UPDATE: WE NOW HAVE CDS TO GIVE TO OUR DONORS! (Check out our first update)
The Busking Project's aims are many, but can be separated into three major groups: a documentary, a website, a book. We think we know the answers to some of the following questions, but in the pursuit of keeping an open mind, we'll be asking them all over ten months....
(Acapella Soul, singing their hearts out in NYC)
1. AN INDIE DOCUMENTARY
We want to bring the world of street performance to your computers. It's a vast medium, one that encircles the globe, is visited daily by hundreds of millions of people, and yet most people know very little about it. We're going to change that.
• What's the scene? We're going to explore the different clusters of street performers (think Covent Garden in London or Las Ramblas in Barcelona), their characters, idiosyncrasies and genres, from the traditional (like mime, poetry, juggling, snake charming) to the modern (beatbox, graffiti, and breakdancing).
• What's the demographic? Who are they? What sector of the population do they come from; hard times or tough choices? How much do they make and what future do they have; is it fame or bust or is their some social mobility? How long do buskers last in the field, and what's the difference of mentality between the newbies and old timers?
• Where do they work, and what works? How do different laws, population and tourist densities, climates, currencies and cultures affect them? Are the regulations that they must adhere to fair or repressive, efficient or arbitrary, suggested or strictly controlled, encouraging or stifling? What do the laws achieve, are they essential, and who decides to ignore them?
• Who are they? Why do some stand out while others fail, and what makes a busker rich? Who is the most popular, and what are the best tactics? What are their influences and motivations?
• What's their effect? Do people like them? What does the presence of buskers do for a city — is the net effect positive or negative? And the ultimate question; at the end of the day, is it a financial or artistic venture (or both)?
(A clown gets swamped on 5th Avenue)
2. A WEBSITE
On our site you'll be able to see the world's most famous plazas and street corners — Pike Place Market, Bourbon Street, Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico, the Acropolis in Athens, the Pantheon in Rome, the New York Subway, the London Underground, and so on.
• Promotion. We'll expand the buskers' audience past the edge of the sidewalk and into people's homes — you never know who might be watching. For those performers who are online, their URLs, emails and numbers can be used to contact them for business. And we'll be listing on which street corners we found them, so you can check them out for yourself.
• Networking. Buskers are a nomadic bunch. Our website will act as both a reference tool and a database for them, leading them to the locals who know the answers. There are dozens of forums out there for performers, but very little visual backup!
• Advice. Where can they play, what instruments, how much are the permits, what are the good spots and what's popular with the locals? If you wanted to begin busking, what do you need to know first?
• And a bit of social conscience. The lovely people at 10:10 have asked us to write on their sites, promoting green travel. As we're going (almost) solely on boats, busses and trains, we'll have a lot to talk about, and all the info will be available on our site. We'll also promote and collaborate with other non-profits and organisations that are involved with street performance, like Zip Zap, Spark, Busking Cancer, Bandstand Busking, Chapito, Playing for Change, Circus Child, and Mural Arts.
(The New York Blue Funk Orchestra)
3. A BOOK
This is the most self-serving of our three aims, and the reason why we started out in the first place. We want to write a coffee table book on busking, full of photos, descriptions, advice and some editorial. Chris and Belle are fantastic writers, and after 10 months of filming we should have some pretty good shots to fill it with.
(P.K. Dwyer, 96th Street subway station)
ABOUT NICK BROAD
I've been filming street performers in New York City for years, helping them expand their audience and gain net presence on my site, www.undercoverny.com. This was a hobby of mine, which I did free of charge—my goal was just to give a small helping hand to the dozens of performers who improved my day, every day. In some cases they were artists who were doing badly, forced onto the streets by circumstance. Others were artists with amazing talents, who just needed to be heard to be recognised.
And the publicity worked. Thanks to their presence on my site, several have been contacted for gigs playing at weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, birthday parties and events, and by America's Got Talent, X-Factor, American Idol and even the Huffington Post. The website also sparked several debates on the ethics and issues surrounding the medium.
(A giant walking dinosaur!)
All we need now is to raise enough money to go.
TBP is not a cheap venture. The costs of computers, cameras, lenses, batteries, bags, software, marketing, the website, visas, vaccinations and tickets for 10 months of filming are piling up. Thankfully, our fixed costs have been covered enough by private donations that we can go ahead with the project.
However, the more we raise, the further we will go! $3,000 will pay for a whole month for our team to travel, as we're even sleeping on people's couches to help stretch our donations as far as possible.
The perks of supporting our project are clear—you get to be part of a world wide effort to support and expose street performers and, because we can't take you with us, we have a fantastic list of The Busking Project related thank yous and rewards.
(Flame Oz, Australian fire wizards in Toronto, Canada)
Our team includes Jamie Catto (founding member of Faithless and co-founder of One Giant Leap), Nick Broad (founder of Undercover New York), Chris Smith (writer and professional traveller) and Belle Crawford (writer, international teacher and visual artist).
- (43 days)