A few months back, at the beginning of summer, I requested an interview with Simon Hsing-Ho Chen 陳星合 regarding the audition process for street performers in busking Taipei City in Taiwan. We first met briefly during a show I was performing at the Toronto Busker festival. Since then, I have been following his journey through the world and gotten to know this hard working performer.

Dawn Dreams and Simon Chen
Dawn Dreams and Simon Chen

Simon is full of smiles, and it’s easy to be around him. He explained his experience in busking himself, most recently at the festival d’Avignon in France. Specifically, that after he had been performing in  Cirque du Soleil’s show he still failed the busking audition in Taipei, Taiwan.

“It’s harder than being a lawyer” Simon says “They will even criticize you to tell you that you ‘need to work on your smile’ when you are auditioning.”
Simon certainly has no difficulty with that.

Chen is a talented contact juggler and acrobat and is now on the panel of judges for busker auditions in Taiwan. His experience in Cirque du Soleil and the 100ft posters of him in every corner of the city promoting a tele-service company certainly helped his prestige in the field of circus. He was very kind, both answering my questions, then translating it all for me. We were also lucky to meet this year at the European Juggling Convention so I could get to know him a bit more and he could clarify his answers in person. Check out his fan page here : www.facebook.com/simonchen805

100ft Posters of Simon

Dawn: You were one of the judges of the Taipei Buskers audition this past weekend. How did you get to become one of the judges?

Chen: 老實說我也很意外他們會邀請我擔任評審,因為我實際做過街頭表演的經驗不多。




Actually, I was surprised that they invited me to become one of the judges of the Taipei Buskers audition, because I have very little experience doing a street show in Taiwan.

Maybe it’s because I am a teacher of Taiwan’s circus school, I care about the development of circus in Taiwan, and I posted many reviews about Taiwan’s circus development on public media platform. Or it’s because I am a professional performer and I have worked with Cirque du Soleil.

D: Who else was included on the panel of judges? (job titles)











Taiwan’s busker audition judges includes 2 government officials, one from ministry of culture the other one from the local government. 3 experts, 2 of them are professors who teach in art university. And 3 performers, one is theatre actor, one is a magician, and me.

D: What criteria do the judges use to see if a busker is allowed a license?





(這 一點我保持懷疑,因為看起來像是主管機關不喜歡你就可以拒絕您成為合格的表演者的秘密武器)

The criteria to obtain a license are:

  1. Performance context
  2. Costume and performing space arrangement
  3. Interaction with audience
  4. The judge’s’ subjective point of view

“The judge’s’ subjective point of view” is one that I have my doubts about – if a judge doesn’t like you and he can make you fail to become a qualified busker.

D: Was this a public audition or is it held behind closed doors?

C: 我們在戶外的場地進行甄選,除了評審打分數之外,現場的觀眾也可以進行投票(只是投票率不高)


The audition was public and was held outdoors. Audiences who walked by could vote the busker they like, but voting from audiences are passive. Based on the rules of the audition, every busker has only 2 minutes to present their performance. I think the time is definitely too short to let a judge to watch a complete show.

D: What types of performers showed up for this audition?

Magic, Acrobatics, Juggling, Statues, Break Dancing, Pole, Dance, and Live music.

D: How many buskers are actively licensed in Taipei right now?

C: 官方網站裡有資料的總共九百八十九位,但並不是每一個人拿到證照之後都會上街表演

In the official website there are 989 buskers registered. But in fact, not everyone who has the license would go on street to do performance.

Interview with Simon

D: Have you ever busked? If so, was it in Taipei or have you traveled also?

C: 年輕的時候很想成為街頭表演者,但是沒有足夠的信心。 現在又有太多的工作,所以我沒有什麼街頭表演的經驗。 台灣街頭藝人很少流動,當他們發現一個自己容易發揮的空間時,就會去那裡駐場。

When I was younger, I wanted to be a busker very much but I didn’t have confidence in myself. Now I have too much other work to do, so I don’t have much busking experience.

Taiwan’s buskers rarely move around, when they discovered a place that is suitable for them, they will usually go to the same spot.

D: I have wondered what the rules for busking are in are in Taipei, are you required to attend this audition to legally busk?

C: 政府認為街頭演出關係到公共安全,假設有意外發生會需要有人負責,所以需要透過甄選成為合格表演者,也方便政府管理。


Taiwan’s government assumed that busking on street related to public security issue. If there is any accident happened, then someone needs to take the responsibility. Therefore the busker needs to pass the audition and be registered, also it is easy for the government to manage them.

However, in my personal opinion, I think performing on the street is a freedom. As long as the busker is not causing any danger to public safety, everyone should have the right to perform on street. The audience should be the judges, not the government officials or other experts. The qualification to perform on street should be an application system not a selection system. Besides none will do stupid things such as taking a dangerous show and perform it on street.

D: What happens if you are caught busking without a license?

C: 如果在不是人們習慣看街頭演出的場地表演,引起注意或是妨礙交通的話,會被警察或是空間的保全趕走。台灣人不太習慣正常的作息被打擾,所以突然有街頭演出會被認為是干擾。



If buskers doing their performance in a place where performing is not allowed, they will be asked to leave by police or security. Taiwanese don’t like their daily life to be disrupted, so if there is a street show spontaneously, it will be considered as disturbing normal life.

D: Do the people of Taipei enjoy buskers?


Yes, people of Taipei enjoy buskers, and buskers are increasing in numbers in this decades. 10 years ago there were only few buskers in Taipei. However, now each spot has their star buskers. When the busker announce their performing schedule on their own fans page, the audience will come for them.

D: who was your have a favourite performer?

C:他的成 功讓許多人開始踏進街頭表演,也讓改變一般觀眾對街頭藝人=乞丐的印象,lssac可以說是提升街頭藝人形象的關鍵人物。35 years old,busker age 10 years,act 15min See Issac’s Facebook page here.

My favorite performer is Issac. Before Issac, people in Taiwan thought busking is equal to begging. Isaac is the key man to changed people’s stereotypes, and upgraded the image of buskers here.


在台北唯一一組以互動對作為演出內容主體的表演團體(台灣的街頭演出大 部分都是一個完整的act,重點是技巧展項沒有互動)他們表演現場聚集的觀眾人數應該是全台北最多的。

26 years old, street performing for 3 years,  30min act https://www.facebook.com/OnPYoung?fref=ts

The one and only busker group whose performance is based on interaction between performer and audience. (Most of Taiwan’s busker focus on the showing of technique.) They can gather big audiences, maybe the biggest in Taipei.

少見的藝術性yoyo表演,曾在台灣以外的國家(法國、德國)做過街頭演出也一樣成功。擅長經營粉絲專頁,公眾形象良好,電信業者甚至邀請他,用他個人努 力的故事來為電信品牌代言

onpyoung Busking Taipei

25 years old, street performing for 7 years, 20 minute act https://www.facebook.com/Mr.YoyoYang

We rarely see performances of yoyo. He has been to France and Germany to busk as he does well there and has good reputation. He is also a product endorser of a tele-service company.

Mr. Yoyo Yang

D: Do you feel the rules in Taipei are fair to the buskers?



I think it’s unfair, because most of the judges have some prejudice towards busking. They still think performance in theatres is better than performance on the street. Many of the judges don’t care about the development of busking. The opportunity of being a judge in a busker audition to them are just a job they’ll get once a year and a job which they can earn extra payment. Besides, different performer need different times for presenting their shows. But in the audition, the presenting time is limited, so judges can’t see a complete show of each performer.

D : If you were to change the rules, what would you want to change?

C: 我不覺得最重要的事情是改變法規。



I think the most important thing is the rules aren’t flexible enough to accommodate the variety of creativity in busking. The existence of the rules are to prevent any accident, such as unskilled flowing art of fire, stalls disguised in busker and any performance which could cause environmental problems.


I think every performer should work on their performance itself, to make the show worth watching and to make the audience feel the beauty of their performance. The rules are not a problem if we the performers respect what we present on street, and are willing to take responsibility for our work.



My point is, busking on street is a freedom, and I don’t think I need another person to decide whether I am qualified or not to busk on the street.



If we buskers respect ourselves then we don’t need government to manage us. But for now, Taiwan’s buskers and audience aren’t mature yet, so we need the system of busker auditions. However, the system itself has lack of manpower, so the audition is formalized.

D: What is the audition process?








  1. Fill the form of paper and send a link that they can watch your performance.
  2. Go through the paper evaluation.
  3. Presenting your performance. The judge will do the evaluation and decide who is qualified. And audience can join voting.
  4. Judge meeting,
  5. Announce the result.
  6. If the busker has concern about the result or question, the judges group will assign two judges to be the judge of reexamine and to explain the result of the audition.
  7. The busker who is qualified can get a life-long tenure license, and they have to renew the license every two years.

D: Thanks very much for answering all my questions – we hope the performers in Taipei have many heavy hats!