To be a professional busker, you have got to be good and during Auckland's anniversary weekend I had the wonderful opportunity of watching eleven extremely talented street performers from all over the world perform at the Viaduct Harbour for Auckland's thirteenth International Buskers Festival. A few of the many acts were Jessica Arpin who sported a red and white 1940's poker dot dress and performed acrobatics on her bicycle. She cycled backwards, stood on top of her bicycle and lifted her body weight in the air to an almost hand stand position whilst still steering the handle bars.
Some of the acts are the only ones in the world who are able to perform their tricks. Equilibrium Circus are a power duo that made the audience laugh with their witty banter and stunned the audience to silence with their circus art of hand to hand. Paz lifts Leah onto her shoulders, so that her legs and feet are in the air and their arms and hands touch and balance together, all the while Leah's feet are on fire. Don't worry; she's wearing fire proof shoes.
Eloise Green from Australia engages her audience and tells a story through her hula hooping and hilarious stage character Daphne. She manages to make friends in her act, distribute flowers and develop a comical courtship with a man from the audience and take him on a date where there's lots of wine. One of her many hula hooping skills include hula hooping four hoops at the same time and then she manages to keep them in motion independently of one another.
There was definitely a sense of celebration and community in the air at the festival whilst the public had the privilege of watching world class acts perform for several hours. Buskers rely on voluntary donations to make a living and when the hat was being passed it seemed that everyone was more than happy to dig deep into their pockets for loose change and notes to show their appreciation.
There are a lot of buskers in town in Auckland, the two buskers that spring to mind are a man singing in 1940's Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra inspired tones and a young woman who is able to hit notes higher than Sarah Brightman. A few weeks ago as I passed the young woman who is able to hit those high notes I couldn't help but feel that she shouldn't be just singing on the street, she should be on television for the whole world to see surely. We live in an era of voyeurism and talent shows, where everything is seen and nothing is hidden from view. 'Talent' is exposed with bright lights, a television crew, and judged by millions through the lens and barrier of a television screen. In direct contrast a busker's art is confined to the present moment, their singing is live and resounds loudly for all to hear on the street and the subtlety of different tones and lyrics can only be fully appreciated if you stay and watch the busker perform. After watching the street performers at the festival during the weekend it seems that for the busker the concrete is their stage and they are not 'confined' to the streets at all, instead they seem liberated by this very raw way of performing and showcasing their talent. One thing is for sure - the spectacular showcase of talented street performers at the festival would give any television talent contest a run for their money.
Written by Sara Akkad