In-depth: Busking becomes serious business

Street performance is becoming a serious business: Mario and Veronica Morris in the middle of their comedy magic show


The School of Busking keeps growing as people want to improve their street performance skills in Cardiff.


Walking down Cardiff’s Queen Street, it is impossible not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of busy Christmas shoppers. Watching the crowds go past in a blur stands Owain Thurlow, strumming his guitar and singing a cover of ACDC’s Highway to hell.

Singing in a band for three years, and drumming for another, Owain is passionate about music. He has been busking in different spots in Cardiff on and off for three years. He recalls one particularly poignant busking memory. “A guy came up to us talking about his friend wedding and asked us (himself and his friend Mitchell) to play a song in Burger King so we played Green sleeves ( an English folk song) and he paid us a fiver.”

Another busker, Taylor Marshall Jones, can be found capturing the hearts of Cardiff’s teenage girls with his boyish good looks, teen-appropriate fashion style and beautifully powerful voice.

Taylor Marshall Jones also talks of positive experiences whilst busking, “I sing covers of popular songs to make sure people recognise what I am singing. Busking has given me more confidence; I just love music and if I can make money from it and start to build up a following then that’s just a bonus.

“Sometimes you get the odd heckler but you brush it off, more people seem to appreciate it then bash it.”

Cardiff city centre hosts a number of street performers. Every corner of Queen Street sees a performer; from mime acts to guitar playing teenage heartthrobs to an accordion playing enthusiast. Cardiff isn’t alone as street performers are part and parcel of street life all over the country.

There is a stigma surrounding street performance and busking. However, it seems performers want to make their shows more professional.

School of Showmanship

Mario and Veronica Morris, both with years of experience in street performance, began The School of Busking in 2006 in 27 Dalton Street, Cathays when demand for a master class in street performance grew. Since then, over the past eight years, the school has grown, expanded and become part of the School of Showmanship.

Mario’s act is his comedy show: a family friendly performance which combines magic, comedy, circus manipulation and clowning.

Mario said, “The School of Busking does not create street performers, the street performers literally create themselves. We have people coming on the course for all sorts of different reasons. One thing is for sure, it’s always a very colourful class.”

Every year drawing from their own experience, Mario and Veronica run their workshop to help improve their pupil’s skills. In 2013, between 31May and 2 June, performers can expect an intensive master class where they will learn how to improve their set, come up with new ideas and put them into practice.

Mario gave us an insight in to the three days: “I started teaching in the shape of lectures or two hour workshops. Everyone said ‘Why don’t you do a workshop?’ We put one together and it sold out.”

Mario goes on to explain that the first day is all the theory. And then day two is very much based upon the student looking at their skills and helping them develop their own shows and their own ideas as opposed to them creating carbon copies or clones. The last day is a dress rehearsal; we go out and put it all into practice. It is the real deal otherwise it just remains theory

Times are changing

Attitudes towards street performances are changing.

Mario said, “Times have completely changed. Over 15 years ago, they were all trying to shut you down and move you on and now it is beginning to be recognised that street performing or busking is good for the streets. It brings a sense of culture and brightens up streets. I also believe it tidies up streets. If you’ve got good quality street theatre it brings light to darkened places and I’ve seen that firsthand.”

While many like Owain and Taylor just love to sing and find busking a bit of fun, there is now the opportunity to make street performance a serious business. Mario Morris’s School of Showmanship has, over the years, become more and more successful and has produced performers which people will want to stop and enjoy, rather than ignore or avoid.