Juliette Bains: Buskers on the street have become soundtrack to city

Hannah Trigwell.
Hannah Trigwell.
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IF you failed to bag a bargain on Black Friday and missed out on Cyber Monday, you’ll probably be hitting the high street soon to start that dreaded Christmas shop.

The very thought of elbowing people out the way for the last Frozen sing-a-long CD fills me with fear.

But whilst battling through crowds is never likely to put a festive spring in my step, there is one thing that makes the experience a bit more bearable.

You’ll have spotted them yourself down Briggate, in Trinity Leeds or at City Square.

Some of you will love them, and some of you will love to hate them, but you can’t fail to notice just how many buskers we have in our city.

I know some people don’t think very highly of our resident musical maestros, but if it’s good enough for Covent Garden and Southbank in London, then surely it’s good enough for Leeds?

In certain areas, the capital has almost as many buskers and street performers as pedestrians sometimes, and it just adds to the thriving city feel that London exudes.

In fact, travel to most of Europe’s big cities and you’ll find street performers are an integral part of the landscape and a vibrant part of making those cities the buzzing cosmopolitan, cultural centres they are.

If Leeds is intending to take its place among the big boys with a Capital of Culture bid, maybe it’s time we embraced our own street entertainers – after all, there’s some real talent out there.

During a quick dash round the shops last week, for example, I spotted a crowd of people clapping and cheering.

I just assumed there was some kind of sale on or that Father Christmas had come to town, but was pleasantly surprised to see an adorable young family playing guitars, drums, singing and having a whale of a time.

As they shot each other cheeky grins and soaked up the adoration from the crowd, it made me smile. Maybe the Christmas spirit is starting to take hold, but for that moment, everyone walking past had a grin on their face – and let’s be honest, that’s a rare enough thing these days.

And it’s not just this family serenading shoppers.

There’s the old crooner who sings Sinatra songs around the Albion Street area, who has a voice that could melt even the coldest of hearts, plus a duo nearby on Albion Place who get the crowd going and a jazz saxophonist at Leeds station.

For those of you who rush by, it might be time for you to stop and listen, as some of these high street stars are achieving worldwide fame.

As well as Luke Friend from last year’s X Factor having busked around the city, there’s a familiar face who has struck a chord even further afield.

As previously reported in the YEP, former busker Hannah Trigwell has 30million views on Youtube, a big following in south-east Asia and even bagged a number one (in Vietnam, but still).

And throughout it all, the 24-year-old still speaks fondly of her time busking in Leeds.

But if you’re thinking singing on the streets is an easy way into the music biz, think again, as there are some pretty tough rules to abide by.

According to Leeds City Council’s Code of Conduct for Buskers and Street Performers, they must only stay in the same place for 1.5 hours, have a varied repertoire, must not ‘actively solicit monetary contributions through signs or passing of hats’, and be at least 20m from street vendors.

It goes to show how seriously the city takes our street performers and is probably one of the reasons they’re of such good quality.

In a bid to shine a light on some of your high street stars, let me know who your favourite busker is by e-mailing juliette.bains@ypn.co.uk and I’ll try and give them a mention.

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