Uncertainty over the LU Busking Scheme

London Underground are taking the management of licensed busking in-house after sponsorship dried up.

Naturally, rumours, speculation and gossip have been circulating today. As far as I can make out though from the statement on the booking site and the buskers-only mailing list, the main points are that:

No new sponsor has been found to replace Capital/The London Paper – the sponsorship package of £1m+ has funded the administration of the scheme by Automatic Management who ran the audition/vetting process, employed Busking Site Managers (BSMs) to visit the various pitches regularly and ensure all is well, and managed the telephone and internet booking process.

The contract with Automatic seems to have been terminated with very short notice – while we all like to have a moan about how things have been run, they’re a good bunch of people and I hate to see the BSMs especially out of a job.

The internet booking system is to be discontinued and all bookings will now happen over the phone and rosters will effectively be fixed by 2pm the previous day as that’s when they’ll be faxed (yes faxed) to Station Supervisors. This is a killer for me. Because I fit my busking in around consulting, writing and facilitation gigs I rarely book more than 48 hours in advance. I pick up most of my pitches as cancellations or from the unpopular pitches/timeslots, either on the day, or the night before. It’s not clear to me how the booking system is going to work and it looks like a recipe for double-booking disputes on the one hand and pitches needlessly going empty on the other. I do hope that internet booking can be reintroduced (preferably a re-written system coded by someone who understands the web – and basic online security – don’t ask!) but I reckon I’m probably in a minority.