All I Want for Christmas is More Busking!

Rising star in journalism, Sophie investigates what busking is like in the Christmas period.

All I Want for Christmas is More Busking!

Our Rising Star in Journalism, Sophie Barnden investigated what Busking on the streets of London is like for our talented street musicians. Take it away Sohipe!


‘Tis the season to be listening to music – particularly the emerging sounds of talented buskers. Throughout the year, ordinary people step onto the street, an instrument in hand (or vocals warmed up) and grace passers-by with impressive live performances. In this day and age, live music is a treat – something we must pay ridiculous amounts for and stand in line for hours to experience – but these individuals bring it right to our feet, creating, even more, joy on the streets at Christmas.

The build-up to Christmas Day is exciting enough, but walking through London’s Underground stations as you’re on your way to Winter Wonderland, Harrods or Southbank’s Christmas market and hearing the melodies of your favourite seasonal songs beautifully belted out or played on a saxophone makes the atmosphere even more magical. I asked some London travel-goers what they thought about the festive busking on their journey through the Underground. “I love it,” says fashion marketer Jadine Rice, “the whole station is filled with music and it creates a much better mood than just the sounds of footsteps and hustle and bustle”. For primary school PE teacher Jemima Gedny, busking brings much more excitement to her and her pupils. “We have children bouncing into class telling everyone how they’ve seen Santa playing the guitar on the high street”, she says. “At Christmas, the buskers don’t seem to just do it for the money. I’ve seen some buskers getting annoyed throughout the year because the public hasn’t thrown in enough change, but at Christmas, they seem happy to just be spreading the cheer”.

For the most part, that Christmas cheer causes the public to stop and listen, or even throw in some change; but sometimes, busking at Christmas can be arduous. Let’s set the scene. It’s Oxford Street, with one week to go until the turkey needs to be set onto the table for the family. You’re darting through the high street, trying to grab last-minute gifts and decorations. Of course, you’re not going to be interested in the young girl playing the guitar outside of Primark as you get increasingly stressed over the mounds of people bustling all around you. London-born busker Sheya Lily knows how it feels to be on the receiving end of that: “I had one experience where someone was quite rude to me as he couldn’t hear his friend speaking, but I had every right to be there. I stopped briefly until other people nearby kindly said that they loved my singing and encouraged me not to stop!”

Sheya is just one example of how important busking is when discovering emerging talent. “My proudest moment was my involvement with Gigs, the Mayor of London’s annual busking competition in 2016 open to performers aged 11-25. I got to the final which was a huge achievement for me.” The musician has also been putting in an effort to increase her fan base, something which has been aided by physically performing on the streets. “I have flyers and a sign with my social media name on so that people can find me online. Some people have come to see me busk more than once by finding me through my social media updates!”

Sheya Lily

Sheya Lily performing in Westfield Shopping Centre

Sheya notes that Christmas is often the most exciting time to perform around the country. “Passers-by tend to love hearing Christmas tunes, but I mix them in with other songs so it’s not too much. More people are out shopping, so a larger audience can be reached!” Whilst the festive period can bring in more listeners, Sheya has some advice for other winter buskers: “there have been times where playing my guitar has become difficult, as my fingers have gone numb, so definitely bring hand warmers and warm drinks!”

There may be various people who don’t agree with busking, but these talented individuals will step out into the bitter weather to make everyone’s day that little bit jollier – for no cost at all. Next time you fancy paying for an open mic night, consider taking a stroll down the streets of your city. You may be surprised at how happy busking will make you.

Sheya Lily is based in London and can be found on social media platforms here:

Facebook: Sheya Lily Music

Twitter: @SheyaLily

Instagram: @Sheya_Lily_Music

Thanks, Sophie! Sophie was chosen out of hundreds of applicants to be a Rising Star in Journalism. If you feel you are the next superstar journalist, be sure to apply today!