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Screening of the South Bank Show

On the 18th floor of the ITV building not far from Waterloo Bridge, I witness the sun setting on the familiar landscape of central London. I can see the Houses of Parliament near where I used to work, the London Eye which I've yet to venture, all along the River Thames curving to the east, the architectures of St Paul's Church, and the latest addition ---the Gherkin.

Lord Melvyn Bragg and his pretty press officer shook our hands to welcome us to this evening's first screening of the 22nd of August 2004 South Bank Show. For someone who does not own a TV, I am grateful for the invitation to watch this special programme on a large screen in a dark room, without commercial breaks.

The programme "Street Music Stories" is about buskers in London, the Carling Buskers Licensing Scheme in London Underground, and the stories of four buskers. The four buskers reflect a cross section of street musicians in London:

  • single mother of two who sings opera arias in Covent Garden and pursues a university degree
  • reggae musician of West Indies heritage who has composed thousands of original songs, yet to be discovered
  • singer songwriter from Israel who hopes to cut a record label one day
  • accountant-turned-harpist who has his own CD and plays for weddings (story below)

I was inspired and moved by the music and the stories of these four buskers. Pity I can't busk with my grand piano, but in many ways I have done the equivalent. Everytime I spot a piano, be it in a hotel, a cafe, at the airport, or in a store, I'd play it. Once I even received a $20 tip in a hotel!

Busking is not begging, the buskers emphasize. It's performing. And performing is hard work. Performing on the street is harder still because you don't get a focussed audience who appreciate.

The Carling licensing scheme introduced last year has reduced the troubles related to busking and improved the quality of music through the auditioning and issuance of licenses. All varieties of music are played in the London Underground these days. It makes tube journeys all the more tolerable, particularly with Poems on the Underground.

I tell harpist Peter Murphy that busking gives him a shop front in the real world but a web site gives him a presence in cyberspace. Here is his story below.

From accountancy to music of angels

I suppose I really wanted to be a musician at the age of 15 when I started having guitar lessons. I wanted to go and live in Granada and learn flamenco from the gypsies, but my father said it would be best to study for my A levels and train for one of the professions. He told me it's very difficult to make a living from music because it's so competitive.

Fifteen years into accountancy, I turned down a lucrative job offer of company accountant in central London and vowed never to return. The very next day, I went busking on a tin whistle. It started just as an experiment to see if it was worth doing because there was no stress involved.


Third-generation Irish harpist Peter Murphy appears on the (UK) South Bank Show on ITV on 22 August 2004 at 11:15 pm,

extracted from "Career change and second passions," Le Bon Journal e-zine Volume 3 Issue 5.

27 July 2004 Tuesday

Related links:
Career change and second passions,
Le Bon Journal e-zine,
Volume 3, Issue 5,
8 page PDF
Just Harp,
Peter Murphy's website
Carling creates legal busking in London
Licensed buskers hit the right note
South Bank Show
Street Music Stories
22 August 2004
11:15 pm
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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.
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