Getting the Licence
Let me tell you, I’ve had one crazy experience just trying to get the licence in hand. What I’d hoped to do was collect the licence and do my first busking pitch the same day. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. They don’t give the information to book a slot until after a person has collected their licence. Another thing is I was required to collect it in person from a building in London. They would not post it because they didn’t want to be held accountable if it gets lost in the post. The licence costs nothing to obtain initially but there is a fee to get it replaced if it’s lost.
There was a deadline to collect it, but my calendar was full with gigs in that short time frame. I also had to book my tickets to get down there in advance to keep costs low. So I ended up booking a national express coach for the last possible day I was allowed to pick it up… The “Beast from the East” also decided to arrive that day! My coach was more than 3 hours late and I got very ill from standing outside in the snow for so long. I was packed and prepared for sitting on coaches all day, not standing out in the cold!
After the other people who stood with me gave up and went into the train station, I went into the dry cleaners nearby since it was open and I could still catch the coach from there if need be. That lady was very kind to me. She gave me a chair to sit on and wait and even gave me a cup of tea in a to-go cup in case the coach happened to come while I waited and I needed to take off. I was very thankful for her help. I did a lot of research to try to find alternative ways of getting to London. I also walked to the train station to see about booking a ticket. Unfortunately they were too expensive and there was no guarantee they would actually go. So I walked back home, cold, wet and miserable.
When I finally made it down to London, actually collecting the licence was very quick and painless. I showed them my id, signed a form, was handed an envelope and that was it. Job done. Afterward I had time to examine it and go to an Irish session before heading home (so I did drag my acoustic fiddle with me around London).
When I submitted my information (before going down there) I sent a passport sized photo as well. That photo is on both parts of my licence. The licence is made of two cards because when I go to busk, I have to leave one in the station office and the other stays with me while I busk. It states all the information you’d expect: what’s my instrument, expiry date, etc. I had anticipated being extremely excited to collect it. But the process of physically collecting it was so mundane it was incredibly underwhelming. I also felt a bit underwhelmed about my first busk, but I’ll write more about that in a future post.
It took a couple of days before I received my induction pack. I had to learn all about the rules and regulations surrounding busking in the underground. But I’ll write more about that in my next post! Stay tuned for more...
Serena Smith is an American British violinist and fiddle player. I play full time as a street musician in addition to the live gigs I perform with several bands.