David Fisher on Busking and Bonn

For David Fisher his recent concert at Bonn Folk Club was only one in a very long line of concerts abroad.  David was on the road for three years, busking from City to City and even Country to Country.  He even found time to publish a book about his experiences  –  ‘Busking Beyond Borders’ is a fascinating and often humerous account of those three years. Before the show, and despite the noisy rehearsals of fellow musicians readying themselves for their floor-spots at at Dotty’s Sports Bar, 3songsbonn managed to grab a short interview with David.

Your website says you embarked on a 3 year world tour, which sounds pretty impressive.  Are you still on that tour?

I am, sort of, yes!  I’ve moved back to Britain.  I moved back about six months ago months ago, but I’m taking three or four weeks away.  Belgium, Germany, to tour round a little bit.

You have an interesting book on sale here.  Particularly for musicians who like to take their music out to the people.  It’s called ‘Busking Beyond Borders’.  Your journeying will have given you a chance to see exactly what role busking has in a worldwide sense.  What do you see as the role that street musicians have in the community?

I think it’s really important, and I certainly notice it when I walk through a town centre and there aren’t any buskers.  I think it’s a great shame actually.  With myself, I have my own towns and familiar faces.  We stop for a chat.  I think that buskers make the streets a safer place as well because you have a pair of eyes on the street at all times, so yes, I think they have a really important job.

Which Country have you found the best when it comes to legislation for busking on its streets?

Well, I’d say it would be maybe Scandinavia, where I’ve never had any problems with the police, or councils or anyone.  In terms of the general public I’d say that areas of the Balkans are fantastic.  Places like Albania.  They were really, really receptive to street music.  You know, they would bring you out cups of tea during your busking sessions.

There are rules and regulations in most places, but it varies, not just between countries, but between cities within the countries.  I never look it up beforehand.  I just play, and see what happens really.

Have you had a ‘worst Country’ for rules and regulations?

Azerbaijan was particularly difficult because I couldn’t go more than ten minutes without being accosted by the police force unfortunately.

What did they do?

Oh, they were quite friendly, but they made it quite clear that if I didn’t do what they wanted I could be booted out of the country.

Going back to your earlier comment about buskers being an extra pair of eyes watching the streets, it all comes down to caring about the people and places around you.  A community spirit.  You suggest in your book that Brexit is partly the result of the lack of a community spirit.  Could you expand on that observation?


Yes, That post was particularly about Folk Music within the community and I used it as a metaphor for all sorts of things.   I think that most English people don’t have a strong connection to English folk music or perhaps to their communities as well, which is why they are starting to feel detached.  I think that anyone who blames the EU for that detachment, well, I think that’s the wrong scapegoat.

There has been a breakdown in our communities that’s led to it, and it’s in all of our interests to instead focus on the positive aspects of our roots and our history and things like that and reconnect through things like Folk Music.

Are there enough, particularly young people, involved with Folk Music in England?

No, not really.  It’s a great shame.  There are a few, but most Clubs that I go to you won’t find many young people

As you say in your blog: “We in Britain learn endless dates and facts about our kings and queens, yet nothing about the Peterloo Massacre or the Kinder Trespass that do far more to inform the average person about their own cultural identity and history than learning the names of the six wives of an overly-entitled, narcissistic psychopath.”

Exactly.  It’s not a part of our schooling.  You don’t learn Folk songs in schools.  It’s all about facts.  It’s a real missed opportunity.

Is there a musician of the old school political folk song to be found amongst the current performers in Britain’s current troubled times?

There are a few artists of my generation who are doing this, but they’ve yet to become very well known.  I’d say a leading band would be Show of Hands for example, who are popular in the folk world but a little bit outside of it as well.  There’s political statement in their songs.  It’s a lot of anger but comes from a place of great warmth.

So where does Germany stand in the busking league table for you?  How many shows have you done here.?

This will be my third on this tour, with three more coming up, finishing in Berlin.  My experience of busking here in Germany is, on the whole, very positive, although I do find some of the regulations can be very restricting and you have to find out who to contact – and if you’re only in the city a couple of days…

John (Harrison) tells me that he tried to arrange for a permit for you in Bonn Centre but it wasn’t possible, as there were only three ever available and they were all quickly taken…

Yes, now we’ve managed to get a permit for Bad Godesberg which is possibly better.  Bonn is actually quite famous amongst buskers for being one of the most restrictive cities in Europe.  I mean, it’s 25 Euros for two days! (NOTE: 25 Euros allows the holder alone, or in a group, to play acoustic music only on the relevant two days from 9 am to 10 pm. The ‚stage‘ must be changed after half an hour to a new location outside of sight or sound of the last – and cannot be returned to for two hours.  Sale of any cd’s not personally produced is strictly prohibited.)

I don’t believe you should need a permit to busk, full stop.  I think it’s a shame, and I hear that Bonn Folk Club is trying to do something about it (Daniel Bongart) so I wish him all the best for that, because it’s obviously not a great situation.

More about the book/CD project ‘Busking Beyond Borders’ can be found HERE



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