I’ve heard it said that market squares were once considered the heart of a town. Before the giant grocery stores of today everyone converged at the central market to find their wares and catch up on the town’s news. The square was home to the local economy, social discourse and arts. Everything passed through it.
Gazing around Cambridge’s Market Square I could still see the heart people have spoken about from by-gone days. Today in particular merchants mingled with activists right beside artists busy enthralling the curious crowds.
The Cambridge Buskers and Street Performers Festival is a shot of adrenaline for a city already driven by a spirit that just won’t sit still.
I’d started off my Saturday morning talking to a world-wise animal rights activist in her small home in Cambridge. Settling myself on the soft carpet at the foot of her couch so she—now moving into her older years—could more easily hear the questions I wanted to express, we started a stilted conversation about demonstrations, marches and actions for change. On her left a pile of books threatened to topple. On her right a walker stood abandoned for the moment.
After asking all the questions I needed to for my article we dove into a discussion about the world’s affairs.
Just before I left this woman with her friend, three cats and memories I spoke a series of words that would weigh heavy on my mind.
“Money makes the world go round”.
As I pedaled away from that modest home this perception rested heavily on my mind.
Was humanity too focused on money? Where is the soul?
Suddenly I spotted a small crowd clustered around something in the centre of town. With curiosity tugging me from my thoughts like a five-year-old after ice-cream I caved and sought the nearest bike stand to park.
Finding one nearby I locked my bike as surely as I figured I’d secured my view of the world and squeezed into the group that had drawn my interest.
Thankfully, my bike lock is a lot stronger than my negative opinions… because my faith in humanity’s ambitions was restored within seconds.
And all it took was a man and his magic handkerchief.
Fluttering his patch of red cloth about the street magician known as Mario Morris exclaimed and announced the crowd should watch the handkerchief closely.
Catching me pulling my camera from my face to remove the annoying lens cap he cheekily shouted, “watch out… lens cap” and gave a show of being flustered when I raised an eyebrow.
“Just tryin’ ta help,” he added with a shrug and grin before shifting his focus back to his tricks.
When he had gone through his bag of goodies and yanked our expectations from under us he set down his hat on the table.
A surge of young children clutching change in their hands swept forward to drop their collection in the hat before they faded away with their parents.
And Mario Morris made a point of thanking each and everyone one of them before he began packing up his things.
Walking further through downtown I ran into a young saxophone player pouring out notes as smooth as silk and as soothing as rain. When I stepped forward to ask for his contact info he was preparing to dash off for the festival competition, but here’s hoping we hear from him in the near future!
My next discovery would be a man I’d seen glistening in the distance but missed when I’d gone back to take photos.
Thankfully he set up shop at another location I stumbled upon later so I now have the chance to share with you the delights of his rare movements.
There was an atmosphere of humour in the act.
Stanley Still wasn’t exactly the respectable image his stature portrayed.
Rather he was a mischievous individual interested in stealing kisses from the ladies and balancing apples on boy’s heads. Everyone had a good laugh over his antics.
Carefree with the winks he always acknowledged benefactors with a modest bow or wave.
Presenting my own subtle bow to the human statue I went on my way again.
This time I bumped into a band. They’d just set up shop and were diving into a Mumford and Sons song.
If my detective deduction skills are correct (and I read this festival schedule right) these guys are called Flashback Photograph.
That’s a damn clever name. I’m going to have to ask them what inspired it.
Unassisted by amplifiers Flashback Photograph still managed to attract people of all ages. I was personally fascinated by the guy playing the banjo and harmonica – how do people do that anyway???
I can barely handle telling my hands to beat out a drum rhythm while fighting my foot to keep up an even kick for Rock Band. It’s like a dysfunctional family’s night out when I play drums. No communication what-so-ever.
Dropping my contact info with the group I headed away so I’d stop blocking the public’s view of the band with my gorgeous looks.
On my way home I’d find two more acts.
The first I’d meet was “Still Seeking”, a jolly band spreading warmth and laughter with their uppity tunes.
Their performance was wonderfully animated—filled with mug chugging, dropping whistles and sprawling smiles.
They also introduced me to the most interesting instrument I have come across in person yet!
The gentleman on the left is holding a percussion instrument known as the lagerphone (in Australia) or medoza, monkey stick or Murrumbidgee River rattler.
It’s made from a stick and layered flattened bottle caps (traditionally originally shells).
The one element this version of the lagerphone is missing is a big, fat work boot at the bottom! Yeah, instead there is a table leg, which the gentleman holding it assured me made his wife very happy (but not really).
I fell in love with the instrument instantly. Look at all the Australian lagerphoonneesss here!!!
It’s official. I’m now on a mission to collect bottle caps for my new lagerphone.
Uh oh I just realized I:
a) need to step up my drinking habits and
b) need to shift from cheap canned cider to bottles…
This should be highly entertaining. Stay tuned.
Anyway, moving beyond the beloved lagerphone and back to the Cambridge Buskers and Street Performers Festival, the last act I’d witness would be the most mesmerizing for me.
A woman stepped up to her microphone, took a breath and sang three songs that blew my mind away. I’m pretty sure the second song was legitimate opera with Latin and everything.
That was insane. I was definitely not expecting that at a street performance festival. Truthfully. Opera on the streets. Never saw that coming.
It just goes to show that when we give people the freedom to express themselves openly they always manage to surprise us with their diversity and hidden strengths.
My favourite moments are when stereotypes are broken, particularly ones that I hold in my own mind.
If a woman can bring opera to the streets, well, I think all forms of art have a home there and I’m glad people find the time to share their joy.
Sorry I was one of the cheap bastards who didn’t support you guys financially.
Thank you for sharing your magic anyway.
P.s. Bonus pack!
I collected the contact info of all of these individuals and plan to have a quick chat with them about their skills and what it’s like to be a busker/street performer!
Look forward to it!