Busking for the homeless

Trinity students raising money for homeless charities this Christmas

The homelessness crisis in Ireland has become an increasingly more salient issue, with the issue of housing being voters’ number one priority in February’s General Election. Students and youth organisations have taken the lead in raising awareness and money, and individual Trinity students have taken on projects to help tackle the scourge of homelessness.

BuskAid is an annual busking festival held in Waterford every Christmas, and will be going ahead this year despite Covid-19, but not in the traditional sense. This year’s fundraiser will see a host of online events happen throughout December and in the lead up to Christmas in an effort to raise much needed funds for Tinteán Housing Association, including a very special live stream concert, BuskAid Live. 

Since 2015 BuskAid has raised over €22,000 for local homelessness charities in Waterford at Christmas. Now entering its fifth year, they are hoping they can continue raising as much money as possible for their charity partner, Tinteán Housing Association. Tinteán offers women and families accommodation with support, providing them with the necessary skills and help they need to leave homelessness behind. 

BuskAid founder and Trinity History student Tadhg Williams spoke to Trinity News about the charity festival. “Five years ago the homelessness crisis started to get much more attention and people were finally becoming aware that it was a crisis. I was 17 at the time and busking around Waterford quite a lot, and the homelessness situation was quite visual. I always tell people the first Buskaid was about 6 years ago, inadvertently. I was busking on New Years Eve in Waterford city, and I wasn’t busking for money at that stage, it was just for fun,” he said. 

“I packed up and was heading towards the bus, and between where I was busking and the bus I saw about four or five people in sleeping bags in doorways,” he said. Williams used his busking money to purchased sandwiches and drinks. “Because of that experience, I decided the following Christmas, I wanted to do something bigger.”

Discussing the plans for this year, Williams said that “given the current public health situation and although restrictions are set to be eased in time for Christmas we feel it would be irresponsible of us to ask our incredible volunteers to go out onto the streets, as they have done for the past four years, and be in a situation where they may not be able to effectively socially distance. We’re also aware that some of our buskers have attracted large crowds in the past couple of years especially, which in the past has been utterly fantastic, but this year we have to avoid that. The health of the people of Waterford is our priority and therefore BuskAid will not happen in the traditional format, however we have a really innovative and exciting series of online events planned which I’m really looking forward to!” 

BuskAid is setting two challenges for people this year. They are encouraging people to make the most of the outdoors and do 5K for BuskAid, sharing their progress and their donation link with their friends online. For those who are artistically inclined, they want people to participate in Busk From Your Bedroom – perform a song, poem or dance in your bedroom, upload it to social media, share the donation link and challenge three friends to do the same. 

As well as these challenges, BuskAid has three events lined up for Christmas week. “On Monday the 21st of December we’ve teamed up with Steven Stubbs and StubVid Media to do a special BuskAid Rafflecast live on Facebook. During the stream, we’ll be raffling some bizarre prizes and magic prizes as well as live music and special guests,” said Williams. “The Rafflecast will no doubt descend into absolute chaos but we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“On Tuesday the 22nd of December we’re invading the now extremely popular Jordan’s Session in the Jordan’s American Bar group page on Facebook. We’re encouraging people to share a song and a virtual drink to raise funds for Tinteán.” 

Their final event on the 23rd of December will be BuskAid Live, live-streamed from the Waterford In Your Pocket Facebook page. The concert will be a telethon style celebration of the best of local talent, and updates on fundraising targets will be announced throughout the night. People are also encouraged to gather around their laptops or television screens together with a few drinks next to the fire and celebrate Christmas with BuskAid.

Speaking about the different events, volunteer coordinator Anna Jordan said, “What we really wanted to do was make sure we’re engaging with the community. The beauty of BuskAid has always been that we’re surrounded by a fantastic group of artists dedicating their time and talents for a special cause, and through that reaching people on every street corner in the town. We want to do the same this year, virtually. It’s been a difficult year but we really wanted to celebrate togetherness and community as best we could.”

“It’s been a really tough year on everyone, especially charities,” said busking coordinator Derek Flynn. “Tinteán Housing Association lost a lot of opportunities to raise much needed funds for the project this year so we’re really hoping that the people of Waterford get on board with us and donate as much as possible. This is a totally new area for all of us, we’re being totally stripped right out of our comfort zones but we recognized the importance of making sure BuskAid went ahead this year in some shape or form. Hopefully people can engage with it and enjoy it!” 

Williams has set up an online donation link at idonate.ie/buskaid2020. Within four days of it going up online, they had already raised over a thousand euros. “You should see the size of some of the donations coming in, we’ve had €100, €150 donations coming in constantly.” It seems to have been making a difference and Waterford is showing impressive results when it comes to homelessness, which according to Williams is because of the success of models like Tinteán. “There’s other counties in Ireland that are looking at the model Waterford has in place and using that to adapt and to address their own homeless problems. So if anything it’s even more important now that we keep supporting Tinteán because the difference that they’re making in Waterford is having an effect on the rest of the country.”

Sean Gordon Dalton

Sean Gordon Dalton

Sean is a Deputy Features Editor at Trinity News