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Going down: London gets an Underground orchestra

It has poems on the train walls and fine art fired into the station tiles. So why does London’s overstressed subway system lack good music?

A musician called Shaun Boswell thinks he has the remedy. He’s putting together a symphony orchestra from fellow-pros he meets on the Tube.

Want to play? Details below.


Have you ever seen an Orchestra formed of people that all met on the London Underground?


Have you ever seen an Orchestra formed from people that all met on the
London Underground?

Talented London musician Shaun Buswell is doing a musical challenge to raise awareness for charities. He is creating an Underground Orchestra whereby the whole orchestra (30-100 piece)has to be made up by musicians he meets on the London Underground – they have to be complete strangers and not people he has met before or already knows.

The orchestra must then perform at one of twelve top London venues on 12.12.12. Promotional gigs prior to this include performances at The Union Chapel ( and on the EDF Energy London Eye. There is also interest from TV Production companies to broadcast a documentary about the challenge!

Check out: Follow on Twitter:@121212challenge

We are looking to publicise the challenge so we can raise awareness of the charities and raise as much money for them as possible.

More info is below, do feel free to contact me for further details or to discuss.

Gina Akers (Press Officer for London Underground Orchestra Challenge)
Tel: 07714123424

Shaun Buswell is a talented musician who likes to perform musical challenges to raise awareness of charities.

This year Shaun has to form an entire orchestra (30-100 piece) made up of strangers that he’s met for the first time on the London Underground. The orchestra must be ready to perform by 12th December 2012. They will then perform at one of twelve top London venues. For the challenge there are strict rules that Shaun must adhere to they are:

Shaun has to meet the musicians for the first time on the London Underground (and must be actively inside the gates of an Underground station).

The musician Shaun meets must be carrying their instrument (or part of it) when he meets them for the first time.

Shaun must not know the musicians personally nor have met or communicated with them directly in person before (i.e they must be complete strangers to him).

Shaun is, however, allowed to pick one musician he works with per instrument as the lead for that group (i.e one cellist, one trumpeter, etc. of his choice to run that group).

The venue to be played at has to be from a list of 12 top venues agreed prior to the challenge.
Shaun must write all the music himself again (he still can’t read a note of music).

Other challenges
If this was not enough, Shaun is also attempting 12 personal mini-challenges, which are anything from stopping smoking to performing on The London Eye. These can be viewed here…

TFL have reviewed the branding and are supporting of the challenge (see The plan is to make a documentary about this challenge, and also liaise with London Underground to arrange filming and busking pitches.

Shaun is available for interviews and photoshoots, or if you would like more information about Shaun’s 12.12.12 UNDERGROUND ORCHESTRA CHALLENGE please contact Gina on 07714123424 E-mail:

Follow on twitter:

The aim is to raise awareness for various charities, the main ones being Kick4Life ( and Music Alive (

Shaun’s last musical challenge was to write music for a full symphony orchestra (without reading a note of music), find an orchestra willing to perform with him without ever having heard the music and perform it live within six months. The challenge was completed in February 2011:

Further information about the promotional gig at The Union Chapel can be found here:…

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  1. Peter Freeman says:

    In other words, an orchestra of buskers! The late, great pianist Artur Rubinstein, who lived to be nearly 100, eloquently stated, correctly in my view, that until a person has learnt to appreciate silence they cannot hope to appreciate music. I am one of those who, except in dire emergencies or if unavoidable for social reasons, boycotts all chains of shops, restaurants and hotels which impose piped noise on their customers, preferring the quieter independent firms. Piped noise is aimed at the undiscerning, perhaps insecure majority who fear silence as they fear their own thoughts which it highlights. If music is of any quality it deserves to be listened to purposefully at the exclusion of all other sounds, so not on the move or overheard above chatter as a background. The charitable angle is of course commendable, depending upon which charities are chosen, and such work is already being done by an amateur brass and percussion orchestra which plays mainly popular classical arrangements to rush hour commuters on the concourse of Paddington Station every Friday evening. By the way, they are very good, but they are not buskers and do read. I think, however, that any music in public is an affront to the personal freedom of the individual where there can be no choice to absent oneself, eg while commuting to or from work. Frankly, it irritates.

    • Thanks for the piece, although I think I need to clarify one point – I’m not performing a single note of music on the London Underground.

      I’m not looking for musicians who are busking but instead am finding musicians who are “carrying” their instrument, not “playing”. Musicians who are normally on route to a concert or rehearsal. These strangers will then form an orchestra and perform at a top venue in London (where people will pay to come watch, not be subjected to it as Peter seems to suggest).

      As far as we know, something like this has never been done (we’re confirming this with Guinness World Records.

      I’ll not comment too much on Peter’s view of buskers other than to point out that the majority of them can read music but just don’t have it in front of them. The two (being a busker and reading music) are far from being mutually exclusive.

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