Comment: Why a big busk could brighten our town centres

Big Beach Busk, Portobello (Pic: Toby Williams)
Big Beach Busk, Portobello (Pic: Toby Williams)

Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones.

Every August, Portobello Prom becomes home to the Big Beach Busk.

Pic: Toby Williams

Pic: Toby Williams

For one day in August, the prom is filled with people playing music.

Every bar and cafe is packed, every ice cream van does a roaring trade and the music is simply glorious.

And the best part?

It’s completely unorganised.

There are no rules. There is no paperwork. You want to play? Turn up and play!

Chalk mark a semi-circle for your stage, tune up, and entertain the passers-by.

You get everything from magnificent salsa bands – including one who played while going for a paddle in the sea – to community choirs, schoolkids raising a few quid for a new trumpet, to the most accomplished guitarists chilling on the wall as they dig deep into their catalogue of riffs.

Add in face painters, folk selling home baking and kids colouring the entire prom in chalk drawings and you have the ultimate, free, open, community event.

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This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Big Beach Busk, and, in that time, it has become something very special.

Above all, ten years on, and it has remained blissfully free from council rules and regulations, and those irritating pen-pushers whose rigid devotion to paperwork can suck the joy out of any event.

So, if Portobello can flood the place with musicians, and bring thousnads of people into the heart of its High Street, why can’t Kirkcaldy?

Here’s my wee dream.

We pick a date and simply issue an “let’s play” invite to anyone who fancies a gig in the town centre.

Stay as long as you want, raise a few quid for you or your charity or just play for the sheer fun of it.

Pick an empty shop door – grief, there are plenty of them – chalk your wee circle, and bring the place to life with glorious music; everything from jazz to classical, from folk to musicals.

Then there are all the vennels.

Let them ring to the sound of live music.

There’s Volunteers Green –a civic space this town has all but forgotten about.

Isn’t it time we breathed some life back into it?

And let’s extend the live music links all the way down to, and along, the waterfront. One mile of music!

And imagine doing all of that without so much as a single bit of paper from the cooncil...

You know what, it is entirely do-able, and it’s the sort of fresh thinking that we need to give people reason to come into the town centre.

I love the ethos of the Big Beach Busk which states: “You don’t need permission to be part of this.”

In return all they ask is be kind, be respectful, and tidy up before you go.

I’d love to see it happen here ... and in Kinghorn, Aberdour and Burntisland.

Our town centres need that vitality, that creativity and that sense of fun to start to change people’s perceptions.

And there is no doubt that music changes the landscape. So, how about it?
Who’s up for a spot of un-organised busking on an epic scale?

I’ll even bring my guitar ...