Walking down the crowded paths of Church Street used to be a thing of comfort to more than one person I know. Going back there after nine months of sitting behind a screen only made it all the more novel for myself.
It had been so that I was visiting to support and spend time with a good friend, but as I approached the street corner, I could hear the music before I could identify where it was coming from. The first sign of change were the personnel in camouflage uniforms and a checkpoint that marked people’s temperatures and recorded their faces — big brother is going to be keeping a very close eye on us going forward.
One wouldn’t peg the crowd of huddled up people to be so incautious with the receding climate of a pandemic. But there they were, awestruck with a man playing a tune on his guitar whilst another used strings to make a skeletal puppet dance. It brought a smile to my face thinking about how a good tune and a spectacle could capture people’s attention.
Walking past, there were the frequent groups of friends who took turns taking pictures of each other at a variety of spots; except now, some were scared to take their masks off for a picture. As I approached the more populated corner speckled with artist after artist, I came across a person that kept to himself and looked to take up a relatively smaller space than the others. He had a board up which said he was open to conversation. So I struck one up and chatted about a few of his influences.
This busk was organized by a group called the Broke Artists Collective and the idea was to give a space where the artist and the onlooker could engage in more than just admiration for each other. It was an easy enough concept, you look at what you like and you pay what you think you need to pay.
There stood a mighty fluffy dog that one of the artists had brought along. He stood proudly when petted and scanned the streets sitting in corner the rest of the time. One would think that a global epidemic would make people scared of socializing, but it was almost like each of them craved it. They stopped and paid more attention to each of the stalls and rejoiced in the exhibits sprawled across the street. The art that came with the free dog-bonding sessions were equally gratifying to buy.
Later into the night, something luminescent caught my eye as a man in green sportswear approached us with a card explaining that he was stranded and needed to collect funds to return to the States. He was deaf-mute and could not particularly put across his intentions, but people tried coming through to him nonetheless, from time to time.
There were also live band performances on the sidewalks as the darkness brought the chilly night to a close. Although one would barely be able to hear a singer over a bustling crowd, they made do with their enthusiastic strumming and stage presence.