Meet Jamie Whelligan


Jamie Whelligan left home in Birkenhead at the age of sixteen and has been playing music for a living ever since. Singer and guitarist, Whelligan now lives in London performing on stage and down the Tube Stations of the London Underground.

How did you get involved in busking?

After university, some of my musician friends were working in McDonalds and one of my friends was playing on the streets. I was playing in a band with him, so he got me started in busking. But I’ve always sang – it runs in the family.

Who inspired you to pursue a career in music?

When I got started, the Beetles were my inspiration. When I was 14 or 15, I also started listening to The Smiths. Morrissey wasn’t just singing, he was saying something in this lyrics. That was quite inspirational.

Can you make decent money working as a busker?

What I make busking is pretty much my income. That’s how I make a living. It’s nice, because this job allows me the time to do my band, which I have at the moment as well. I push that on the internet and get gigs and see what happens. I also like traveling.

Where have been your favorite places of travel?

A couple of years ago, I got to play a few gigis in Austin, Texas. We also did a little tour of Boston a couple of years before that.

How did you like performing in the United States?

I think they’re a lot more receptive in the states. I felt a little bit more special. Here, people are “too cool for school,” as they say.

When I went to Boston about eight years ago, I got a temporary busking license for just a day – it was really cool because it can take up to six months to get a license here. So, I was busking around Harvard, but whenever the train would come past – we have a lot of coins in London, but there, the standard is, chucking dollars in – and they’d go flying all over the place. I was bending down all the time to catch them!

Is there any station in London where all the buskers want to play?

Funny you should mention that, yes there is. I was playing last night in Piccadilly Circus and I suppose you get a lot of tourists coming through there. But, it’s also a very long escalator, so people have a long time to hear you. And of course at night, it’s in the west end, so people are slotching and drinking does sort of oil the wheels. Laughs.

How does one become a busker?

After you audition and get your license, you’re good to go. I’ve had my license now for ten years. I was one of the first people when the scheme started. This year, about two weeks ago, they started auditioning new people so there’s a lot more competition now.

What is your favorite part about the job?

Meeting people who I may never meet again – that my favorite part. Generally, the reaction from people passing by is fantastic.

There’s also a great fraternity within the busking community itself, which I’m involved. Like, there’s a pitch in South Kensington by the museum tunnel and I was supposed to play there, but I had a really sore throat. So, I rand up another friend of mine who is a busker, and he took over and had a great time there.

We go out drinking together. It can be mildly lonely, because we do – especially in the morning – work by ourselves. It sort of compensates that we’re not in an office, but that’s probably the best thing about it!

Meet Jamie Whelligan from Nicole Lunger on Vimeo.

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