One busker’s past Different types of entertainment Job satisfaction Problems with the law A timetable for performing
Performing on the streets is a risky but often profitable occupation in London. Although it is illegal almost everywhere in the city, hundreds of people make their living by entertaining crowds and passers-by on the Underground and on the streets. People play guitars, flutes, saxophones, drums and clarinets, they sing and dance, wear funny costumes, or they perform magic tricks.
The Underground is the best place to find entertainers. Many play at the bottom of escalators, so travellers can listen to the music during their ride down and drop coins in a hat or box as they pass. It’s hard to get a desirable spot in a Tube station; entertainers have to sign a list to reserve a time to play. Most performers play for an hour and then pack up so the next ‘busker’ can have a chance.
The only people who can really spoil the fun are the local policemen. ‘The best thing is not to argue with them’, says Karl Mellor, a legend in London’s West End who often plays his saxophone in front of large crowds in the area. ‘It’s funny though. If I were Britney Spears, they’d probably pay to listen to me. Instead, they take money from me!’
Mellor, 38, is a very talented musician. He grew up in Manchester and, like many other teenagers, wanted to be a rock star. He sang in a band for a while, but they weren’t very successful. One day someone lent him a saxophone and he decided to travel to London to play on the streets.
Mellor is happy with his career and has never done anything else. ‘I’m doing very well,’ he says. ‘If I was cleverer or cared more about money, maybe I’d work in an office or something like that. But I’ve always loved music and I don’t have the patience to work from 9 till 5. This way I can work when I want! I’m also making people happy. The hardest thing in life is to get people to give you money. So, when they give me money, I know I’ve made them happy, and that’s great.’