I went busking in Durham tonight, and as soon as I got there it had started to rain. I stood at the bottom of Saddler Street, in the entrance of the narrow passageway that leads to Vennels Cafe, to try and keep dry, set up and played.
Saddler Street, looking slightly Harry Potterish.
It was very quiet, I’d missed the Christmas shopping, and with the rain, pickings were flat, but I didn’t mind because my tone was excellent – the passageway gave excellent natural reverb – my fingers felt light and quick, and the few people who did pass gave me smiles.
After an hour or so, a smackhead approached me with the usual sob-story, and due to the inclement weather and the lack of takings, I wasn’t in the frame of mind for making dosh, so I pretended I believed him and told him to take a bit of cash from my case. He did, and then left.
Was busking in Durham with the Brothers last night and it was one long party. Ended up with a bunch of chavs, a load of dressed-up girls having a night out, and a dozen Royal Marines in party-dresses dancing like dervishes and cossacks in the market square.
Sadly, about ten o’clock the cops arrived mob-handed and made a beeline for the be-frocked Marines, and arrested them all. Dunno why. I have to believe it was something they’d done earlier, otherwise there’d be no sense in arresting them. Sure they were rowdy, and sure, they were dancing like maniacs, but then so was everyone else.
It was all a bit surreal – young fit men in party-dresses, handcuffed and led away to the cop vans. These lads man the walls of our society, they’re generous and friendly and absolutely necessary, and unless they’d done something serious earlier in the night, I think the polis should have cut them some slack.
Went busking in Durham tonight, found a doorway so I was mostly out of the inclement weather, and it was really good fun. First time in about fifteen months. My tone was good, and my lip lasted longer than I thought, but I need to remember more tunes from my repertoire. A list would be good.
The cops passed a couple of times but they were cosy inside their vans so barely glanced at me. The people were very friendly and generous, as they usually are in Durham.
The trick to busking isn’t playing well, though that helps, but in staying on the field of play. Whether you play well or not, if you stand there long enough you’ll earn money. Really good buskers can hold a pitch all day.
Me, I last an hour, maybe ninety minutes, before my lip and my diaphragm throw in the towel. And in November, my fingers begin to stop working after a while too. The music is easy but the physical effort is demanding.
Another useful thing is to happen upon an event, as I did last night, and find hundreds of people passing by your pitch, which in my case is usually outside of Venells Cafe on Saddler Street. There’s an alley leading to the cafe that, if I stand just at the end of it, gives great acoustics.
There was some sort of festival of lights going on in Durham. Didn’t quite understand it, but it was busy, people were writing slogans on the glass of Scorpio shoe shop using pens in a box outside the door. There was a huge glowing snow-globe in the market square.
Just when I was finishing up, a lovely American couple stopped me and asked what I’d just been playing. I told them Watermelon Man and he said he thought it was, he’d seen Herbie Hancock a couple of years ago and recognised the tune. Sadly I was chilled to the bone by then and my fingers had frozen solid, so I couldn’t play more than a couple of bars more for them.
Isn’t it always the same, as soon as you make a decision to do a lot more busking, it rains for a month. Either way though, I’m playing in Durham tomorrow, from 6-8pm. Found an ungated door on Silver Street.
Also, when is it appropriate to begin playing carols? I’m thinking early/mid November.
(for busking/rain, substitute your activity/inhibitor of choice)
On the topic of busking in Durham, the people are really nice, but there’s a thin slice of smackheads that hang around too. A while back I was playing and a smackhead couple walked past. The girl gave me a smile and I made the mistake of smiling back. Cue the return of smackhead couple less than two minutes later, with the lad asking me for money for his train fare ‘back to Darlington.’
Then lots of swearing and angry expressions as I turned him down.
Last night was a little easier. I only had one interaction with a denizen of the underclass – I got shoved by a smackhead with face tatts and no legs. He could barely steer his wheelchair and he reached for the bell of my sax, but missed and shoved me leg; he was obviously out of his tree on his drug of choice.
Taken from my ‘spot’ on Diagon Alley/Saddler Street, Durham.
Of the two cities, Newcastle and Durham, I prefer busking in Durham. It’s cosier, the streets are narrower and the people are generally friendlier. Newcastle is a great place to busk but Durham is just better.
Did a couple of hours in DC tonight. Took a couple of pictures too. Saddler Street, the narrow, cobbled lane that winds up toward the Cathedral, is at least a thousand years old, and very Diagon Alley.
Ollivanders is just up the road and on the left. As you can see, it’s still open.
Went into Newcastle this afternoon with my saxophone. There was a guy playing guitar at the Monument, and he was there for a long while. I went to the Tyneside for tea and returned at 6pm.
Played for an hour as evening set in. Got selfied by a bride and her hen-night pals. People seemed to enjoy it. A group of lads passed by, so I played the opened bars of Tequila and they joined in, singing and laughing.