LISTEN: Busker Kirsty talks to us about life strumming underground

A photo of another London Underground busker (not Kirsty!) Photo: Grendalkhan

A photo of another London Underground busker (not Kirsty!) Photo: Grendalkhan

Buskers on the tube make up the atmosphere of going underground, with everything from guitars to violins to steel drums echoing inside the corridors from Covent Garden to Kings Cross. What’s it like being an Underground busker for a living? We asked Kirsty, a busker from Angel who sings and plays guitar, for her thoughts.

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Gems of the Underground: Embankment

Londoners are busy. We don’t spend as much time as we should exploring, but in this feature series, we plan to give you an epic area guide to as many tube stations as we can… telling you the best places to eat, drink, shop, and play that are no further than five minutes away.

Today we’ve got  guest -blogger  Kate Bandeira-Gresswell  to show us around Embankment.

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Interview: The King’s Parade

Busking is a much-loved London tradition, even more so when it comes to the London Underground. With upset caused over a recent ban on unlicenced buskers in Camden, there is growing support for campaigns like #BackBusking to encourage artists to continue making music for us all to enjoy.

Interview: The King’s Parade

In 2013, The King’s Parade won the Eurostar prize in the Mayor of London’s Gigs competition, which sees hundreds of musicians performing throughout the summer on the Tube and at leading venues in the capital. Launching this year’s competition earlier this month, the band headed to Paris for a busking gig.

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CAPTURED ON CAMERA: over 15,000 CCTV cameras on the London Underground

They say the average Londoner gets caught on CCTV 40 times in one day, but having looked at TfL’s reply to an Freedom Of Information request about cameras on the tube network, it looks like you could easily get caught by 40 cameras making one tube journey.  So what station has the most CCTV cameras, and also what tube line?

As suspected it’s the stations that are the biggest and most central that tend to have the most cameras – Kings Cross and St Pancras combined have 408. The majority of stations with the most cameras are also in zone one.

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Ghosts on the Underground: An Interactive Guide

Grinning man illustration

The fearsome, grinning man of Stratford station.

Presumably our readers are now well-versed in all things TFL: The tube strikes, the drivers, the buskers and all that other hum-drum stuff we have to concern ourselves with on this mortal plane.

But allow us, kind readers, to delve into something a little less, shall we say, profane and earthly – allow us to concern ourselves with that for which the London Underground is truly famed: the supernatural.

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Gems of the Underground: Southgate

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Londoners are busy. We don’t spend as much time as we should exploring, but in this new feature series, we plan to give you an epic area guide to as many tube stations as we can… telling you the best places to eat, drink, shop, and play that are no further than five minutes away.

Today we’re looking at Southgate on the Piccadilly Line.

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What I’m Really Thinking – The Commuter (Guest blog)

We found a disgruntled commuter who agreed to write a “day in the life” piece about their commuting experience. Screaming children, lack of natural daylight, angry businessmen… what’s the worst thing you’ve ever had to suffer through?

Waking up this early is not natural.

I’m waiting at Oakwood and it’s still dark. I mean, it is literally still night time. When you live on the outskirts of London – let’s be honest, can we even call it the London Underground anymore? – these sorts of commutes become common. Zone 5. It could be worse. The “Underground” technically goes as far as Zone 9. Those poor bastards in Chesham, wherever that is.

Also, Underground? The Piccadilly line is taking the piss, really. You get on at Oakwood and you’re still above ground. Scenery, signal, internet – this is pretty nice. Then Southgate comes along and spoils the party. You’re just about getting used to this when the train suddenly re-emerges, you get blinded by the sunlight (sun’s just about started rising by now) and the train rolls into Arnos Grove. Once you’re there, the train decides to stop – just to kind of confuse you. Are we overground? Are we underground? And how long are we going to be here anyway… do I have time to watch Game of Thrones on my phone?

wifi problems

I forgot about the whole having to choose a seat bit. That’s the worst part of the journey. You can’t sit in one of the priority seats in case you need to move, and moving is always awkward. You have your headphones in and God forbid you accidentally look someone in the eye. Talk to someone? Forget it. And you don’t want a seat next to someone – remember the one-seat-gap rule. It’s like pissing in urinals – the same rule applies.

SEats

When you finally get to wherever you’re going – which, ironically, takes longer the nearer to central London you get, even though the stops are all, like, way closer to each other – you have to get off the train. This can be incredibly difficult. And if there’s one thing I hate about the Underground, it’s the escalators.

Escalators at Bermondsey Underground Station, 15 October 2013

Escalators at Bermondsey Underground Station, 15 October 2013

Step into any Underground station, at any time between, say, half seven and half nine in the morning, and you’ll be met with a mass of people, rushing around, smacking you in the ribs with their briefcases. Until they get to the escalator. Escalators appear to be in some sort of paradigm shift, where all of a sudden time – and people – stand still. What’s that? Two minutes ago you tried to push me into an oncoming train because you were running late for work but now you have time to stand still for a minute on the fucking stairs?

Spicy Green Ginger

Spicy Green Ginger

The only thing that’s left is to go home at the end of the day. This either gets incredibly harder or much more pleasant depending on how much you’ve been drinking and where you need to go. The wonderful thing about Oakwood is that, every now and then – and probably because the driver gets bored and doesn’t give a toss anymore – the train randomly decides to terminate at Oakwood. Which means however comatose you are you can’t miss your stop. Just don’t do what a friend did – fall asleep with your iPhone 5 in your outstretched hand and your headphones in.

Because if you do, you’ll be woken up by some smug bastard at Oakwood, holding the other end of your headphones and asking you: “Were these supposed to be plugged into something, mate?”

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