Australia's Dan Tredget, 27 years old, plays his guitar while busking in the street outside of a metro station, in London.--AFP
Australia's Dan Tredget, 27 years old, plays his guitar while busking in the street outside of a metro station, in London.--AFP

Sound of the Underground: The busker aiming to play every London Tube stop

Strumming his acoustic steel string guitar on a busy street in east London, 27-year-old Australian singer-songwriter Dan Tredget is a man on a mission. Tredget, originally from Perth, Western Australia, is aiming to become the first person to busk at every London Underground station. With 272 stops on the network, it is a daunting task. “It’s pretty overwhelming when I look at the map sometimes, seeing how many stations I’ve got left to complete”, he told AFP shortly after ticking off his 124th stop, Upton Park.

“But it’s also quite uplifting to know that I’m pretty close to the halfway mark.” Tredget’s journey began in April 2023, after a guitar student of his cancelled a lesson. Wondering what to do with the free time, Tredget made a first foray into London busking. Self-filmed clips of the session did well on social media and he decided to take the online “content game” more seriously, devising a way to boost his profile as a musician. The initial plan was to play at “iconic” spots in the British capital, such as the London Eye and Big Ben. But he soon realized that “the Underground itself is pretty iconic. And it’d be a great way to just get out to all corners of the city.”

Charity fundraiser

Busking inside stations is not as simple as many would imagine, with an official licensing system and fierce competition for official “pitches” to perform at. Because of that, Tredget mainly busks on the street immediately outside the stations, playing songs by the likes of Oasis, Coldplay and Ed Sheeran. Twenty to 30 stops in, and with earnings steadily building, he decided to turn the endeavor into a fundraiser for London homelessness charity Glass Door.

He expected the footfall around central stations like Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus would make “Zone 1” stops the most lucrative. But in reality, he has had more luck at stops further from the centre. “People are a bit more relaxed, maybe. They’re not rushing around in the outer zones and they’ve got a bit more time to hang around and watch for a bit, have a chat,” he said.

The most successful stop was south London’s Tooting Broadway, on the Northern Line, generating £52 ($66). But that has since been overtaken by Highbury and Islington on the Victoria Line, where Tredget made £57.29.

On the day AFP caught up with him, he was busy making his way along the District Line, the network’s largest by number of stops. A slow trickle of passers-by paused to offer a coin or tap a bank card outside Upton Park and Plaistow stations. Many were curious about the task of the easy-going Australian, who admits there is still a long way to go to meet his goal of raising £10,000 ($12,600).

With a combination of street and online donations, he recently broke the £1,000 mark. “It’ll be quite a push to get to the 10k mark but I’ll still make that the goal. And we’ll see how far we can get,” he said. Tredget is already envisioning future challenges, including the possibility of extending beyond the Underground to include the Overground and the Docklands Light Railway in east London. That would add a further 158 stations to his playlist. — AFP

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