No change? This app lets you pay buskers by card

Want to bung these lads a fiver? You're in luck. Image: Cory Doctorow at Wikimedia commons.

Do you carry cash? No? Me neither. Well, unless you count the detritus of pennies and Euros lurking at the bottom of my purse. If asked for change on the street by a performer, charity or Big Issue seller, I'm usually too embarrassed to even ask if they might be travelling to France anytime soon and could use my €1.73. 

So some way of making cashless payments on the street is so long overdue. However, the way most such payments works acts as a barrier to most of the groups listed above: card machines are expensive, and charge per transaction, meaning £2 donations woldn't make much sense (though one Big Issue seller in South Kensington, Simon Mott, has invested in a bluetooth card machine and says sales have doubled as a result). Charities get round this by asking you to text a number to donate through your mobile phone provider; but individual buskers and homeless people, unsurprisingly, don't have the means to set this up.  

A few schemes around the world have attempted to solve the street payment conundrum. In Sweden, Big Issue sellers were provided with smartphones and a card machine by payments company iZettle at the beginning of each shift so they could take money by card. In London, The Busking Project has just launched BuSK, an app that lets you pay buskers on the street with your phone.

BuSK's minimum payment is £5, which may be more than some want to pay; but it could help plug the gap left by the move away from CDs, which used to be an easy way for street performers to make money on the street while promoting and spreading their work. The Busking Project website emphasises that many performers rely on busking for income, and are a group worth supporting:

Buskers are often drawn from society’s most excluded groups: immigrants, the disabled, the homeless, offenders, addicts or those with mental health problems. For many, busking gives them the chance to go from a place of exclusion to one of social and financial inclusion, with a stable income and self-respect.


Nick Broad, the project's founder, says buskers have an unfairly negative reputation, despite the fact that many famous musicians began their careers on the street: 

The old joke is that buskers are "beggars with a gimmick", but Ed Sheeran, Pierce Brosnan and KT Tunstall all started off as buskers. What we are trying to do with BuSK is to show that being a street performer is a legitimate and accessible way of earning a living.

The app is also a campaigning tool. Its creators say that they hope to encourage local authorities to "treat buskers like artists instead of criminals", by promoting the "economic and social benefits of busking". It includes a map showing where local performers, from clowns to musicians, are located; you can choose which types of performance you're interested in when you sign up:

You can download the app via the BuSK website

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There isn’t a war on the motorist. We should start one

These bloody people. Image: Getty.

When should you use the horn on a car? It’s not, and anyone who has been on a road in the UK in living memory will be surprised to hear this, when you are inconvenienced by traffic flow. Nor is it when you are annoyed that you have been very slightly inconvenienced by another driver refusing to break the law in a manner that is objectively dangerous, but which you perceive to be to your advantage.

According to the Highway Code:

“A horn should only be used when warning someone of any danger due to another vehicle or any other kind of danger.”

Let’s be frank: neither you nor I nor anyone we have ever met has ever heard a horn used in such a manner. Even those of us who live in or near places where horns perpetually ring out due to the entitled sociopathy of most drivers. Especially those of us who live in or near such places.

Several roads I frequently find myself pushing a pram up and down in north London are two way traffic, but allow parking on both sides. This being London that means that, in practice, they’re single track road which cars can enter from both ends.

And this being London that means, in practice, that on multiple occasions every day, men – it is literally always men – glower at each other from behind the steering wheels of needlessly big cars, banging their horns in fury that circumstances have, usually through the fault of neither of them, meant they are facing each other on a de facto single track road and now one of them is going to have to reverse for a metre or so.

This, of course, is an unacceptable surrender as far as the drivers’ ego is concerned, and a stalemate seemingly as protracted as the cold war and certainly nosier usually emerges. Occasionally someone will climb out of their beloved vehicle and shout and their opponent in person, which at least has the advantages of being quieter.

I mentioned all this to a friend recently, who suggested that maybe use of car horns should be formally restricted in certain circumstances.

Ha ha ha. Hah.

The Highway Code goes on to say -

“It is illegal to use a horn on a moving vehicle on a restricted road, a road that has street lights and a 30 mph limit, between the times of 11:30 p.m. and 07:00 a.m.”

Is there any UK legal provision more absolutely and comprehensively ignored by those to whom it applies? It might as well not be there. And you can bet that every single person who flouts it considers themselves law abiding. Rather than the perpetual criminal that they in point of fact are.


In the 25 years since I learned to drive I have used a car horn exactly no times, despite having lived in London for more than 20 of them. This is because I have never had occasion to use it appropriately. Neither has anyone else, of course, they’ve just used it inappropriately. Repeatedly.

So here’s my proposal for massively improving all UK  suburban and urban environments at a stroke: ban horns in all new cars and introduce massive, punitive, crippling, life-destroying fines for people caught using them on their old one.

There has never been a war on motorists, despite the persecution fantasies of the kind of middle aged man who thinks owning a book by Jeremy Clarkson is a substitute for a personality. There should be. Let’s start one. Now.

Phase 2 will be mandatory life sentences for people who don’t understand that a green traffic light doesn’t automatically mean you have right of way just because you’re in a car.

Do write in with your suggestions for Phase 3.