Cambridge’s Busking Culture

Busking is a past time that dates back as far as antiquity and fortunately, it is one that has survived to the present day. We often ignore buskers as we run our errands around town, but you’d probably miss them if they weren’t there; they add a sense of atmosphere and culture to our cities that should not be taken for granted.

The term ‘busker’ originates from a number of Latinate languages, with roots meaning to ‘seek’ or ‘procure’ and whilst most buskers are out in the streets to make some money, the term seems somewhat dated, branding them as medieval jesters, desperately craving cash. However, this would be to demean those truly talented musicians that we encounter whilst we’re out and about. Any musician will tell you how hard it is to make money from your craft, but many just want people to hear their music and where are there lots of people? The street.

We should be crediting these musicians as ‘street artists’ or ‘street performers’, not simply entertainers for our own amusement. Busking often connotes images of old men with white beards with a bass drum on their back, accompanied by a multitude of other instruments, bells and whistles, but today you can see and hear some amazing undiscovered musicians in the street.

It’s easy to catch a tune of a street performer as you walk past and think nothing more about it, but if you genuinely like what you are hearing, you should take a moment to stop and show your interest. If you think about, they have provided you with a service that you have enjoyed, so why not reward them? You’d pay to see your favourite artist of all time perform, so why not an up-and-coming artist, especially if you liked their sound – no, it doesn’t have to be £25, plus an admin fee, but you can be sure that the artist will appreciate a few coins and more so, your attention.

In the past, Quite Great have worked with artists who started out as street performers and one of the most notable ones being Si Cranstoun. For around fifteen years, Si had been busking in cities across the country, trying to get his music out there, but it wasn’t until he took a trip to Cambridge on the tip of some fans in London that he found his big break.

Our Managing Director, Pete Bassett, was walking in the city centre when he was drawn in by Si’s voice and the large group of people congregating around him. Pete handed him a business card and it wasn’t long before Si was signing a multi-million pound record deal with East West, a partner of Warner records.

It just goes to show how talented some of the street performers are that we ignorantly pass by. So perhaps next time you aren’t rushing around town in need of your next caffeine fix, spare a moment for the talented artists of our streets and maybe drop a quid in their guitar case for making our days a little brighter with their music.

Who’s the best street performer you’ve seen in Cambridge? We want to hear from you – find us at

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