After a few months of being based in Yorkshire for the winter we were excited when we got the opportunity to go away for a few days and get back on the road, busking in new places once more. We were booked for a couple of gigs a few days in a row in slightly further away places so we combined this with a busking road trip and got back in the campervan for a long weekend! Instead of travelling back after each gig we planned a road trip from Lancaster to York and back.
After playing at a Pizza Express bar south of Manchester we drove through the night towards Lancaster to explore a new town, neither of us had been to before. We woke up in the van and drove to have breakfast with some wild sheep for neighbours before heading into town.
There was free parking up the river from the centre so we strolled back in for an acoustic busk and found the main street. After passing another busker, we set up near the top end of town and played for about an hour. Amongst the normal donations we received a mysterious sealed card that contained some coins and this message:
We had a gig in the evening so we did not play for too long and wandered a little around the city, meeting another amplified busker. After depositing our coins at Natwest bank using the coin counter machines (life saver for busking in the UK) we walked back to the van.
On the Saturday we had played at a beautiful wedding south of York and we camped in our campervan again before driving to York, so we could check out the town for busking on a Sunday.
In the morning we parked in an industrial estate and strolled half an hour into town to explore the town. We had played here once before, a few years ago, but that was when there was a busking permit system in place. Now we had been told that this had been taken away and busking was fine. The first busker we met was a guy playing the lute on the outer edge of the main town centre. It is always a slightly bad sign to see a busker near the outskirts of a town because it usually means the centre is overrun with musicians already.
Sure enough, as we ventured further in we found that he was one out of 10 groups of buskers that we saw throughout the day, scattered all over the centre. Eventually we set up near the Shambles, close to a violin player who was having a break, playing cards and yet making sure he space was still saved. We played 2 songs before he decided he was going to start his own busking session, with a loud amplifier so there was no point in us continuing. After a small walk it was clear there were way too many buskers around to make any money so went to see the cathedral, coming across two more buskers on the way.
After arriving back at where we had started we looped back to the lute player who ran up to us and said we could have his spot, explaining he was moving to another that he had reserved for now, about 2 hours ago. He explained that all the buskers here worked together. He also informed us about a website used by the York buskers to arrange places to play and such. One disadvantage of being a travelling busker is that some towns have their own organised ‘busking community’ of sorts and if you know nothing about that you are unlikely to get a spot to play.
We thanked the lute player and set up where he was. As it was the outskirts of town and the people passing us where either in a hurry to get to the main attractions of York or were coming back and had passed so many buskers at this point that they never wanted to hear music again we did not do too well and eventually decided to give it a rest after 4 days of playing music and be tourists ourselves.
We managed to get a free pizza with a coupon from Pizza Hut and a free hot chocolate from Greggs (for signing up to their app) and strolled the sights of York. As the afternoon was drawing on the hoards of buskers did seem to be dying down and we almost considered another attempt when we saw the violin player pack down for the day but he was immediately replaced by an accordion player who the spot had been saved for so we gave up and left York. Perhaps on a week day we would have had better luck. It seemed that if we were going to return we would have to plan it a little better.