Meet Natalie Shay. At 16 years old, she's a normal London teenager with an extraordinary musical talent. She's played at respected London venues including the Roundhouse and the 100 Club, and even on the red carpet at the Brit Awards. And she won the Youth Category in last year's Gigs busking competition, organised by City Hall.
Her prize? A trip to Paris on the Eurostar. We went with the singer-songwriter and saw her perform at various venues, from the Eurostar departure lounge at St Pancras, to the Gibson guitar studio in Paris. What struck us most was the calming effect that the music had on people — passengers who had been in a mad panic, bogged down with luggage and hurrying to catch the train just seconds before, became visibly relaxed when Natalie started playing on board the train. And this is why we need more busking, says Kate Jones, programme director of the Gigs team at Busk In London.
Operating out of City Hall, Busk In London is a city-wide scheme encompassing all boroughs. It aims to make it easier to bring buskers to the capital's streets, by providing information about the regulations behind busking — it's also responsible for the busking code of conduct, published by the Mayor.
If you're a musician in London looking to get your material out there, London's big busking competition 2015 is now open. Entries close on 31 May, with 11-25 year old musicians from London invited to enter — whether you're a solo artist like Natalie or a group of up to eight people. If you win, you could be heading off to Paris this time next year.
See also: What's it like busking on South Bank?