There’s more to busking than men in white sheets and electric guitarists murdering The Winner Takes It All. For the 50th time.

Liverpool’s busking community has never been more eclectic, alive or essential as it is now. You don’t always need to pay £2million to import giant puppets to animate the streets. You just need to incubate the talent here, as they did in Nantes. And who knows what might grow out of it.

And if you don’t like what you’re hearing, move on people. That’s the beauty of the outdoors. You’re free to walk away. No-one’s forcing you to linger outside McDonalds watching an upside down man with his head in a bucket.

Not that many walk away from Bolshy. Liverpool’s ragged ska collective is sure to grow a ring of confidence around them wherever they play, and was one of the highlights of this year’s Threshhold Fundraiser in Williamson Square.

So joyous and life affirming is their repertoire of old Specials, Marley and Thin Lizzy songs, blended with punk and hardcore favourites, they could keep the streets alive on their own.

Not that they have to, since the Council’s climb down last week, the animation of our streets looks safe enough. For now.

All of which means the collective, which met variously at school and at last year’s Occupy Liverpool camp is set to add a spring to our step as we hover outside Primark on Saturday afternoons, with the rest of the Primarni Widowers.

We caught up with the ska’chestra to ruminate on the future of their venue of choice – the city streets – and talk about their awareness-raising jam on Church Street, this coming Saturday, to support MelloMello.

What do you make of the Council’s climb down on its proposed busking policy?

The policy was just another example of the council’s mundane attempts to privatise culture when all it did was strengthen the busking community. We care very deeply about the music in this city, as well as the people who make it and appreciate it. Another recent example of this is the what they’re doing to MelloMello forcing them into administration.

Is it difficult, having so many of you, to get together?

Since we’re all back in school/college/clown training we’ve not been able to make it down every other day like we could in the summer. We try and make it down every Saturday but on our other free days we dedicate the time to working on our electric set, which people will be seeing a lot more of soon.

What’s with all that multi-instrumentalism? It’s very impressive!

We know that the audience love the swapping about of instruments which is a good thing
because we also do it to entertain ourselves when we’re playing for hours at a time.

How does busking compare to gigs? What’s so special about it?

It all comes down to the atmosphere. Although they may not realise it, the audience sets the tone for a gig. The more into our music the audience are, the better we play. Overall though we prefer gigs as they usually have a better vibe.

Is the busking vibe the same in other cities?

5/7ths (or 71.428571428%) of us went to Birmingham for the week. Although we were well received over there, we prefer Liverpool solely because of the people. We also went to Mordor for the weekend. It is also important to note that one can not simply walk into Mordor, one must skank through the Black Gates instead (this is the sound of that answer whizzing over our old SevenStreets heads).

How do you decide on what you’re going to play?

Our repertoire is mostly made up of songs we like and listen to. It’s culmination of our own tastes, what’s fun to play and what just simply sounds good.

The crowd pleasers are the full on ska we play. I think people love the bouncy feel it gives. We think it’s a common misconception that the success is in reeling out the same old classics you here a lot of street performers do. I mean Wonderwall’s good, but you can’t bounce to that stuff. The crowd pleasers are usually the songs that people don’t know.

Tell us about the busking community

Since we have started busking, we’ve met some of the nicest people we’ll ever know. The busking community is one of the best communities we have been a part of. Everyone just looks out for each other. Bonds were strengthened when the council started clamping down on the buskers too.

So what’s happening this Saturday?

On Saturday 29th September there’ll be a massive jam and more on Church Street to raise awareness about Liverpool City Council forcing the closure MelloMello, one of the city’s most creative and community focussed gig venues, cafes community hubs, rehearsal and recording studios. Come down and show your support. If you’re a musician, artist, performer or anyone who’d like to join in, please do so. There are no rules. Everyone’s invited. For more information visit our facebook events page.

Describe yourselves in seven words

Accept no limitations, dance and be happy.

Thanks to Bolshy: Louis, Andrew, Jen, Izaki, Harley, Sam and Ivy.

Photo: Kath Dos Santos

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