mardi 26 avril 2016

Busking in Antwerp

The city of Antwerp has been another one of my regular busking destinations in Belgium. I usually head over there by train and arrive at the Central Station, probably the nicest one in Belgium and considered to one of the most beautiful stations in the world.

There is a very nice zoo right next to the station, and if I don't get to distracted by the idea of going and say hello to the animals, then I can head into town in search of a nice busking spot. A fair share of the center is pedestrianized, which is nice for busking.

It starts with the huge shopping street, the Meir, which starts not too far away, in a straight line from Central Station. It is quite wide and busy, you probably need to be amplified to play there, unless you're busking as a band, or playing loud instruments maybe. The thing is from what I have understood amplification is not allowed in Antwerp, and you need a permit to busk, which you can ask for online, but the whole thing is in Flemmish with no translation, kind of tough for foreigners. So far personnaly I haven't bothered with the permit, and have played with amplification in various parts of town, including the Meir, without beeing bothered by the police. But I think I've just been lucky maybe, not to fall on the wrong cops, because I have been told that they can be strict with those regulations at times. I guess as always it depends on who, when and where.

I don't know whether this info is still valid but here's wha tI found on the web about the permit and regulations:
- you can fill out a form at the Office of Safety at Sint-Pietersvliet 7 and you then have to wait a few days to get it
- the permit is free and would be valid for a year
- as a general rule you should only play at a given spot 1 hour at a time

In De Wilde Zee
One of my favourite busking spots in Antwerp has been a quiet little square at the end of Wiegstraat in De Wilde Zee. But it is also many other buskers favourite spot so often busy. Everytime I played there I got great feedback from shop owners around, anda few of them even bought the albums to play in their shop, which is nice!

I have played in a number of other streets and places around that area, and it seems to be appreciated. Sometimes people in the vicinity, whether they are shop or restaurant owners, would be a bit weary when they see you set up nearby. But once I started playing then they seemed reassured and even enjoyed it. In this one place where I was just setting up, the lady in the shop opposite came out to ask me whether I intended to play for long, because after a while it gets tiring for her. I reassured her that I would'nt be playing for more than half and hour, 45 minutes max. So I went on with my gig, and after about 7-8 songs I asked her as she came out of her shop if it was ok and whether I should continue playing or not. She said it was lovely and that I could play all afternoon if I wanted, which felt nice! At the end as I left she gave me a pair of earrings (she owns a ethnic/fantasy jewelry shop), and now everytime I pass by her street she asks me to stay and play there! The lady in the shop next to her was really nice also and offered me cup of tea. It happens from time to time with café and restaurant owner's nearby, as a thank you for crowding up their terrace!

All in all this goes to show that you are not, as a busker, the nuisance that autorities make you out to be. More often than not, people are keener to ask you stay and come back than to get lost! This I have witnessed almost everywhere I go: if what you do is nicely done, and not to loud, people will enjoy it :-)

To end on a musical note, here's a link to a little Facebook video of me busking in Antwerp, the song is called Flower Serenade:

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