Select Page

Doris Stokes attended the School of Busking twice and is both a gentleman and a friend. Here are a few words from him. Mario Morris 

The School of Busking 

I wasn’t even thinking about busking.

I was minding my own business, working away as a close-up table hopper at weddings & privates mainly – when I came across a reference to the School of Busking .. and I thought “ What’s all that about?”

Busking? You just learn a few tricks, choose a spot somewhere there’s a lot of footfall, set yourself up and off you go. How difficult is that, I thought. I mean.. Surely it doesn’t take three days to teach that sort of stuff? Does it?

I couldn’t see a problem with stage fright – in my youth, I fronted several bands in Edinburgh, lectured in 15 different countries on subjects not connected with the entertainment industry – how different or difficult could “getting a crowd” be?

But I was kinda intrigued – that same year, I visited Edinburgh, to spend a few days at the festival, and I watched a street performer work to an audience of hundreds, (bottom of the Mound – great spot!) for 45 minutes. He did two tricks – vanishing hank, and cups and balls.

I was impressed. Not by the “magic” – but the byplay, and involvement with the crowd. That was what I call rapport, THE most important element for fat hats.

I booked myself on the next School of Busking course, in Cardiff. I live in Ireland, so it wasn’t a casual trip up the road.

The first thing I learned was that it’s not about the tricks/effects. Mario was using the shell game, and the linking ropes to illustrates his points.

Street effects don’t have to be clever. But they DO need to have audience involvement, one-liners, (preferably not Gazzo’s)! – and you need to make the audience laugh.

I was impressed by the structure of the teaching – clear cut and concise, each stage building on the one before.

There was no instruction on tricks. You can learn tricks in your own time – why waste good teaching time?

There was so much to learn, that I didn’t think I was ready to perform on the street on the last day. In retrospect, I could have, but it would have been a very short show. I needed “fillers” – audience banter – and I’m glad I gave it a miss.

So – I signed up for the following year, which took place in Cambridge – (2009?).

This time I was about ready. Did my first show. It was ok.

I started off working the South Bank in London, to ease myself in. And boy.. there’s a LOT to learn about people.. Lecturing to a sit down audience is a breeze – it’s an audience who have come especially to hear what you have to say – on the street, you have to EARN your audience.  Another spot was Carnaby Street – totally different pace, different profile of punter.

Mario and Veronica have performed and lectured in a host of countries – you can’t buy experience like that, but you can learn from those who know!

The School of Busking changed my life, my way of thinking, and one of the spin-offs has been that it’s improved my performances in all areas – table-hopping, kid shows, private, school shows, etc.

Street performing brought out the “real me” in me – sounds odd, but instead of trying to be a slightly amusing, semi-suave sleight of hand expert who baffles diners waiting for their food to arrive – I treat almost all my shows like a street show. I TREBLED my tips at the tables.

When I look at the cast of students alongside me on these two courses, about half of them have gone on to much bigger things. The others, I’m sure, benefitted hugely, – I’m out of contact with them.

My advice to youngsters now, when they ask how to become good – is – “learn three tricks till you can do them without thinking, and then get yourself a spot on the street.” So far – there’ve been no takers..

Doris Stokes