By Trevor Klaus
In any large city across this here globe (or flat land if you still adhere to such a belief), one can expect to experience some wacky things on the street. London is certainly no exception, and may contain the most wackiness of any city I’ve visited. The frequent presence of these street performers in London performing whatever they may be performing certainly has its benefits and drawbacks to the city vibe. On the positive side, they add an indistinguishable sense of individuality to the city, as you witness what are mostly locals doing highly unique things. Most of the time, these performances also adhere great entertainment to surrounding individuals. This is either through their talent in performing or genuine enthusiasm. However, there are some negatives to me in street performing culture. The glaring one comes from the nature of payment for experiencing the event. Most of these events do not require payment, but it is highly encouraged that you do, sometimes in an extremely aggressive manner. Even if the performer does not attempt to obtain your money in an aggressive manner, the unknown of what to do for the casual Londoner or tourist can lead to an awkward situation (not in a good way).
Taking a look at two individual performers helps to illustrate my frustration with this system. Take first, the man lying down on needles. A charming, odd man, who enthusiastically riled up a significant crowd outside a train station. He was very polite and even comical about the thought of asking for payment. He genuinely made me want to give money to him, however, I knew I had to save for purchases later in the day. The situation left me feeling bad for the guy. Later on in the day, three of us stopped to figure out what were doing outside where an opera singer was. Almost instantly, we were approached asking for payment by her manager. This situation left me mad at the aggressive nature of the interaction, and left me not wanting to donate.
This is the ultimate paradox for street performers. Do you ultimately push an aggressive donation tactic, or do you let your charisma will people into supporting you? For me, neither one works. Fortunately, I’m no street performer.