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Busking for Water: The Long Well Walk Busking Competition

On 11th August a selection of ten bands and solo artists will be performing on Tudor Square and Barkers Pool in Sheffield City Centre. The event is one of a series of fundraisers organised by The Long Well Walk, one of the most courageous and remarkable charity projects for water.

Donations collected by the busking acts will be used to help water projects in some of the poorest African communities. A public vote, as well as a critic's vote, will determine which of the artists will win a day of recording at The Laundry Rooms studio. Any band can apply to take part, with a public audition being held at West Street Live on 8th August, where each artist will be given a ten-minute performance. The best ten acts voted by the audience and a jury will be picked for the public busking performance.

Liam Garcia, the man behind The Long Well Walk, grew up in Meersbrook. He studied Politics and International Relations before travelling for three years, working in several charity projects, mainly in the US. What is The Long Well Walk? Walking from Sheffield to Cape Town through 15 countries, working with African communities in each country helping them develop clean water. I am working with communities that are too small for international development or government funds. They have self-identified the problems and are working towards resolving them. I came back to England [after travelling] and I had led a somewhat selfish life, so I decided to do something to change that. As a kid I was basically ready to jump into anything, which was positive. And then you lose that. Life gets in the way. And when I turned 25 I decided to go back to being the person that I was when I was a kid, and then this grew out of it. When did you first come up with the idea? The idea first came up in June 2011 when I was walking around Ireland. I hiked and hitchhiked for a month with a friend. I met this Czech guy who walked from Amsterdam to Copenhagen and back for charity. I did some promotional work for him in Germany. It took him two months to walk the distance. That was probably when it all started and it just got bigger and bigger in my head. Why is water so important? It's the basis of life. What is your main aim with this project? My main aim is working with ten sustainable water projects that can be locally maintained as the first step, and then to raise the funds to do another ten or more as we proceed. The first ten will receive funds we raise along the walk itself over the three years and will be named. I see that as the minimum of what we can do as we walk through 15 countries. How much money are you hoping to raise altogether? For this minimum of projects it's going to be around £40,000. What exactly can be achieved with that amount of money? There will be no UK labour costs. Every pound we raise goes directly to charity and will be spent in the host countries. We will be working with each community through our trustees and advisors in the UK to come up with ten project plans, and they're going to have a roundabout figure of £4,000 each to spend. Every project is going to be different because we want to highlight a different area of water poverty with each one. Why did you choose a busking competition as a fundraiser? The idea behind all the fundraisers is that they're not just people asking for money. Busking is an entertaining way of people getting involved with a charity. It's a way to reach people who might not normally donate or respond to begging on commercials. Music is a part of all our lives and busking is free music happening in a common place. It is something we all walk by and partake in regularly. Do you see a connection between busking and The Long Well Walk? The idea of a busker being a hairy dirty person playing music on the side of the street and me walking from Sheffield to Cape town... I'm seeing some similar visuals [laughs]. There's no profound idealistic connection between the two, just that it's an open, free for all event that should be shared and hopefully appreciated. How will the artists benefit from the performance? There will be prizes for the winners, including recording time at The Laundry Rooms. There will be a lot of promotion, with many magazines and newspapers showing up. We will be printing 5,000 flyers with all the artists' names on. Also there's the appeal of being out on the street in the open air with the chance to perform in front of a new crowd. What aspect of the performance is most important to raise as much money as possible? The goal is just to be incredibly positive. Not being pretentious, because that's very negative. Being happy, not necessarily playing happy music, but busking for positive reasons. You never know, there may be an acoustic punk band that might be interested in playing. Do you support busking artists yourself? Yes I do support buskers. There was a harmonica player that I remember. Do you remember those advertisement tubes? Now they're electronic, but before they were, they'd replace the adverts manually. When they took the adverts out, it would be just a clear plastic tube. This harmonica player would run in there in the centre of town and start playing wrapped in this clear plastic tube. He was always a legend. Will you be in touch with musicians throughout your journey? Definitely. Obviously anybody who is interested in helping, and certainly for my own personal enjoyment - especially local musicians. I'm a big fan of Alan Lomax, who was a music and field recording cataloguer. He did about tens of thousands of recordings between the 20s and the 50s. We'll be filming a fair amount of the journey, so we'll have the videos as a document. There are so many facets to this walk, we could probably even turn it into a serial about musicians through Africa, or about local arts and oral history. It's never-ending. I'd just need about 15 volunteers to collect all the information. What is the most important thing about the event you would like people to know? A hundred percent of the donations will go to the selected communities. Sheffield to Cape Town, 15 countries, ten water projects, three years. The Long Well Walk on Facebook info@thelongwellwalk.com The Laundry Rooms )

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