Busk England – The story so far

The story so far, and what you can do to help!

Well, hello! After 30 increasingly lengthy and verbose blogs over 10 months, a windy and rainy couple of days and mushrooming car issues have forced me back into my house and allowed me the chance to take stock.

I began on April 3rd last year in a grey and wet Berwick-Upon-Tweed, and have since covered about 40 locations across 30 blogs. In terms of geographic spread and material for a book, I’m approximately two thirds of the way round.

I still intend to explore Yorkshire, much of the North West, much of the home counties, and return to London, as well as trips to the Potteries and Leicester. I will probably try to get around another 15 trips in before I step back to write the book and the album of the project.

I’m immensely grateful for all the help I’ve received as I’ve headed round. I’ve only needed to pay for a hotel on 5 occasions, as friends, musical colleagues, and even strangers put in touch by friends have provided me with somewhere to stay wherever I’ve been.

I’ve been humbled by people’s generous contributions to the tip jar on the blog as well. This is the first time I’ve ever made money from writing, and it means a lot to see people’s support for what I’m doing. Thank you. Between that and the money I’ve made directly on the busking pitch, the project is covering its costs, although I’m not bringing in a profit on it. Living on the road is expensive, particularly food and fuel which account for the vast majority of what I make. Without everyone’s support, I would not be able to carry on, at least not at the rate I’m going, so thank you all, once again.

In general I average about £18 an hour busking and about £30 in the tip jar on each blog. £18 an hour may sound like a good rate, but I can only physically play for a little over 4 hours a day, and quite a lot of days simply don’t have the weather to allow a busk. The busking window is usually between about 10am and 4pm, especially in the winter, so you need a good hourly rate to make enough. The aim is to busk enough to cover the costs so that the rest of my time is free to explore and meet people. If the going is good, I’ll busk all day so that I have plenty of time the following day to really explore a place.

Writing about people, place, and identity is always going to be a contested area. Some blogs produce a powerful response, and not universally a positive one. Where I’ve had criticism, I have tried to engage with it, and will gladly return to an area and try again if people feel it’s been misrepresented. I cannot promise that my writing will please everyone in this regard. What I can promise is that where my opinions are contested, I will provide balance by including the views of others and always giving right to reply.

On the whole though, reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and I’ve had a really remarkable time doing it. It’s certainly a period of my life I’ll reflect upon when I’m much older!

So what next? I would like to have finished busking round by the end of June, at which point I will take some time out to write the book and the album. Before that though, there are a few other things that you might be able to help with if you want to.

1) House concerts or similar. On three occasions so far, I’ve been invited to present a show based on my travels to date, which has evolved into a mixture of music, readings, and discussion. I’d love to do more of this as I travel round, so if you fancy hosting one, anywhere in England or even beyond, let me know. I can make just about any house or small concert venue work for this. It can be pretty informal and doesn’t need to be a large thing or carry any risk for you. If it’s somewhere I’ve already been, then I’ve got something written about it. If it’s somewhere I’ve not been, all the better! Everywhere is fair game.

2) Suggestions of places to busk and write about. I’ve still got about 15 trips left before I finish up. I have about 8 places I have clear plans to visit, and a few blank weeks where I could go with a whim. I might well take a bunch of suggestions and put them to a vote!

3) Keep reading and sharing the blog. The more I can grow the audience as I go, the easier it will be to persuade publishers and record companies to take this on.

4) I have to start moving into a world I don’t know at all – book publishing. I have never tried to have a book published before, and will be learning from scratch. If anyone has any advice they can offer to me on the subject, please get in touch.

I expect that I might well do a Kickstarter to get this project delivered, so I’ll be having a think about some entertaining rewards I can include in that as well as the obvious stuff. I’m game for most things, but feel free to make suggestions!

Onwards – next up, Bolton.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. My ‘Busk England’ project is entirely funded by what I make as I travel round. If you’ve enjoyed it, and would like to support me as I do this, please consider making a paypal tip to tom@tomkitching.co.uk or through the button in the archive – link here.

Blog archive

Treat it as you would a busker — a few coins in the hat all add up. Everything I get from this will be put back into the project. Ta!

3 thoughts on “Busk England – The story so far

  1. When you come up our way, you might want to do Millom. 30 miles down the road and a completely different vibe. You would think it’s classic Labour voting territory, but it’s strongly Tory as they have never forgiven Tony Benn for closing the Ironworks, I think in 1969. It really is a one of a kind town… I loved it being one of my patches when i worked in neighbourhood devt.


  2. Really enjoyed the blogs so far Tom. I know you have come in for criticism and have seen you directly engage with that in a positive manner. However it’s important to record what you see as long as you emphasise that it is only a snapshot – which as far as I can see you do – it is not going to please everyone – I remember being incensed when Bill Bryson wrote off Bradford in a few short lines but you can only report on what you experience. If the opportunity is offered to dig deeper then fine but I find your blogs refreshingly direct and thoughtful. looking forward to the rest of the blogs and the Kickstarter!


  3. I cannot find the tip jar! I think the link has been eaten by the Internet gremlins on this page. I suspect my dad might well be able to put you in touch with some people for a house concert (or if you’re in touch with Janet Russell, she’s a good person to ask, very on the pulse of the West Yorkshire folk scene).


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