“Excellent 30s Grappelli style sounds, we just had to buy your album which is playing as I type this!”
— Iain. C. Kelly
I started my musical journey early on. The usual route from junior school recorder, to picking violin and then marching through the grades. Then it was onto playing in string quartets, and playing in the various county orchestras. Classical violin tuition gave me the grounding I needed, and the technique. But at 14 I realised my heart was not truly in performing classical violin. I wanted to play in my friends bands, but when we got together I couldn't play anything at all, other than things I had learned from the books. Thanks to their patience, and that of various jam nights I went to, I slowly learned to improvise and how to 'play by ear'.
In 1989 the Hillsborough disaster happened, and the country tried to help however they could. Some of my school friends and I went into our local town and busked to raise cash for the appeal. People gathered to listen but also to talk and try to process what had happened. I realised then that busking could bring a sense of community and turn a commercial street into a place to pause rather than just rush through. So I quit my paper round and started going to Norwich to busk on Saturdays, and that was it.
By 18 I was busking full time, with blues backing tracks, and playing with whatever type band would have me, on and off the street. Next came visiting other cities and towns around East Anglia, and going to London. I experimented with electric violins, even cutting holes in classical violins and filling them with cushion filler and cheap pick ups. I kept coming back to the authentic sound of an acoustic violin, and still play one today, just using a pick up to give it that boost needed for big shows.
Like many of my colleagues busking became a lifestyle as well as a profession. There is a strong community of performers worldwide, modern day troubadours and minstrels who don't quite fit into a conventional mode, who love the feeling of getting out into the urban landscape and dropping their hats on the floor! I've met people in Cambridge, then crossed paths again in Europe and even seen them again in California. I love the honesty of street performance. People are not shy about telling me how they feel about what I am playing! For a full time musician it is perfect too as people planning a party or event actually get to see me perform before they book me.
When we relocated to York in 2014 I jumped straight into playing here. In fact my second night here was a meeting of buskers to discuss changes to the local councils approach to street performing. The city and the region are so welcoming and supportive of live music that we've never considered leaving. I now play on the streets of Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, County Durham and Norfolk. I also perform as a solo violinist at private events and occasionally as a session musician. My band, Hyde Family Jam, are a regular sight around Yorkshire and beyond. We also play at all kinds of events throughout the year from festivals and shows to parties, weddings, and events. If you want to find out more please visit www.hydefamilyjam.com.