The Busker and The Oblivious Audience

Featured Image: Leslie Horton, accordion player and busker in a London Underground tube station
Source: The Guardian

It’s late morning at London Bridge Underground Station* and the suits and other city folk are going about their business, walking from platform to platform and from street to underground. Some are glued to their phones or have their headphones in, such is the modern age, and some are simply walking at a pace that suggests an important motive. Likelihood is, most of these people haven’t got an important agenda in the grand scheme of things – otherwise they would be in work. Maybe they are like me and travelling around London looking for work, who knows? But surely they can spare just two minutes for Dom and his guitar.

Amidst the chaos and rushing from A to B, Dom is standing there playing his guitar and singing with passion on his implied stage. He has an audience, or rather he should have an audience. There are hundreds of people walking through here, yet I’m the only one standing still and listening. This is an artist at work and it’s a free show! Free! When is anything free these days?
Yet, despite this, not one person stops to listen or even just drop a coin on his guitar bag for his troubles. He has coins on there, so I’d hope that most of those are from previous travellers.

Not all buskers are good, but those at the main London stations are usually allowed to be there because of their talent. Dom is a case in point. A singer-songwriter all on his own and loving it despite the lack of attention. I watch and listen to him for about 5 minutes or so until the song ends, at which point I put some money on the guitar bag and shake his hand while thanking him for his talented efforts and he thanks me for listening. We have a short chat and I head on my way before he starts playing again.

I understand that some people will have appointments they absolutely must get to because maybe they are already late for them, but I refuse to believe that the hundred or so people that passed through the corridor while I was there all had this issue. Sure, Dom’s not famous and hasn’t got a record deal but that shouldn’t get in the way of him being noticed, if only for five minutes of someone’s day.

It’s not just Dom and it’s not just London, it’s happening everywhere. Musicians are taking the time to play their hearts out for the sake of, if they’re lucky, £15-£20 for 2 – 3hours work**. Once expenses are taken out of that it isn’t much, especially the booking fee for a pitch. Yet most people just walk on by, too preoccupied with what they’re doing. I think it’s sad. I also refuse to believe that the big city tycoons I saw can’t spare at least £1 for Dom. If every person at London Bridge stopped that day, well, it would have been a logistical nightmare, but hypothetically Dom would have made a relative and deserved fortune.


By Will Hunt

*Date: Wednesday 3rd February 2016