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Buskin’ blues: the pandemic plays havoc with street musos

Oscar Litchfield’s musical world was brimming with adventure and opportunity last year as he journeyed around Australia, busking and picking up gigs in pubs, breweries and vineyards along the way. “I found some of the most receptive and generous audiences in the smaller regional towns,” says the affable, wavy-haired 21-year-old. “Gawler [in South Australia] was great: I spent three days sleeping out the back of the Sandy Creek Hotel and busking during the day.”

Like at least 3500 other registered buskers across Australia, Litchfield, who lives on his parents’ sheep and cattle property outside Cooma in southern NSW, has seen his income stream stalled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Buskers like Oscar Litchfield have lost a large part of their income during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Buskers like Oscar Litchfield have lost a large part of their income during the coronavirus lockdowns.Credit:Jamila Toderas

“I had a lot planned for this year; I was going to embark on another national tour and look into heading overseas.”

Talk to Allan Spencer, founder of the Australian National Busking Championships, and he’ll tell you it’s not just street vibrancy that’s lost when buskers case up their guitars and other instruments, but the staging of raw talent. “COVID has been heartbreaking for the Australian music industry as a whole, and busking in particular,” he sighs. “We’re still hopeful about our busking finals in Cooma on November 14, but it all depends on the course of the pandemic.” [Since going to press, the 2020 Australian National Busking Championships have been cancelled.]

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