It was exactly one year ago today that I took my guitar out into the City of Birmingham where I live, it was a beautiful sunny I was overcome with this massive urge to busk, so I did!
Yes, I just laid out my case on the floor like I had seen other buskers do and started playing.
I played for about 45 mins as I recall, just my own songs as I didn't really know any covers. I had a few people come over and tip me as well as give me the thumbs up, at the end I counted the cash..
..£4.85 was the total amount which made me realise that if I can make a bit of money when I have no idea what I am doing then wonder what I could do with some practice.
This was a truly liberating and life changing experience as not only had I overcome a fear that I'd held for years about busking but in addition to the money, which really wasn't the incentive for me playing, I got some positive comments from passers by and in that 45 mins I just felt so alive and free. I had been bitten by the busking bug and little did I know that that day would be the beginning of my journey into the fascinating world of street performing.
Since that day I have played over 350 hrs, 150 street gigs all over the Midlands, Oxford and London, Farmers Markets, 1 Food festival, 2 Weddings, played in 80 degree heat, High winds, torrential rain, thick snow, -2 degrees , played a 'sweary' song to the cast of Avenue Q, numerous hen parties, serenaded romantic couples, been filmed by local news, been filmed by countless people on their mobile phones, numerous birthday requests, Signed Autographs, met people from all over the world, been interviewed by an ex-Radio DJ about busking, been involved in meetings with the Council, Police and local Businesses about the future of Busking in Birmingham and played to my music to literally tens of thousands of people.
So now I am reflecting on my 1st year and I feel a real sense of achievement as not only was and is a big thing for me to do but to be doing it full time now is a big statement to my friends and family as there is a huge stigma and misinformation about Busking and the fine line between that and begging.
I have had to overcome my sense of personal views on it and to be honest although I have experienced overwhelming support from, friends, family and the general public and still have had days when it feels like I have gone completely mad and I should just pack it in immediately and get a proper job.
I have actually applied for numerous jobs as well over the last 12 months and haven't been successful in the 3 interviews that I managed to get from those numerous applications, so Busking has always been there, ever ready for me and it's unconventional lifestyle but incredible sense of aliveness, adventure and reality that goes with it.
I have gained a real empathy with others who make their living on the streets, Big Issue sellers who most of the time have shown me incredible respect and generosity, it's quite something when a Homeless person gives me money!
Also being open and vulnerable on the streets can make for some real moments of spontaneity, fun and connection with others. It has taught how to stand-up for my rights, when to stand my ground and when to walk away from confrontation with the public and authorities.
How to mentally and physically prepare myself to play for 5 hours straight in freezing conditions, how to construct a set of songs that engage people, which songs work and which don't, to accept the kindness of strangers.
I feel like I am no longer a Rookie and although I still have a lot to learn and experience, I feel like I have earned my first stripe this year and look forward to sharing my experience with others as well as continuing to learn from those who have gone before me.
Watch this space and see where this new year will take me.