Transport for London
TfL busking scheme celebrates 20 years since opening with new auditions and pitches
TfL marks 20 years since introducing live music across its network with the Licensed Busking Scheme.
- First opportunity to audition to busk on London's transport network since the pandemic
- Customers enjoying live music on the Elizabeth line as pitches open for the first time on London's transformational railway
Transport for London (TfL) is marking 20 years from when it began its live busking scheme on London's transport network by reopening its competitive audition process for the first time since the pandemic and introducing the first ever pitches to the Elizabeth line.
Talented musicians have taken to perform on London's transport network since 2003 with the London Underground Licensed Busking Scheme, brightening people's journeys with genres from rock, to classical and pop for 364 days-a-year. 20 years on, the network now has more than 200 registered buskers that have passed the audition process, with TfL on the hunt for fresh talent to add to its roster.
Busking auditions will take place for the first time since 2017, with the application process now live. Auditions will take place in early 2024, managed/co-ordinated by Found in Music, who run Busk in London, a programme supported by the Mayor of London. Musicians of all genres are invited to apply to reflect London's cultural diversity. Shortlisted musicians will perform to a panel of musical experts and TfL operational staff in a busy station environment and judged on technical ability and audience response.
Two new pitches have also opened this autumn at Bond Street station, in a first for the Elizabeth line. Musicians can now be heard at the Davies Street and Hanover Square entrances of the central London station. TfL is looking into setting up further pitches in other Elizabeth line stations. With around 4.3 million journeys taking place each week across the Elizabeth line, millions of people will benefit from the uplifting live music as they travel across London.
Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, recently said:
"I am delighted at the return of TfL's busking auditions and the introduction of pitches to the Elizabeth line. Busking is a thriving artform across our city and has brought TfL's stations alive over the last 20 years. This competition provides musicians with a fantastic opportunity to show off their talents, as we build a better London for everyone."
Emma Strain, TfL's Customer Director, recently said:
"From the Jam to The Kinks' 'Waterloo Sunset', London has a long history of inspiring and celebrating music, and as we enter our busking programme's twentieth year, I can't wait to hear the songs of a whole new generation of buskers. It is a vibrant part of London culture and we're proud to celebrate 20 years since we introduced the busking scheme on our network by opening auditions again and two new pitches."
Kate Jones, Found in Music's Programme Director, recently said:
"Found in Music is delighted to be working with TfL on the audition process for the iconic London Underground Busking Scheme. London is world renowned for music with a multitude of venues to visit and performers to appreciate. Busking has a key role to play in the music ecosystem and provides artists with a free, public stage to hone their skills whether on the street, at one of Busk in London's high-profile locations or on the Underground. We are really looking forward to discovering new talent during the audition process."
Notes to Editor’s
- The closing date for applications for the London Underground Licensed Busking Scheme is 17:00 on Friday 22 December. For further information on the TfL Busking Scheme and how to apply, visit https://www.foundinmusic.com/busk-in-london/tflcircuitapplication
- Transport for London is interested in diverse musical talent joining the busking scheme. TfL wants buskers that reflect the sounds of London - from classical to world music; jazz to rap; bluegrass to opera. All genres and performers are welcome - the most important thing is the music is performed well
- Found in Music is passionate about helping organisations and places create engaging connections with customers through music. Founded in 2003, their one-stop approach aims to help clients thrive in a changing world by music and sound to craft extraordinary experiences. Busk in London was launched by the Mayor of London in 2014. It now operates as a non-profit making programme supported by the Mayor of London and has built a wealth of expertise regarding the place-making benefits, employee and client experience that can be achieved through high quality, grassroots music performance. Busk in London works regularly with a diverse range of private landowners and corporate organisations and supports artists in their music careers through talent development opportunities and music industry education and experiences
- To commemorate 20 years since busking began on London's transport network 20 buskers have volunteered for a portrait series that will appear in stations later this year. Below are the biographies of the buskers in the images in this press release:
- Tamara Stein is a soprano who performs soaring arias for people travelling on the Tube. She has been busking on the Underground since 2018, after years performing with choirs and as a soloist. As a person living with ME and fibromyalgia, Tamara appreciates the flexibility associated with the scheme. She is able to perform when she has the energy. "The busking has given me a new lease of life, it was the best medicine. I do it mainly for my mental health." As a busker, Tamara appreciates the moments of humanity she gets to share with those passing through stations. "I had some very beautiful one-to-one moments with others - often someone who has some heartache. It might be a little thing like a bad day at work or a major thing such as the anniversary of a parent's death; sometimes it is just 'Weltschmerz', the weight of modern life. Most buskers, especially classical musicians, are professionally trained. Busking is a highly regulated industry with auditions, licences and insurance. Many of us are union members."
- The Treblemakers have been busking on the Underground for 20 years, and were one of the first groups to join. They are an a capella vocal ensemble who donate all their profits to charity. For them, the people are the best part of busking - those who stop to listen, to smile, to dance, and show their appreciation for live music. "We wish more people knew that buskers are talented musicians with great grit and determination, who love their craft and love communicating their passion for music to others." Their performances on the Underground are unlike those experienced in other environments. "People usually don't ask a group of singers the best way to Piccadilly Circus in any other situation!" But the range of audiences can lead to unexpected encounters. "We sometimes sing Ukrainian songs, and we've had a few people stop and cry while we sing. It's very moving."
- Fabio Tedde, the "Pianist Without Borders," has been busking on the Underground for 20 years. He became a busker in 2001 after he happened upon a jam session in Leicester Square. In addition to playing on the Underground, Fabio has travelled around the world to perform on street pianos. "I wish that people would respect buskers as they would respect any other type of job. Sometimes artists are forgotten by the system, and yet a world without them would be a really sad world. "Being able to share the music and making people happy as they travel around London is a beautiful feeling. Every single day I can't wait to start playing as I love it so much. I find it special each time I play on the Underground because I'm able and free to express my emotions through music and to connect to so many amazing, beautiful souls."
- Lee Huxley has been busking on the Underground for around 15 years. He used to be a vocalist in a rock band, and joined the scheme to play his own original music as a singer and guitarist. Lee may be a pensioner, but he enjoys contributing to a festive atmosphere on the Underground on evenings and weekends. "Busking has changed my life for the better and one of the best decisions I ever made in my life was filling out that application form and passing my audition... I feel I belong to a family of musicians and it's pleasant to take over or give up a pitch to another busker and to have a chat. If you check out the talent on the Underground and add that to the vast community of young musicians frequenting open mic nights, you realise how much-untapped talent there is in the UK... We need more imaginative schemes like the busking scheme to fully utilise the musical talent in the UK."
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