Snowies heat up for national busking championships

Duncan Murray |

Charlotte Rose plays at the Australian National Busking Championships in Cooma this weekend.
Charlotte Rose plays at the Australian National Busking Championships in Cooma this weekend.

The global tradition of busking has turned out some of the world’s best performers, from Ed Sheeran to Tracy Chapman, and the next big thing could be heading to Cooma this weekend.

The Snowy Mountains town is hosting the the Australian National Busking Championships, with 26 acts battling it out for more than $14,000 in prize money, with the winner to be determined by a panel of three judges.

Among them are former Australian Idol judge, Ian “Dicko” Dickson, alongside veteran events organiser Oz Bayldon and rising country star Taylor Moss.

Founder and organiser of the championship, Allan Spencer, who lives in Cooma said the event, now in its 12th year, values musicianship, as well as the most crucial skill in a busker’s repertoire – holding on to your audience.

“With busking you have to actually move someone to hold their attention otherwise they’ll just walk by,” he said.

“It can be pretty brutal but it definitely hones people’s skills.”

The K Brothers play at the National Busking Championships in Cooma.
The K Brothers play at the Australian National Busking Championships in Cooma this weekend. (HANDOUT/ALLAN SPENCER)

Dicko agreed the streets are a great place to improve as a performer and they are where many of Australia’s best musicians have gotten their start.

“Street performers are a crucial element of Australia’s musical ecosystem and busking is a fantastic method of honing the performance chops of any wannabe recording star,” Mr Spencer said.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the quality and diversity of the talent.”

One of the acts are four-piece family band from Canberra, Manchild and the Blues Kids – featuring Julian Child on guitar, wife Neille on saxaphone and sons Bryn, 15, on the keys and Charlie, 13, on drums.

Mr Child said busking was a great way for the family to get to play together and earn extra money.

“We found we could get gigs here and there with the kids, but it was pretty hard to get a time slot that was age appropriate,” he said.

“We’ve done a few evening gigs but it’s really hard on them going to school the next day, and me as well having to get to work.

“Busking allowed us to go out for an hour on a Saturday morning and play and it’s really good.”

Those competing in the weekend’s grand final were selected from seven regional busking competitions in Cooma, Peak Hill and The Entrance in NSW, Kilmore and Rutherglen in Victoria, Stanthorpe in Queensland and Braddon in the ACT.

The talent pool is diverse and among the acts are a five-piece Japanese dance and drumming group, a Vietnamese music group, Thai dancers, Bollywood dancers and a Chinese lion dance.

The competition will run from 10am on Saturday, with finalists performing around the town after which the winners will be announced on stage in Cooma Centennial Park.

Winners will play in a free show at Cooma’s Alpine Hotel on Saturday night in a performance headlined by judge Taylor Moss.

Singer-songwriter Ruby Jane, 21, from Victoria performs a mix of originals and classic country favourites and is keen not only to play in the championships, but also meet Ms Moss who she cites as an influence.

“I’ve actually never met her but I’ve seen her play heaps of times. So I’m excited to hopefully meet her and maybe get a picture with her,” Ms Jane said.

As all buskers know, anything can happen on the streets, from dancing to singing along and maybe even laying a coin down.

“I think there’s nothing more special than people connecting to your songs,” Ms Jane said.

“You never know who’s walking past.”