Thursday, 13 December 2012


So here we are. At the end of the challenge. Well, almost. The plan is, if I've succeeded at stage 1 (form an orchestra, then we move to stage 2 (perform a concert).

I have done the counts, added the final stats, and concluded that.....


Yes. That's right. I'm not going to tell you how many people I met, or how many instruments I found or what types, but will tell you the following info:

From 1st January - 12 December, I spent 181 days, travelling to or through more than 200 stations on the London Underground.

Every time I saw someone carrying a classical musical instrument, I approached them and asked them if they wanted to join an orchestra.

Of the people I stopped, I have now confirmed that over 30 musicians have signed up to perform in the orchestra.

They play the following instruments (some musicians play more than one).

French Horn
Alto Horn

This Underground Orchestra will now perform with my own musicians on 26th January 2013 at O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire for one night only. Tickets can be purchased from

The repertoire on the night will be a mix of classical (Holst, Dvořák & Grieg), original music ( and a medley of music from films that have scenes filmed on the London Underground.

All proceeds from the event will go to the charity Daytrippers.

If you are unable to attend but want to support, please visit our wefund page where you can pledge funds in exchange for great merchandise & artwork.

Thank you very much all who have read my travels over the last year and lastly, huge thanks to every musician that I met over the last year and was kind enough to stop and talk to a random stranger. Over 90% of people stopped and talked to me and over 75% of people took an interest in the challenge and gave me details. This shows that in general, we as people really are a lot more wonderful than we realise.

Happy Christmas everyone and hopefully see you on 26th Jan.


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

My day at Baker Street

It is now 00:36 on 28th November and I'm back in my hotel at Paddington. 19 hours ago, I was leaving to get to Baker Street, in order to spend a whole day at a station to see what it's like to do this challenge fully for a day.

I have to say that was some of the most fun I've had since doing the challenge. In the sapce of 18 hours I....

- Met 75 musicians
- Had help from really friendly TFL staff (big shout out to station attendant Daniel who not only took great interest in the challenge but started to stop musicians and call me over!!)
- Met every instrument in an orchestra, with the exception guessed it...oboe!
- Had my brother join me, dressed as Sherlock Holmes, and he proceeded to skulk around in the back of camera shots for a laugh
- Met musicians I'd previously already met, and remembered their full names and the stations I met them at
- Ended the day with the 75th musician being a Euphonium player who worked for TFL!

So, thank you Baker Street. You provided me with some great memories and I look forward to reliving them when I edit the footage shortly.

So, it was a long day. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tired. It has been really tough, and I don't mind that. It's what I expected and no grumbling from me, because I did it with love, and when you enjoy something and do it with love, it's never a chore.

But, I couldn't make it all the way through stuck at Baker Street, as planned. I had to admit defeat at some point in the day and take a break. Around 6pm, after being there for 12 hours, I realised it wasn't healthy to work relentlessly for 18 hours without a break. And my plan of staying in the station and resting was failed multiple times by seeing musicians with instruments and having to run after them. There was no peace. Even on a break I couldn't turn it off! I even tried to turn my back to the passing crowds, and look at a shop front, only for a Clarinet and French Horn to make their way into my line of sight.

That was the clincher. I'd be on my feet for 12 hours, and when I saw them, I reluctantly got up and made my way to approach them. You know. Follow my rules. And also, I'd hate to have people miss out on something just because I was tired. So, I explained very briefly what I was doing. THe same pitch I'd given today 57 times before. But, instead of the different responses I'd had before, I was met with a arrogant roll of the eyes. The girl with the French Horn looked at me like I was some kind of pest. I tried to explain that, because I'd seen them I HAD to go speak to them, but it didn't matter to her. I was someone she clearly didn't want to associate herself with. "I'm busy on that day" she quickly said, without even taking in the date.

So, that made up my mind. I was getting out of there! People like that suck the energy out of you, and I was saddened by their lack of enthusiasm for something unconventional.

Now, I have to explain. I've had lots of rejections up until then (26 to be precise), including a few rude people. You'll get that. The "sorry, not interested" response. I don't mind that. I'm inconveniencing someone and they're in a rush. That's going to happen. And today I've had plenty of "I'm busy that day" with geniune sincerity. It's normally preceeded by people looking in the top corner of the eyes as they recall the date and then inform me they're busy. That's cool too. And so are the people that tell me that they're not free or interested but wish me luck. I even had one guy tell me it wasn't his thing but really liked what I was doing and handed me a £1 coin. Not really sure what to make of that!

What I'm trying to say is I wasn't just throwing the toys out the pram because she said no. I totally expect rejections and am completely fine with them.

But this girl's response was the type that crushes me every time, and one I'd not had that day so far. It's the very quick dimissive comment that may say "I'm busy" but it's accompanied with the "I've listened to what you're saying, seen the way you look, and you and this silly challenge are beneath me" look. It's horrible.

I walked away, with no enthusiasm for what I was doing. If more people were like her, I'd never
do this challenge. I don't mind people having no enthusiasm for what I do, but don't take my enthusiasm. That does no good in this world! I felt rubbish. 12 hours non-stop, tired and emotional, I decided I needed a break.

My brother (who had joined me as cameraman) pointed out I was contravening EU workplace legislation. So now I realised I had to take a break. You know, it's the EU innit.

So, that explains why I didn't complete 18 hours non-stop at Baker Street. I went back to the hotel for a break at 6pm and looked to resume at 8pm. Which turned into 9pm because I fell asleep...

Sorry for talking so much about the negative there. But what I have actually tried to do was make you empathise with me and what I go through, before nonchalantly explaining that I got a little lazy and dozed.
Can't have it all I guess......

Thanks to all who helped me today, and took the time to stop and be kind to a stranger. More to follow in the video blog.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

All day at Baker Street

I write this with 16 days & 22 hours to go. Things have been VERY busy. But I'm really loving things at the moment and feeling very inspired.

I've been thinking about how many musicians must pass through stations on a daily basis, and for one day only, I wanted to do something different. So, on Tuesday 27th November, I will be spending the entire day at Baker Street Station. That's literally from the moment the doors open, to the moment they close. An entire day in one place. Viktor Navorski style! I will spend all day at one station with the aim of finding out exactly what goes through one of London's underground stations on a daily basis.

So, with everything I've done on this challenge, I've decided to have some rules, to make things interesting and fund.

- I have to get to the station when it opens (or at the very latest, arrive on the first train going through Baker Street)
- I have to leave when the station closes (or at the earliest, the last train leaving Baker Street)
- I am not allowed to leave the station except for legitimate toilet breaks
- I will arrive at the station with no food and drink, and rely on the kindness of friends/strangers to come by and provide me with beverages and snacks
- At least twice during the day, I must conduct "Bag Hour", which consists of me approaching anyone carrying a bag, and asking if they have a musical instrument in there.
- I am only allowed film crew to join me, with the exception of people dressed as Sherlock Holmes. I am allowed an unlimited amount of people dressed as Sherlock Holmes to hang out with me during the day.

I'm hoping that I'll be able to use the day to meet more musicians, have fun, and learn a little about how a station operates on a daily basis, whilst also compiling data on the types of people travelling through with musical instruments.

If you are passing through Baker Street station on Tuesday, stop by and say hello. Of hang out if you have a deerstalker and a magnifying glass......

Sunday, 11 November 2012

HELP!!! Support needed!!!!


OK, it's not as desperate as it sounds, but I really want everyone to know about the fundraising that is now happening for this challenge. I've spent the last 10 months of my life travelling around, meeting musicians and trying to do something a little different. I've done pretty much all of this on my own (with some exceptional help from those close to me).

But now, in the final stages, I'm making a please. I really do need the support and help of everyone who's willing to give me a hand. I know not everyone has time or money to give. I also know that not everyone wants to do something for nothing. And I know some people really want to help but aren't sure what they can offer. So, just have a look at the headings below and pick the one that's most suitable for you.

You can donate to the children's charity Daytrippers by visiting Daytrippers Online Donation.  In return you will get a)a sense of wellbeing and b)the knowledge that every £10-£30 you give will help pay for one disabled child and their carer to attend one of their annual events.

Or, visit The 121212 WeFund page and pledge to Sponsor-A-Seat. This means that you'll be buying a seat that will donated to charity, allowing those less fortunate to experience the event, in return for a certificate & signed original ticket.

Well, you're in luck. Visit The 121212 WeFund page and pledge your support from as little as £1. There's lots of things you can get for your money, from limited edition oyster card holders, to original artwork from renowned artists.

We'll also be adding more goodies all the time, so keep visiting and checking what's on offer.

Well, you can visit The 121212 WeFund page and not only buy some amazing merchandise, but you could do the incredible and Sponsor-A-Seat. Buy a ticket for the event, we give it to a local charity (so the seat isn't wasted), and you get the original ticket that will be signed by me & some musicians on the night, as though you were actually there! It's making this a global gig!!

Visit The 121212 WeFund page, and pledge £1. In return, your name will be added to the credits of the 121212 documentary to thank you for your support. It's your chance to be in a movie for as little as £1.

YES! Visit The 121212 WeFund page, and pledge £5. In return, you provide us with a photo of yourself, and get special credits at the end of the 121212 documentary to thank you for your support. So you'll be able to show all your mates that it was people like yourself that made this all happen!

That's ok. I totally understand that not everyone has cash to spare. And I'm grateful you're reading this. So, all I ask of you is to hit the buttons below this and e-mail it, blog it, twitter it, facebook it. Just send it out and spread the word to people. If your email/blog/twitter hits just one person who contributes £1, then you've technically helped contribute that.

So, thanks for reading, and for the help you give. I really hope to be able to pull off an amazing event on 26th January, and show a documentary that highlights a story that I think is pretty interesting.



VENUE CONFIRMED!! Saturday 26th January at O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire!

OK, so things finally starting to take shape. it's weird that when I started this is was just an odd idea and now we have a venue and stuff up and a date and lots happening and it's all becoming a little real. Here's the plan for the next few months (bearing in mind that I stopped shaving and cutting my hair until at least one of these tasks are complete:

18th Nov : I finish writing the music for the performance on 26th Jan (maybe shave and cut my hair)
12th Dec : I finish the challenge, and do the first rehearsal that night with whoever has signed up (maybe shave and cut my hair)
26th Jan : Screen the documentary of the challenge, then a musical performance featuring whatever orchestra I've managed to put together, along with my band (

I will definitely shave and cut my hair by 26th Jan......

FOR TICKETS TO THE EVENT ON 26TH JAN : Visit O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire website

So, now all I have to do is convince everyone I've met to be a part of this, and pull off a public performance.


Saturday, 27 October 2012

Miraculous changes - date for final show is 26th Jan 2013!!!

OK, I know I have a tendency to ramble, but as this is fairly important news, I'll keep the headline brief :

The final show for 12.12.12 will NOT be on 12th Dec 2012, but will be on 26th January. The venue will be announced next week (1st Nov).

Here's the explanation of why below:

About a month ago, with the weight of everything upon me, I seriously considered quitting this challenge. It may seem strange because it was right after a well-attended show at Union Chapel, features on BBC, a performance on the London Eye. Everything looked positive to people.

But behind the scenes, I was having a really poor response rate from musicians, I was struggling to get the funding to secure the venue, and I didn't have any support from the organisations & people involved (with the exception of a couple of people. you know who you are. Thank you!). So, I was pretty much alone, broke, jobless, and without the support needed to make this challenge work. And I had 3 months to make this work. I had a venue pencilled in and ready to go, and even though the response was poor, I still believed I could form an orchestra and make this work. But I didn't have the funding or support I needed to put the event on and this really hit home after Union Chapel. I just had to face fact that it was probably too late.

So I went to quit.

Then something odd happened. The moment I was seriously considering giving up, my brother (who had come on board as the charity rep) contacted me and said there was a charity called Daytrippers who were interested in meeting with me to discuss putting on the event if I could form the orchestra. So I went to meet with them. And they seemed to love the idea. The main guy involved is a very smart and shrewd man, so he grilled me a lot on whether I thought we could make the event work. And I guess, partly through fear of looking a fool, partly through the enthusiasm I felt from the people there, I must have given the right answers. Because they agreed to come on board and put the event on, which will screen the documentary, and a performance from whatever orchestra I can get together.

Daytrippers do incredible work with children with disabilities and terminal illnesses, providing some amazing days out for them. I'd recommend everyone visit and see the awesome work they do.

So, at the eleventh hour, we had a possible reprieve. The venue was set, the organisers were set. I just needed to get the orchestra together. Yet, we still had to be realistic. We may now be able to put the show on, but was there enough time to sell tickets and make the event work? Are there enough people out there interested in coming to this? Are you people actually out there? Would there be enough of you to come and watch this on 12th Dec?

So, I looked back over the comments from people, and put the feelers out with Daytrippers, and came to the conclusion that whilst it was a nice idea, and people seemed interested (in fact, people seemed to not care when it was, just as long as it happened), we wouldn't be able to get everything in place for 12th December. It was a logistical nightmare. The challenge is meant to end that date, so how would I involve people I met that day? What's the cutoff? How are the film-makers going to film up until 12th then show the documentary that evening? When would rehearsals start? Would that get in the way of actually forming the orchestra? Aargh! It was all getting too much. So, again, we were back to the same problem. I had to concede defeat. Which was now doubly tough because I now had a great charity supporting the challenge.

So before quitting, I looked at the rules I'd made. Could I end the challenge on 12th Dec and then just do the final performance another time, still keeping to the original venues? Hmmm, felt like cheating to me. "But Shaun", people kept saying, "if you put on the event later after completing the challenge, and it means you raise more money for charity, then it's worth it".

So, as the main aim for me is to raise funds for Daytrippers and put on a show highlighting the year's work, we decided two things:

1) We would do a performance on 12th December, but it will be low-key (maybe invite only. Watch this space) and won't be at one of the top listed venues
2) We would do a screening of the documentary and a final performance with the orchestra sometime the following month, at one of the top listed venues.

You can look at the rules at and make up your own minds. Does this mean I've failed the challenge? Is it within the rules and a success? I'd like to hear people's opinions on this. It's an interesting debate I think. And one I've had with myself far too many times. Sometimes I forget that I am the one who has trapped me with these rules. And the bottom line that it's easy to forget is that I want to put on an event that everyone can come to, see the work that's been done, follow the journey I have taken leading up to 12.12.12, then hopefully listen to some music by more than just me and a kazoo.....does it HAVE to all happen on 12.12.12?? The answer, for me, was no.

Once I let go of this pressure to live by the rules I'd set, another awesome thing happened. Suddenly, almost within a matter of days, it seemed that one of the awesome venues on the list had been back in touch with us/Daytrippers, had rescheduled some pretty cool and profitable acts to free up a date, and offered us 26th January. This venue is not only one of my favourites, they were by far the most supportive along the challenge, contacting me throughout and offering other places as options (they were booked from the outset on 12th Dec). The guys are really wonderful people.

So....whether I succeed at this challenge or not, I can proudly announce that Daytrippers and I will be hosting an event on Saturday 26th January at one of the top 10 venues on this list.

The venue and info on tickets will be announced next week.

Onwards and upwards


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The final published statistics about the challenge

So, here we are once again. Stats time, stat!

So, as you may/may not know, I'm keeping a comprehensive database of everyone I will meet from 1st Jan-12th Dec whilst doing this challenge. I'm now in the final stages. Here's the last stats I will publish until after the event. This gives me a chance to avoid questions like "how many people have I met"/"what's the signup rate like", etc. I won't tell anyone myself whether I have formed the orchestra and succeeded until 12th Dec, or whenever/whenever that final presentation will be. So....what I know from musicians I have met in the last 291 days.....

  • I have found all main instruments that make up a modern symphony orchestra
  • 65.58% of musicians I have found are carrying string instruments
  • 19.07% of musicians I have found are carrying woodwind instruments
  • 12.56% of musicians I have found are carrying brass instruments. 
  • 1.86% of musicians I have found are carrying non-orchestra instruments*
  • 0.93% of musicians I have found are carrying percussion instruments

* Non-orchestra instruments are instruments I have mistaken for other instruments initially, but still been interested in potentially using. These are accordion, ukelele and cavaco.


  • 29.63% are women
  • 70.37% are men
  • 81.48% express interest (yes) or possible interest (maybe) and give me their e-mail details
  • Of these above interested musicians, 22.73% of them have responded to say they are free on the date of the performance and interested in joining the orchestra.
  • So, I have an 18.52% chance when I meet a brass player that they will be interested, available, and willing to be a part of the orchestra.


  • 46.34% are women
  • 53.66% are men
  • 87.80% express interest (yes) or possible interest (maybe) and give me their e-mail details
  • Of these interested musicians, 16.67% of them have responded to say something like "yep, count me in for performance day"
  • So, I have a 14.63% chance when I meet a woodwind player that they will be interested, available, and willing to be part of the orchestra


  • 61.70% are women
  • 38.30% are men
  • 78% express interest (yes) or possible interest (maybe) and give me their e-mail details
  • Of these interested musicians, 10% of them have responded to say something like "yes, I'm available and would perform in an orchestra of strangers"
  • So, I have a 12.82% chance when I meet a string player that they will be interested, available, and willing to be part of the orchestra


  • 100% are men
  • 100% express interest (yes) or possible interest (maybe) and give me their e-mail details
  • Of these interested musicians, 50% of them have responded, but none have confirmed they are free and willing to join the orchestra
  • So, I currently have a 0% chance when I meet a percussionist that they will be interested, available, and willing to be part of the orchestra

So, what we know from this?

- Whilst I seem to be twice as likely to get a positive e-mail response from an interested brass player than an interested string player, you have to note that I have met significantly more string players, so it's likely the response rate is more accurate.
- There seem to be more women performing string roles than any other section (although, interestingly, I haven't met a single female double-bassist or female harpist, but have been approached via by a female double-bassist living in London who is now part of my band!) 

So, the most important fact for me now, with 56 days to go until 12.12.12., at this success rate, I calculate that I would need to meet the following amount of musicians to form the orchestra :
(symphony orchestra in bold and smaller chamber orchestra in brackets, plus I'm assuming the average 10.23% success rate for timpani/percussion).

Strings : 546 (202)
Woodwind : 109 (63)
Brass : 70 (27)
Percussion : 29 (9)

So, to make this succeed, it seems I'd have to meet 754 musicians to form a symphony orchestra, and 309 musicians to form a chamber orchestra.

I am going to have a very busy 56 days!!!

Wish me luck.