It was great to hear from Mike Dean the other day. He's the man behind the original Covent Garden Hat Fairs (1973/4) - long before the 'official busking for tourists' that you now see.
When I was a kid the theatre queues around Covent Garden had entertainers to amuse them while they waited to go in. The tradition had faded, but quite a few of us had started to rebuild the busking tradition. I did juggling, magic, acrobatics and fire-eating - working solo, as well as with The Raree Show, and with Justin Case (as Foolproof).
While Covent Garden was still a fruit and vegetable market, and an unusual and atmospheric place (working through the night, pubs open at dawn, etc) Mike got permission for people to busk anywhere within the area for a couple of days a year. No booking in advance, no payment, no auditions for quality and very little supervision. Wonderful, joyous anarchy in the streets.
A culture clash (and local politics) eventually drove the Hat Fair away, but it landed in Winchester and has thrived for 36 years now. London's loss, as far as I am concerned.
Winchester Hat Fair.
Anyway, Mike is writing something about the period, and was digging around for stories and photos, etc. On my website I had quoted a delightful impressionistic piece by Gerard Benson (Poet Laureate of Bradford) which appeared in the New Statesman at the time - Hats in the air.