Charity busker talks about dangers on the streets of Preston
Music is often used to sooth the soul and bring joy to the community. But for lone buskers it can become a magnet for abuse, as Preston singer Sophie Cox-O'Shaughnessy reveals to Natalie Walker.
Being a performer, all Sophie wants to do is give something back. Whilst filling the city’s streets with her melodic voice, she is also fund-raising for various charities such as Care for Kids, NSPCC and CLIC Sargent.But she was ill prepared for the threatening behaviour she sometimes encounters.
She explains: “Unfortunately, performing in the open public seems to have a risk to it, as last September I was attacked. I was robbed and attacked and am left having physiotherapy treatment for my face.“The offenders are now in prison as they had also committed another offence. “After gaining my confidence back, I have started busking again for charity. Sadly, on my second fund-raising date this month, I had not even started yet when I was threatened by people begging. “It is such a shame when poor musicians are targeted by such vagrants, however I have the support of my friends, colleagues and the police.”
Sophie, who has a 20-year-old son, has lead an illustrious musical career,A former student at The Arts Educational Schools in London, she has worked as a lead singer and dancer in Japan with Graham English Productions and as a backing singer in the Band Dr and The Medics on their UK tour.
She has also been in panto alongside Des O’Connor in Surrey, has been in a Hoola Hoops advert with Richard O’Brien and worked alongside Julie Walters in a Shoe Express advert.
More locally, she has been an extra in Preston-based sci-fi film, Piercing Brightness, by Shazad Dawood.
She has also performed at festivals such as Preston Tringe, Preston Harvest Festival and K-Stock and this year she auditioned for the X Factor.
But her latest passion is busking to raise funds for charity.Sophie adds: “I do fund-raising as a musician when I can. I write and perform folk and folk rock genre styles. I also perform covers of various genres. “It’s about having fun. But first and foremost it’s supporting a good cause. “I’ve supported a few different charities and when I came across CLIC Sargent it really moved me as I think cancer is dreadful enough, let alone being a child. They need all the help they can get as life is so important and precious. I think CLIC Sargent also resonates with me because I believe that children should be heard.“I did my first fund-raiser in 2005, as part of my degree in music. I had to organise my own performance in a public place and so I chose The Adelphi, where I sang my original material during a show I called Songlines, in aid of the NSPCC.”
Her desire to mix music with charity collections led her to busk for the first time in 2015 as part of the inaugural Busking Festival in the city. She adds: “I performed on the stage on the flag market square area and busked for the first time for four hours.“I’ve also busked on the flute, Irish whistle as well singing and playing the guitar.“I like to stay creative as much as possible, as I am a dancer and choreographer and I have also exhibited visual artwork at the Harris Museum for the first time, which ran from November to January this year.”
Sophie will be busking in Preston city centre for the next two months, collecting money for CLIC Sargent, in accordance with the licence she was granted from the council.She adds: “Children love to get a sticker and I give them out whether or not their parents give something. As a volunteer for the Age Concern shop in Preston, I have the support of the manager there to busk in front of the shop.”For more information on Sophie search Sophie Cox-O’Shaughnessy on Facebook or read her blog on http://www.handeldoesit.blogspot.co.uk
In Preston a campaign has been launched to tackle the kind of aggressive begging Sophie says she experienced.Police, along with the city council, business leaders and homeless charity The Foxton Centre, have launched the Off The Streets campaign.It came after research revealed that many of the people begging in the city are not actually homeless.Beggars who act aggressively can now be issued with a Community Protection Warning, but homeless charity The Foxton Centre is also offering support to those facing homelessness, to ensure they don’t end up on the streets.For help with housing issues, visit http://www.thefoxtoncentre.co.uk