience around him and had their full attention and now that included mine. What happened next  startled me – he made a  silk hanky disappear.  I watched him push this hanky into the palm of his hand and slowly and masterfully opened his hand it was gone then he then reached into his mouth and pulled the hanky out of it! The audience gasped and stared!  He then proceeded to climb up a Unicycle that was being propped up by two volunteers and they passed up unlit fire clubs to him. He then dismissed his volunteers and he delivered well rehearsed his  hat lines (money lines).  After juggling the now lit torches, he dismounted his unicycle and took off his hat and a sea of audience members came forward and put notes and coins into his hat – this  seemed to go on for ten minuets or so!  I was hooked!  I knew then what I wanted to do for the foreseeable future of my life!


Why Busking?

It is true that Street Performers become so for lots of different reasons –  from a love of the arts to the need of extra coin, freedom of expression, alternative life style, world wide travel, to disciplines oneself  in the arts, development of material or some believe that street performing is a good starting point in the world of show business –  a stepping stone if you wish!

Their is no right  or wrong way and each of us have our own path to follow.  I will always argue that the streets belong to all. I have come across some strongly  opinionated buskers who seem to be set in their ways as they lay out what they think a busker should or should not be.

Often I can appreciated their argument but I must remind myself and others – you or I are not starting a new wide world religion! No – far from it!   The streets belong to all everyone and is a place for every  form of expression in creative arts coming together – to me that is a WOW. Regardless to race colour or creed, the good, the bad and the damn right awful – we all  have the right to express ourselves  on the streets. Aspiring street performers and experienced street performers alike – never forget your first steps into the world of street theatre  and then you will always remain respectful to your fellow artist – in other words – we all had to start somewhere!

It is true that the streets is a incredible  opportunity  to creatively develop your art if you wish to do so. I will always actively encourage performers to grow whilst seeking to grow myself.   This is more to to with mental attitude and character then anything else (we will look more into this in future posts).

In the mean time one of the best ways to grow as a performer is by getting out there and performing. In addition have mentors that can give good constructive critic of your show.  Spend time practicing and rehearsing but most importantly put into practice what you yourself  have rehearsed and performed! It is good practice to set a healthy work environment around you and this is possible to do even if you are on the road living out of a suitcase!

  • Practice – set aside and  schedule time that you can practice your discipline be it magic, circus, dance, story telling or whatever your discipline is;
  • Rehearse – Go through each part of your show step by step, break each part down until your happy with it;
  • Dress rehearse – Go through your whole show without interruption or break regardless to wether you slip up or not.  You are now at the stage of how you intend to perform in front of your audience – (at this stage if possible have a mentor or friend to watch or record yourself  for the camera will never lie);
  • Perform – Now go out and do it for real.  Perform your show and make it a reality.

Finding a Mentor

Their are number of finer points that I will cover in future posts such as – what, where and when.  But for now I will will finish with some final  words of finding a mentor/s. A good mentor is hard person to find –  more  so in the magic world as opposed to the circus world. The Magic world is full of dealers that give dealer demonstrations and  dispite the fact we can learn a lot from them this does not mean that they will be as a good a mentor.

Unlike the world of Circus which is often physically  skill oriented  – a skill that has to be handed over and learned. In my experience working direct with a mentor you can not help but to adopt some of their charatritics.

I say this as a word of warning.  To help you grow positively and have a good experience with your mentor be sure they actually want to see you grow! For an extreme example –  if you want to build a family magic show, creating magical experiences in peoples lives, then there is no point working with someone  whose performing style  is swearing and cursing and seems to hate or pick on children!

A good mentor:

  • will want to see you grow;
  • will will enrich your life;
  • will be honest and  constructive;
  • will be personally pleased with your success;
  • will create opportunities for you to grow;
  • they do  not speak badly of other performers.

Remember the mentor you have –  will influence you as a whole.


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