The Buskers World Cup was a surprise for us, and for a lot of other people. $160,000 prize money for a competition for street performers? For most, that’s a life-changing amount of money, from an as-yet-unknown source.

In our case, they’d reached out to ask us if we could help them promote it – and they wanted to pay us £500 to do so. We don’t normally do ‘paid product placements’, but felt this was an exception. It was undoubtedly a good deal.

But I still had a lot of questions, so I the organisers to do an interview with us, and here it is.

The Buskers World Cup seems like it came out of nowhere. Suddenly the world’s biggest busker competition is hosted in Gwangju, with prize money that is a lot bigger than any other busker competition. So, how did you come up with the idea, whose idea was it, and how long have they been working on this?

Gwangju, the host city, has been called Korea’s “City of Culture & Art“ which means it’s a place where people appreciate art and produced many artists.

Gwangju has its own unique musical characteristics, and it can be said that it is the birthplace of Korean music, from pansori, the traditional Korean music, to K-pop.

Gwangju is also a city of democracy, human rights, and peace. It is no exaggeration to say that democracy in Korea began in Gwangju. ‘The May 18 Democratization Movement in Gwangju has had and is having an impact on the world, such as ‘Arab Jasmine Revolution’ and ‘Myanmar Spring’. It seems that Gwangju’s values ​​of ‘democracy and peace’ and Busking’s values ​​of ‘freedom and peace’ are closely interlinked.

That is why the “Buskers World Cup” with the values ​​of ‘freedom, equality and peace’ is held in ‘Gwangju, City of Art’ and ‘City of Freedom and Peace, Gwangju’.

In addition, Gwangju has been hosting the ‘Of Recollection Chungjang World Festival’ for the past 18 years, which is designated as a representative festival by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and will also hold the Buskers World Cup at this time.

More Gwangju:

Who’s running the competition? Is it a private enterprise, the government, a nonprofit or…? And who are the individuals involved? Tell me about your team.

The event is organized by Dong-gu District of Gwangju Metropolitan City, and is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea and Gwangju Metropolitan City. The ‘Global Festival Promotion Team’ of Gwangju City Donggu and ‘Festival Secretariat’ are working together to coordinate the event.

Buskers World Cup staffWhat do you hope to achieve with the BWC?

We want to create a ‘Festival’ where many musicians from all over the world come together to sing ‘freedom and peace’ together. And through music, we’d like to highlight the importance of “coexistence” in the current world with many issues like freedom, equality, peace, climate crisis, etc. That’s the true prize of the Championship.

Do you already have any particular street performers in mind when you started this competition? Are there any individual street performers that you’re hoping will enter?

There is no team in particular. Especially since it’s a competition, there shouldn’t be any. Any music busker who sings about peace and freedom can join us.

What’s it like to busk in the city of Gwangju at the moment? Do performers need a permit? Can international performers busk there? What is the city like?

In Gwangju, many buskers are busking all over the city. There are places that require special permit to perform, but in general, if you’re not obstructing pedestrians, and there isn’t any issue with the content of the performance, you can freely busking.

Also, there is no discrimination between Korean and foreign musicians when it comes to busking.

Will this be an annual event? And where do you see it in 5 or 10 years?

It will be held every year. Invitation to next year’s event is also included in the benefits provided to the 16 teams that make it to the finals this year. This year is the first one held, so it will probably be an adventure. And if we make improvements to make it better every year, it may continue for 5 or 10 years, or maybe 50 or 60 years. Like the Eurovision Song Contest.

We hope that 5 or 10 years from now, buskers from all over the world will fill Gwangju and the streets will reverberate with busking attracting people from all around the world to Gwangju in October to see this busking festival.