Kelvin Chan Mankey
“Three!” With the sound shouted by an excited crowd around a clown, a spinning top was thrown three-storey high into the air and then plunged down as the audience held their breath. In the two silent seconds, the clown caught it again with grace. Applause immediately broke out for his acrobatic performance.
Walking along Sai Yeung Choi Street South at weekend night is a great fun for pedestrian. Apart from the dexterous clown, you will see other performers in the pedestrian zone, like a group of youngsters acting on the street and a greybearded singing staple song from the 80s, with his dog sitting beside demurely-
“There are many difficulties we have to face while doing street performance but as a busker, I enjoy performing, bringing the audience fun and sharing the art of street performance with them,” said Andrew So Chun-chau, an individual acrobatics busker, also known as Mr Funny
Culture starts on the streets. Busking is very common in western countries. People can perform anywhere they want. However, it is not the case in Hong Kong.
Buskers are always frowned upon by the passer-by, complained by shop owners or dissuaded from performing by security guards.
When Mr Funny performs in the open public space of Times Square, more than three security guards will appear and ask the passer-by to keep walking instead of standing in the way.
What’s more, Mr Funny had been treated rudely by the police while busking in Causeway Bay.
“It was three years ago in Great George Street,” he said. “A policewoman suddenly rushed towards me and shouted at me. I was scared and thus suspended the performance for a while.”
In addition, the lack of support from government is a grave problem for the prospects of busking.
Mr Funny sent a letter to the Legislative Council in May this year suggesting that the government give more support for street performance but has yet to get any direct response so far.
“They just asked me to wait for the West Kowloon Cultural District as it might include a specific area for busking,” he said. “But why don’t we open the platform for the buskers earlier? ”
“I believe that many potential artists, no matter professional or amateur, don’t dare busk in Hong Kong due to lack of the government support,” he added.
The crowd starts gathering as Mr Funny performs acrobatics. Passers-by walk very slowly and even stop on the street enjoying the performance. They acclaim and feel very excited.
“It’s really amazing. He is very cool and I feel so happy while I watch these kinds of street performance,” said Ms Sherry Lai King-fong, one of the audiences watching Mr Funny performing at Times Square.
“I enjoy performing in the street,” Mr Funny said. “The audience gives me money as admiration. An audience bought me a bottle of water once. That was a huge encouragement.”
However, not every busker is admired by the public. FM Theater Power, a group which plays improvisation in Mong Kok has been slammed on Facebook, a social networking site, as the performance is regarded as a nuisance.
A group called “Kick FM Theater Power out of Mong Kok” was formed and more than 30, 000 people joined.
“The FM Theater Power ignores the pedestrians who don’t want to watch the performance and they ignore other people like the elderly, the pregnant as well as the disabled,” said Jay, an active group member who is unwilling to give his full name.
Mr Fung Sai-kuen, Assistant Art Director of FM Theater Power, thinks the prospect of street performances in Hong Kong is improving.
“We would listen to the public opinion and regulate the performance such as reducing the area of the performance. I think it’s good to have a discussion on busking as the public will understand more about it and take one step further to form a consensus and hopefully it will become a culture in Hong Kong,” he said.
Buskers in Hong Kong wish that public performance could be something tourists can enjoy like in other countries. One of the most well known places is Covent Garden in London. A variety of street performances can be found there.
“The performances in London have something like music and other forms of art. Most of the time they use, they perform more dangerous things, compared to Hong Kong, they probably have a ladder like three-storey high, and they stand on the top of it and juggle at the same time - they’ re juggling with knives and chainsaws,” said Christopher Yue Duk-wah, a student from London.
Mr Funny has a concept of “Busking Street”, in which the government would gather more than 10 buskers in a street. Buskers can perform whatever they find amusing to audience.
The Home Affairs Department made no comment on this concept but a spokeswoman said that they encouraged public participation in cultural activities, including street performers.
Edited by Evening Zhu Shu