HISTORY OF BUSKING
Street performers have been entertaining the public ever since there have been streets, dating back to ancient Egypt and Greece where entertainers passed the hat for donations. Over the years this tradition continued on throughout the streets of Europe and then spread to North America. Street performance covers a wide range of entertainment geared towards the general public. On the streets of the world you can see musicians, magicians, jugglers, clowns, acrobats, comedians, dancers and more.
The first festival in North America devoted exclusively to street theater began over 30 years ago in
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Dick Finkle, who passed away this year, started the festival. “Our mission is to present and celebrate street performance as an art form,” he says. “We treat the artists with respect, and I think that attitude translates into the performances the audience see on the street.”
Over the last three decades, this festival format has spread around the world. In Christchurch, New
Zealand there is the World Buskers Festival. Dublin, Ireland hosts The Street Performance World
Championships and in Japan over 50 acts perform in the Daidogei World Cup street performance
Over the years many famous people began as street performers. To name just a few, Benjamin Franklin sang on the streets of Philadelphia, Eddie Izzard entertained in London, Robin Williams performed in San Francisco and Tracy Chapman began in Harvard Square.
The Coney Island Busker festival is the first of its kind in New York City in over 20 years and one of the few in the United States.
To learn more about the performers who inhabit this world and the festivals that host them here are a few sites to visit:
There is also a website and podcast dedicated to preserving the stories and celebrating all the crazy characters that populate the world of street theater. You can find it here: Busker Hall of Fame.