Buskers on song | Photos, Video

Performers took to the streets of Ballarat as part of a national competition. Pictures: Luka Kauzlaric
Performers took to the streets of Ballarat as part of a national competition. Pictures: Luka Kauzlaric

More than 100 performers have taken to the streets as part of the Australian National Busking Championships’ regional final in Ballarat on Saturday.

Live acts, which included musicians, magicians and illusionists, wowed passers-by at 28 locations across the city. 

Performers ranged in age from eight to 80-years-old and came from as far as Queensland and New South Wales to perform.

Magician Aiden McHarg's magic trick

Festival director Garry McKenzie said the event was about promoting Ballarat, promoting the performers, promoting the businesses and getting the public out and about.

Listeners could vote for the people’s choice winner by leaving tokens in the performer’s jar or case.

The three acts with the most tokens at the end of their four 30-minute sets took home cash prizes, while extra money raised would be put back into the Rotary Club of Wendouree Breakfast, which coordinated the event.

After a day of performances, finalists selected by roaming judges battled it our for awards held at Ballarat Mechanics’ Institute’s Minerva Space. 

Big winners included Buninyong musician Geoffrey Williams, who came first in his age category and took away $2000 worth of prize money.

“This is the first thing I’ve ever won so I’m a little bit lost for words,” he told the crowd. 

Williams narrowly beat Australia’s Got Talent star Chooka Parker, who came away with $1000. 

The winners will have the chance to compete in a grand final event held in Cooma in November.

Festival director Garry McKenzie told the packed out hall there was every intention to run the event again next year. 

The day ended with an after party and open mic session at the Freight Bar and Restaurant. 


Nicholas Keogh

Nicholas, 17, has been playing guitar since he was eight-years-old and started busking in Albury - where he is from - a couple of years ago.

“I’ve always sung with guitar,” he said.

“I just really enjoy listening to and playing music. I find it so much fun and interesting - it is great to do.

“Someone actually tagged me in a Facebook post (about this event) and I just thought Ballarat was not too far away so I would come along.”

Nicholas plays everything from blues and indie to pop and rock as well as writes his own songs.

“I like everything,” he said. “John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, Passenger, Sticky Fingers, I look up to them so much because they are just so talented.”

Nicholas is hoping he will see a similar event in Albury some time soon.

Mathew Burke

Mathew Burke has been a musician for 24 years, playing harmonica, guitar and piano. He was drawn to music because of his experiences growing up in a large family.

“There were 11 kids so no one would listen to me until I started singing,” Burke said. “When people started to listen to it, I started to find a voice.

Mathew Burke. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric.

Mathew Burke. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric.

“My grandpa played the harmonica in the Second World War to cheer up the Australian troops and although he died before I was born, my mum told me that story and it inspired me to take up the harmonica as well.”

Although he is living in Bendigo, Burke said it was fortunate the busking competition had brought him to Ballarat.

“Ballarat is a beautiful town,” he said. “The people are really down to earth and friendly so it is just a great atmosphere.”

The Drongo and the Crow

The Drongo and the Crow members Ken Smith and Leon Conway from Ballan and Mark Russell from Melton met by chance two years ago at a music session at a local hotel.

Conway is a piano accordion player, Russell plays the double bass and Smith plays the didgeridoo and percussion.

“Things have just grown from a chance meeting,” Smith said. “We are all friends and it is just a really nice energy performing together.”

Mark Russell, Ken Smith, and Leon Conway. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

Mark Russell, Ken Smith, and Leon Conway. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

The group plays at the Eynesbury Farmers Market once a month. Often one of Conway’s accordion cases is open at the front filled with toy instruments for children to have a dance and a play.

Smith said one of the things that excited him most was how the music was attractive to young people.

“For me this is all about  encouraging young people to not only play music, but really enjoy it - to feel the communication with other people because this world needs it,” he said.

“The world needs some beautiful stuff happening that can just put people in a space where they aren’t thinking about all the fearful stuff.”