Profile: Peat’s Streets

Meet Peat: harpist, jester, and fellow Cambridge resident. He discusses student antics, the busking trade and romantic gestures with KATIE MAIR.

busker Cambridge income love Students town

Peat (…’with an ‘a’. Like the bog’) has been busking for 22 years. He doesn’t have an ‘ordinary’ job; he busks 7 days a week, and this is his income.

He pauses for a moment when he tells me this, looking down at his harp-hardened hands. ‘So if it rains on a Saturday, I’m not eating on Sunday…’

I am suddenly painfully aware of the M&S jelly protruding from my bag.

I venture a sympathetic, ‘God, yeah, I mean-‘ before Peat dissolves into giggles, slaps me on the back and saves me from my embarrassment.

‘HA! Look at that! You nearly bloody believed me there! Nah. It can be tough, but I get by.’

In the winter, Peat plays the harp, but in the summer he takes on his alternative persona, ‘Devilstick Peat’, and entertains passers-by with his jester act. His alter-ego might sound a bit scary, but Peat explains that there’s no satanic undertone: ‘it’s just the name of a juggling style, love.’

Although he only has ‘four and a half’ tunes on the harp, having only taken it up eighteen months ago, Peat explains that this is plenty to keep shoppers entertained: ‘it’s too cold to stop for more than thirty seconds- so they’re never gonna find out!’.

I ask Peat how he feels about his job, expecting a complaint or two about tight students, bad weather, or sore hands. Instead, he replies with an emphatic: ‘I love it. It is the best thing I have ever done. Much better than working.’

Peat has been in Cambridge for two years, moving here after two decades in Canterbury. Why relocate? Peat smiles, strokes his harp, and replies, coyly: ‘well… for love, actually.’ The happy couple are to marry next month.

He prefers it in Cambridge, because it has a ‘live, vibrant feel’ (nothing to do with his fiance, then), and especially enjoys the weekends, when there are more families around and people are in less of a rush.

All this romance and positivity is making me a bit queasy. Surely there’s something negative to say? ‘Well, no, not really. In Canterbury we used to get students out of their tiny minds, but here they’re a lot nicer, a lot more civilised.’

Luckily for us, Peat finishes his working day before it gets dark, so he will never bear witness to the tiny-minded student antics taking place every Tuesday and Wednesday just metres from his Lion’s Yard busk-spot. I nod in agreement and keep quiet.

Before we leave, he offers to play us his best tune, and draws a diverse crowd- a group of older women, four teenage boys, a dad with a buggy, a girl with some jelly – although, performing with his eyes shut, I’m not convinced he’s aware of us. He finishes up, and I request a photograph.

‘Go on then- but only if your mate is gonna stick a twenty in my bag!’