Auditions open as London Underground celebrates 20 years of busking scheme

Janine Booth - Contributor Add a Comment 5 Min Read
TfL Image - Busker Lee Huxley // Credit: TfL

Transport for (TfL) is marking twenty years since it introduced licensing of Underground station buskers by inviting musicians to audition for the first time since the pandemic. It is also introducing busking pitches the .

TfL Image - Busker Fabio Tedde
Busker Fabio Tedde // Credit: TfL

Before the scheme was introduced, buskers often performed unofficially on stations, at least until they were moved on by staff or the police. Since the scheme was introduced, they have been licensed to perform on designated pitches. As a result, buskers can entertain passengers and make some money, and can perform in locations that do not obstruct passenger flow or drown out important public address announcements. Buskers book on duty with the station supervisor, so that safety procedures are adhered to.

The London Underground Licensed Busking Scheme now has more than two hundred registered buskers who have passed the competitive audition process, and TfL is now looking for additions to this line-up.

Busker Tamara Stein // Credit: TfL

Busking auditions will take place early next year, and applications are now open. The audition process is managed by Found in Music, which runs Busk in London, a programme supported by the Mayor of London. TfL is enoucraging performers of all genres of music to apply, so that passengers are entertained by a diversity of styles. Shortlisted musicians will perform to a panel of music experts and TfL operational staff in a busy station , and will be judged on technical ability and audience response.

Two new pitches have opened this autumn at the Davies Street and Hanover Square entrances of station, which brings licensed busing to the Elizabeth line for the first time on the Elizabeth line. TfL is also considering setting up further pitches in other Elizabeth line stations.  Around 4.3 million journeys are made each week on  the Elizabeth line.

Buskers The Treblemakers /// Credit: TfL

London Underground's musical endeavours have also included playing classical music at some stations and providing pianos for passengers to play.

Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, 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, 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, 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.”

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