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.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

London Eye, #1 music venues & why I can't do the final show on 12.12.12

Wow, so the usual regular blogs turned into a 3 month hiatus. I really was busy.

but I guess I also decided that, as much as it's nice to write about things, it's better to just do them. I think if anyone was really interested in what I was writing, they could just ask me for an update.

Anyway, these past three months have been pretty incredible. I have :

- Performed on the London Eye on 11th September, with 8 musicians, some of which were found on the London Underground
- Performed at Union Chapel on 14th September (a beautiful venue voted # 1 live music venue in London by Time Out) with a 21 piece ensemble, including musicians from the Underground, as well as a mini-flashmob of musicians during one song
- Quit my job, to pursue this challenge full time. Now, this is probably the most life-changing decision that I've made but more later...
- Got turned down by Guinness as an official world record. Apparently, "The method of recruitment is simply not relevant to the activity itself". Whatevs.
- Had a lovely article in the Evening Standard
- Had a nice feature on BBC news (See it here)
- Had radio interviews with BBC, Break London, Swindon 105.5, Heart FM, The Ladder Factory and UCB UK.
- Had features in national magazine publications (which I can't mention because they're going to print now!)
- Got refused funding by the Arts Council. Apparently, it's high risk and relies to heavily on external contributors. (i.e, we don't believe musicians will agree to such a ridiculous proposal)
- Met with some people about the documentary that is being made
- Had talks with a great venue in London about doing the show on 12.12.12, but.....

....most importantly, I realised it was not possible to do the final event, screening the documentary of the whole challenge, and the final performance on 12th December.

This last piece of news the thing that took me the longest to admit, because I was so insistent on getting the entire challenge and the event all wrapped up by 12.12.12. However, three important factors changed things drastically.

1) Funding. When I started this, I believed that we had external contributors who were taking on all of the organisation for the venue and event on 12th Dec, leaving me to focus on the challenge of finding and creating an orchestra ready to perform on the night. I was going to do the challenge, and then deliver them my "goods" on 12th Dec. This didn't happen. No-one to blame. I just didn't realise this wasn't in place as it had been before on any challenge, and crossed wires left me being the venue finder, event organiser, booker, promoter and backer. So...I set about these tasks on top of my other ones. I found a venue (actually got one from the the list!). I started to organise the event. I started to book the show, pencilling in the date with the venue. I got the promotion ready. But...crucially, I could not find the financial backing in time. I believe to do a show, and a show with justice that could raise funds for the charities, we would need at least 3 months lead time. And I wanted to announce the venue we had at Union Chapel on 14th September. But I couldn't find anyone committed and willing enough to take a punt on a crazy idea. Saddened as I am by it, the main reason the main event won't go ahead on 12th Dec was due to lack of money. And I'd just quit my job to concentrate on this too.....

2) Logistics of the date. When I started, 12th Dec was set up because it was a catchy date. 12.12.12. It gave me something to go for. But let's face facts. It's a Wednesday in December, the Christmas season. And the challenge stated that I had to form an entire orchestra by 12th Dec then perform at a venue in London. But how can I screen a documentary of the challenge first when it will have only finished 1 hour earlier?

3) The musicians. An important point. There was the orchestra to think of. Of the hundreds of musicians I had met, I was finding myself with a 10% reply rate. People just weren't responding. This is the last I will speak of regarding the success/failure to complete this challenge (other than to say that at the time of writing I am still working on it), but I have on occasions, been left to wonder whether anyone was interested at all.

So it was with a heavy heart that I admitted defeat. I went to throw in the towel. No show, and no orchestra on 12th Dec.

I went to write the blog, telling you all how sorry I was to let you down, and that I wouldn't even be able to put on an event to show you how I had done. You know, witness the 3 people that had been kind enough to turn up! But seriously, it's a hard thing writing this. For most people involved, it's just maybe one show. But for me it's my life. I have been repeatedly told time and time again by the wonderful press officer for the challenge that failure is not a word people like reading. So I procrastinated telling you that I had failed. No-one wants to fail at life.

Then something miraculous happened......

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Why I don't blog much

Dear those-left-reading,

Yes, as with many things in life, this blog started with gusto and slowly went downhill. There are two reasons for this

1) I decided no-one really wanted to read about me moaning on about all the stuff working/not working
2 (and most importantly)) I just got busier. In a good way.

I'm currently averaging 2 musicians a day and it's building up momentum more and more with each passing month. I'm incredibly confident that this can work, and that I WILL

- form an orchestra from strangers met on the London Underground
- that the orchestra will be of good and diverse quality
- that they will play music (some of which will have never been heard before) scored by myself without me reading a note of music (I am now allowing assistance and collaboration with musicians I meet, but will stand by my boundaries of not letting them teach me a thing!! :)
- that the performance will be completed before 13th December at a big venue in London.

What I'm not 100% about yet is

- who will conduct this orchestra
- where the show will be
- what date it will be on
- who will come and watch it

I am speaking to conductors at the moment, but nothing finalised, and we have a venue pencilled in for 12th December and I'm pretty certain it's the one I want to use. But others are still in the running and people offering alternative options. I can't tell you where we have pencilled in until we sign everything, but here's some facts (I like facts!):

1) It's a great Victorian theatre in central London, that still has all of its art deco features
2) Charlie Chaplin once played there
3) It closed as a theatre for many years, and was also a cinema for a long while.
4) It's 3 times as big as some of the venues I looked at!
5) It's lovely and I really like the people who run it. Very decent folk!

However, we have other stuff to sort out regarding event organising, finding funding, sorting out TV opportunities, sorting press, etc. so we can't book anything until all of this is finalised. And it's taking up a lot of my time.

In fact, if I'm honest, with the exception of one or two people, I'm having to do all this alone. With no official sponsor, no funding, nothing. So, not only am I the challenger, running around for a year of my life trying to form this orchestra, I also am currently the event organiser, assistant with press, sole financial backer, liaison with TFL for filming, the appointed "employer" for insurance purposes & the nominated charity contact. And I'm trying to hold down a full time job and perform and still play music with my band!

I feel this is a tiny bit like what David Frost felt before interviewing Nixon. I need help. And not just financial (although I'd be lying if I said that wasn't the forefront of my mind a lot of the time). But I can't seem to find it. People come and go, lose interest, get bored, frustrated, concerned about risk, etc. And people stop responding to e-mails, texts, calls.

Even some of my own musicians, whilst talking enthusiastically on facebook about performing with me at these upcoming events, stop replying to things (You know, just to do one performance with my own solo band involves 20-30 e-mails/texts, an excel spreadsheet and about half a night organising?).

Everyone thinks "oh, he's got loads of people helping him. Look how it's all coming along. Well, I don't have people helping me (except for my lovely girlfriend who's an absolute godsend, and a couple of friends poking up occasionally) that's because I've sacrificed any life I have, getting only 5 hours sleep every day, to work and work and work, until this thing succeeds.

So, I had a choice - I either spend all my time whining about it on here, telling you the most inane things (what kind of sandwiches I eat, what colour hair people I meet have, etc). I could either spend time writing blogs every day to explain how woefully difficult this is (wouldn't be a "challenge" if it wasn't!!) or I get on and do it. I know I need help but I'm not complaining that I don't have it. I am the only one responsible for the decisions that I make in this life, and I've chosen to do this. I'm quite happy spending a year of my life doing this, because I believe it betters this world and is for good causes.

So, I won't be on here much. I honestly don't have the time and will be working flat out to make this whole thing succeed. Plus, you can read all about up to date action as I put it up here ( and here (www.twitter/com/121212challenge).

And if I keep working like this, putting every moment of my life into these things, maybe, just maybe I'll inspire a couple of people I meet to commit a little time, or help out however possible.

And if not?

Well. It's still better than reading a daily blog about what kind of sandwiches I eat.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Statistics - May

Greetings once more, dear viewers.

Apologies for the delays but I have been sunning myself in the Mediterranean. Anyway, here are some more stats for Jan-May. As at 31 May 2012. This is the new stats! Broken down by section, to show you a little more. Statting to the max!! So....

  • 7% of musicians I have found are carrying brass instruments. 
  • 19% of musicians I have found are carrying woodwind instruments
  • 74% of musicians I have found are carrying string instruments


  • 13% are women
  • 87% are men
  • 63% express interest (yes) or possible interest (maybe)
  • 20% of these interested people respond and are happy to be added to the roster.
  • So, I have a 1% chance when I meet a musician that they will be a brass player who is interested and willing to be added to the roster.


  • 35% are women
  • 65% are men
  • 85% express interest (yes) or possible interest (maybe)
  • 30% of these interested people are happy to be added to the roster.
  • So, I have a 5% chance when I meet a musician that they will be a woodwind player who is interested and willing to be added to the roster.


  • 53% are women
  • 47% are men
  • 80% express interest (yes) or possible interest (maybe)
  • 29% of these interested people are happy to be added to the roster.
  • So, I have a 17% chance when I meet a musician that they will be a string player who is interested and willing to be added to the roster.

 So, at this point in time, I calculate that I need to meet under 500 musicians to make a full 100 piece symphony orchestra.

Just as an indication for you, in May I met an average of 2 musicians a day.....

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Filming and adventures on the underground

Well, we finally have the permits for filming on the tube. This means you'll soon be able to see what a fool I make of myself rather than just read about it.

I tried it out yesterday, proud of my new permit, with a two man crew. The first person I approached was carring something that wasn't musical (an occasional mistake). I said "is that a musical instrument?" he said "No. Is there a problem?"

I realised that having an official badge doesn't always work in your favours and I've lost that charm of scruffy man randomly approaching strangers.

However, two really strange things happened to yesterday.

The first, before I got the permit and in the morning at Tower Hill Station, I spotted a guy carrying a violin (turned out to be a viola, sorry!) and I knew he looked familiar. I gave the usual spiel about the challenge, and he seemed really interested. I told him my name and he said "are you any relation to Hannah Buswell?" To my knowledge I'm not, so I said no and then he gave me his name. I said "are you any relation to xxxx?" He said "yes". That's my twin brother.

I'd met his twin on 12th February, over 3 months ago, at the very same station, carrying a violin (which I correctly guessed)....

Second odd thing also involved a violist. I had a manic time at Baker Street station, meeting around 8 musicians in the space of about 5 minutes. It was insane! Running from one to the other. Not sure I'm cut out for that. Anyway, met this guy with a viola and started my speech and he went "oh, I've heard of you". Not actually that strange I guess (not many people running around trying to form an orchestra!) but it was a first for me on the London Underground.

And it made me think about things a little. I'm aware that, over the next few months, things will pick up and become a little more "proper". Film crews following me on the tube, business cards, meetings with companies about commissioning stuff, news stories about the challenge and the performance on the EDF Energy London Eye, it's all getting a lot more professional. As a result, I anticipate a larger number of people being interested. I don't blame them. Once there's a stamp of approval behind things, you always feel a little more comfortable.

But I'll miss the days when I looked like a tramp and only had a pencil and a notepad and people had to just believe in a dream.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Statistics - April

Greetings and salutations!

Here are some more stats for Jan-April. As at 1 May 2012, there's some mega statting going on!! Of the musicians I have met....
  • 48% are women
  • 52% of people therefore are men
  • 0% are anything else (to the best of my ability)
Of these 100% humans I have met....
  • 9% of musicians I have found are carrying brass instruments
  • 15% of musicians I have found are carrying woodwind instruments
  • 76% of musicians I have found are carrying string instruments
  • 0% of musicians I have found are carrying percussion instruments
  • 22% of musicians I meet express no interest in joining an orchestra for the challenge (the "no"s)
  • 59% of musicians I meet express possible interested (the "maybe"s)
  • 20% of musicians I meet express a positive interest in joining an orchestra (the "yes"s)
  • Therefore, I would say that I have a 79% chance of meeting an interested musician. Of this group, 69% give me their details (mainly e-mail, with some phone and facebook). The other 31% of interested people just take the website.
  • Of these musicians potentially interested, 40% of respond back to me.
  • Of this 40% of musicians that actually respond back, 90% of them are happy to be placed on a roster and get involved with the project. The other 10% are tentative.

So...based on this information, you could say I have a 28.5% change of finding an interested musician when I see them. But to break it down by instrument I have a....wait a minute....a...

  • 2.6% chance of finding a brass player who is interested enough to respond and be placed on a roster
  • 4.3% chance of finding a woodwind player who is interested enough to respond and be placed on a roster
  • 21.6% chance of finding a string player who is interested enough to respond and be placed on a roster make a full symphony orchestra..I would have to meet....1,134 musicians!!
Considering the amount I've already met, it's getting there.....

*Statistics are based on finding 100% of strangers to form an orchestra and do not take into account the musicians that perform in the band and will be principals on each instrument..

Challenge techniques

People often ask me how I find musicians. What techniques do I use? How often do I do this?

Well, I have decided to give you an insight into how I conduct this challenge. I'm going to peel away the secrets and show you just how this is done! I feel a little like Penn & Teller....

Before I start, I should say that for the first 4 month I just went up to people, told them what I was doing. And from now on, I have printed cards I give them. More professional. But less personal I think. Will be interesting to see the results and if they change....Anyway. Here are the techniques used.

Technique # 1 - Platform Meandering
The most obvious and laziest of all techniques. Meander suspiciously around a platform until you spot an instrument case. Also good for lunchtimes where you can sit with your lunch and watch the trains arrive. Many a musician is found via platform loitering,

Technique # 2 - Trainscanning
This technique requires an element of skill and good eyesight. As the train is pulling into the station, you move your head at the same pace as the train, quickly back and forth, and view each carriage to see if you can see instruments. Just moving your eyes with your head still causes a bit of a headache and is harder to do. By moving your head as well, you reduce the speed at which your eyes need to move. You do, of course, look like you're massively disapproving of the oncoming train...

Once you spot an instrument, run to the carriage and get on. If you can't make it in time, get on the nearest carriage and do some.....

Technique # 3 - Carriage Hopping
This is the fun part! Get on at the last carriage (having just done some trainscanning) and walk from one end of the carriage to the other. At the next station, just out and move to the next carriage. The more astute commuters spot you doing this, and hold onto their luggage a little tighter. So, in a bizarre way, I think I'm helping increase security on the underground.

Careful attention is paid to instrument cases under the foldup seats. Many a violin/saxophone case has been spotted there!

Once you get to the end of the train, just off, do a Platform Meander and start at the other end again.....

Technique # 4 - Carriage Strolling
Whilst done in small bursts whilst Carriage Hopping, this can only be done on the Metropolitan line (and some overground lines if allowed). You walk from one end of the train to the next, then back again. Fun to do in small bursts, but gets boring very quickly. Do a day of carriage strolling and you're longing for a bit of a carriage hop!

Technique # 5 - Station Loitering
Many novices confuse Station Loitering with Platform Meandering. It's a schoolboy error to make. If you tell an inexperienced musician hunter to Station Loiter, they'll find themselves on the platform looking around. NO! You're missing one of the most important tools in finding people on the underground. Loitering in one place, letting people pass you by. It's like that analogy with the rain and running. Except with no moisture....

Station Loitering is finding a sweet spot(s) in a station and hanging about. A good example would be the bottom of the escalators at Picadilly. The two escalators go to the Bakerloo Line and the Picadilly Line. Which means every moment you have people going to the two platforms, and coming from them. A constant 4 flows of human traffic. Find the sweet spots in the station and go from one to the other, depending on the flow.

HOWEVER! Whilst the benefits of Station Loitering are many, it's not without it's curses. If you spot a musician in one of these flows, then you have to get to them! That can be difficult, and can involve Escalator Madness, the technique most avoided. Also, if you are too close to the entrance/exit and spot a musician about to leave, then you have to do a mad dash and they're normally scared. Trust me, I know....

Technique # 6 - Escalator madness
The most loathed of all techniques. It's not really even a technique. Well, it partly is. The technique is to ensure you are always closest to the opposite moving escalator. That way, if you see a musician you can gesture to them/hand them a card.

The problem is that, to get in/out of most stations you have to use an escalator. And when you're on it, as a musician hunter, it's hard to avoid looking at the other flow of people going the opposite way. The madest of the madness comes when you step onto an escalator, and see a musician the other side stepping off. OH NO! PANIC! What do you do? Do you run back the wrong way, causing problems to the other passengers? Do you abide by the rules and run down and up the other way, in the hope they'll have not left? Do you shout out and throw some note at them, hoping they'll see it? Do you madly slide down the middle part like an action hero?

I'm not telling you what I've done (*cough* all of the above *cough*) but I can tell you it's madness. I dislike it a lot. OK, a little part of me loves it.....

And thus concludes the techniques for any wannabe musician hunter on the underground.

FAQs about the challenge

I have been asked by a few people how I look for musicians. And I get asked a lot of questions about what the challenge entails. The most comment misconsceptions/frequently asked questions seem to be:

You have to find an orchestra of buskers, right?
No I don't look for buskers. I find musicians carrying their instruments on the underground. But if I find a busker that's playing a classical instrument, I might drop a little note in their case (along with some money to weigh it down/bribe them) or speak to them during a break.

You've got to play with an orchestra on the trains? That's gotta be tough!
I'm not performing with people on the underground. It's pretty much impossible to do anyway. A carriage holds about 200 people. And that's just people, not instruments. Not only would it be difficult to fit, we wouldn't be able to hear or see much. If this was the challenge, I think it' would be fun, but a little pointless. The challenge is to find people to form an orchestra, and perform in a venue at a later date.

Do you have to get the musician to audition with you when you meet them? How do they know what song to play?
Finding musicians is tough enough, but finding one who had the free time (and interest!) to get their instrument out, set up somewhere with space and perform with me, would be a logistical nightmare. I'd also have to always carry my instrument with me, which I can't always do. The people just have to give me details and we'll meet/rehearse at a later date.

Do people have to sign up and agree there and then?
No. The musicians I meet just have to provide me details. There's no commitment needed in the initial meeting. Most people are busy and I don't want to take up much of their time. In general, those who have signed up to be on the roster have expressed an interest, but not committed when I first meet them.

What if you find the musicians and don't get one of the 12 venues (
Technically the challenge has failed. But it would be a shame to go to such efforts and not perform. So a performance will go ahead, just probably after the deadline of 12th Dec.

What if you get on of the 12 venues but don't find enough musicians?
Again, the challenge has failed. But it would be a shame for everyone who has bought a ticket not to be given a good night. So I promise an event will occur!

How do you find the musicians?
There are many techniques I use (see other post about this) but I just look for instrument cases. This means that some smaller instruments are hard to find, but not impossible. Sometimes people carry a flute case, and it's quite easy to see. Once in a while I am speaking to someone about the challenge, and someone else steps forward and says they have an instrument in their bag. If you do anything long enough, you can find whatever you want.

Do you seriously think you can pull this off?
Yes. Over 2 million people travel on the London Underground every day ( Now I obviously can't meet them all, but I can easily see thousands of people a day with little or no effort. Just travelling back to me house from the cinema mean I have the opportunity to travel on 8 different carriages, with the potential of seeing over a thousand people.

My statistics show how many people I'll need to find to get a symphony orchestra, but it also doesn't include the fact that as interest in this rises, and as people spread the word, I'll have more chance. I've not had any musicians I've met know what I'm doing, but I have met non-musicians who have heard about this. In fact, I performed in Berlin in April and one of the support act's fans asked if I was "the same Buswell from the London Underground". So word is spreading.

I'm a musician and want to get involved? How can I do this?
The best chance any musician has of getting involved is to not contact me directly (if they're interested in joining the band, e-mail me at But if they're interested in just joining the orchestra, don't contact me directly). This way, they remain a stranger.

Then, I would recommend they follow me on twitter ( as I'll post up sometimes in advance where I'm going to be. Especially when the film crew will be with me.

Later in the year, I'll set up two weeks (prob June and early Sept) where I'll stay in the same place for 1-2 hours (prob from 8-10) giving everyone a chance to come and meet me and sign up.

If you want to, you could always contact He's the web admin and might be able to also give you a bit more of a lowdown on places I'll be.

I'm not a musician. What can I do to help?
One of the best things you can do to help me is sign up to twitter ( and facebook (( and spread the word. I am really bad at promoting myself, and I'm doing this challenge pretty much single handedly.

You can also donate to the charities ( and help raise funds this way.

And lastly, when it's announced, you can buy tickets to the event on 12th December 2012!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Statistics - March

Greetings and salutations!

Here are some more stats for March. I'm keeping the numbers and figures secret for now, but I can share percentages. Everyone loves percentages!

So, as at 1 April 2012, here's some stats for you. Get ready to continue to be statted to the max!!!
  • 44% of people I meet are women
  • Therefore 56% of people I meet are men  (down from last month)
I can't be bothered at this stage to tell you about beards, glasses, hair colour. I sound like rain man when I talk about this....So onto the music
  • 9% of musicians I have found are carrying brass instruments
  • 15% of musicians I have found are carrying woodwind instruments
  • 76% of musicians I have found are carrying string instruments
  • 0% of musicians I have found are carrying percussion instruments (although I did see an accordian...)
  • 26% of musicians I meet express no interest in joining an orchestra for the challenge (the "no"s)
  • 53% of musicians I meet express possible interested (the "maybe"s)
  • 21% of musicians I meet express a positive interest in joining an orchestra (the "yes"s)
  • Therefore, I would say that I have a 74% chance of meeting an interested musician. Of this group, 68% give me their details (with the other 32% of interested people just taking the website).
  • Also, of these musicians potentially interested, one third respond back to me. This success rate is staying the same.
  • Only 1 person who has not given details but taken the website info has got in touch. This is an improvement on 0 persons....
  • Of the musicians that actually respond back, 87.5% of them are happy to be placed on a roster and get involved with the project.

So...based on this information, you could say I have an....wait a minute....a...

  • 1.9% chance of finding a brass player
  • 3.2% chance of finding a woodwind player
  • 16.4% chance of finding a string player make a full symphony orchestra..I will have to meet....1,527 musicians!!

This, again is good news. Last month I'd need to meet 1,950 musicians but as the success rate increases, and as people get back to me, I now need to meet less musicians. Good news, eh? Only 1,527 musicians.....


Sunday, 15 April 2012

Mini-challenge update

Ah, I haven't written half of what I should, because I'm been busy playing in Europe and doing all these challenges. More updates to come. Before I start talking about the main 121212 challenge, I thought I'd update you briefly on the 12 mini-challenges.

1. Have breakfast 90% of the year
Yup. Eating breakfast. This is looking good.

2. Stop smoking tobacco
Buckled and smoked in February. Then realised, the title is to "Stop smoking" not don't have a cigarette so I can't keep smoking as long as I stop by 12th Dec. I've cheated. But within the rules. Anyway, I have been kindly offered free sessions of hynotherapy by someone (not sure I can publish who or how. Been told it's a bit patient/doctor like!) so I will do this in September. That's a busy month!

3. Meet 5 friends I've not seen for over 1 year
I actually met up with about 8 friends I've not seen in over  years. But it was a stag party and felt a little like cheating. I will arrange meetings to old friends specifically, but am counting the groom, Mike, as one of my 5. Because I flew to Berlin to see him. That's worthy of 1 of the 5.

4. Learn German fluently
See above. Playing Europe and going to Berlin. Mein Deutsch ist verbesserung. Although I always want to say vergessen. Ironic that it's the word I keep forgetting.....

5. Exercise 3 times a week
Join a gym. Gonna make swimming a regular thing each week.

6. Perform on Jools Holland
Least achieved challenge. Haven't even sent a CD off yet. I'm poor. Will do it this week, I promise (I sound like a 10 yr old cleaning his bed)

7. Do archery & hit a gold (bullseye) - COMPLETED!!!
Completed this challenge today. Did archery with the musician Gaz Brookfield who turned out to be a qualified GNAS instructor. Footage to come soon. But I was pretty good I think. We drew a zombie face on a board and used it's eye as the bullseye. I hit it from 20 yrds which I'm told is good. I'd say about 90% of my arrows hit the target somewhere. Think I like this a lot!

8. Finish the new album
Have been flying to Sweden, to Secret Ingredient Studios, and have finished all bar one song. As our previous record label, 4th St Records, is moving into comic book publishing, we have to look for a new home for the album. It's sounding massive. Full orchestra in places, and big sounds. I'll start whoring it out after my final trip in May/June.

9. Tour with full band (12 musicians minimum) for at least 1 week
Working on this at the moment. More info to come.....

10. Stop biting my nails
Haven't chewed my nails since December 21st. This is looking good!!

11. Perform on the London Eye - PART COMPLETED
The kind folk at EDF Energy London Eye have offered a complimentary pod for one rotation, to allow me to perform with the band. More details to come on dates and how to get tickets.

12. (Secret challenge to be revealed later)
Well, can't say can I? But it's being filmed and documented, so all will be revealed shortly.

Cheers for reading


Friday, 2 March 2012

Statistics - February

Greetings and salutations!

Here are some more stats for January and February. I'm keeping the numbers and figures secret for now, but I can share percentages. Everyone loves percentages.

So, as at 1 March 2012, here's some stats for you. Get ready to continue to be statted to the max!!!
  • 37% of people I meet are women
  • Therefore 63% of people I meet are men
  • Again, I cannot be 100% certain the above statements are true, but I am going with my general views on gender. I normally can tell who is a man or a woman. Normally....

Now, the next stats are based on my own opinion of people. I am not conducting a census poll, so I am guessing people's ethnicity and age, based on what they look and speak like. I will publish some of my more opinionated stats at a later date, such as ethnicity and age. But the stuff I am more accurate with I will mention now. I am certain of those that have beards. Unless they have fooled me with a fake beard!....

  • 26% of people wear glasses
  • 10% of people have beards (yes. All men)
  • 47% have brown hair
  • 16% have blonde hair
  • 16% have black hair
  • 11% have red hair
  • 10% have grey hair

And onto the music
  • 10% of musicians I have found are carrying brass instruments
  • 16% of musicians I have found are carrying woodwind instruments
  • 74% of musicians I have found are carrying string instruments
  • 0% of musicians I have found are carrying percussion instruments
  • 32% of musicians I meet express no interest in joining an orchestra for the challenge (the "no"s)
  • 52% of musicians I meet express possible interested (the "maybe"s)
  • 16% of musicians I meet express a positive interest in joining an orchestra (the "yes"s)
  • Therefore, I would say that I have a chance of getting 68% of musicians involved. Of this group, 70% give me their details (with the other 30% of interested people just taking the website).
  • Also, of these musicians potentially interested, only one third (yes, 33%!!) respond back to me. This success rate is staying the same. Only 1/3 of people I contact actually respond to me.
  • 0% of the people who take the website details get in touch. So I'm starting to realise giving the details out is a waste of space (but I will not give up hope!!)
  • Of the musicians that actually respond back, 75% of them are happy to be placed on a roster and get involved with the project.

So...based on this information, you could say I have an....wait a minute....a...

  • 1.6% chance of finding a brass player
  • 2.5% chance of finding a woodwind player
  • 11.7% chance of finding a string player make a full symphony orchestra..I will have to meet....1,950 musicians!!

So, based on last month's figures, you can see that the success rate is increasing, because I now need to meet less musicians. Good news, eh? Only 1,950 musicians.....


Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ridiculous month of red tape

OK, well, this was definitely the weirdest month for the challenge, and also the one as you can see where I didn't actually do any updates. This is due to three main factors:

1 - I have been working over in Sweden, recording the new album
2 - I have been working relentlessly to arrange venues and also filming in Winchester all the non-underground stuff
3 - I have been "working" on trying to get TFL onboard with the project

So it's basically a month of phone calls and visits. Not saying I haven't found musicians. That's still much fun and got a fair few interested in February. But still having to work on half speed until the above is fixed. Boo urns.

Good news though - the mayor's office replied. Described it as an exciting project and withed me a lot of luck creating the orchestra. Then put me back in touch with TFL, thereby completing this loop of red tape. If I don't get a response soon, I think I'll have to just guerilla everything. Not one person I speak to on the tube appears to have an issue with what I'm doing. And many strangers also ask me questions about it, and enjoy the idea of what I'm doing. Yet TFL seem to panic that it's going to be really bad for their brand. Ah, I just want to run around the underground finding musicians and playing music. I don't want to sit in board meetings showing pie charts and graphs.

Although, saying that, maybe it's time for some more statistics!!!.....

Thursday, 2 February 2012

A small poem

Dunno why, but this popped out yesterday after being on the train.

Down the escalators again
A ritual I am now used to
I close my eye to the people coming up
Running after them isn't easy
I get to the platform, everyone waiting
Not me, I'm on the hunt
I move up and down, surveying everything
Two policemen are here
Do I look suspicious?
The train arrives and I scan each carriage as it passes
Like a badly formed terminator looking for it's target
I board the train, passing through people
All busy
Reading newpapers, books, kindles
Listening to music
But not an instrument in sight
It will be a long day
At every stop I get off and move to the next carriage
Scanning and reviewing everyone I see
I see more than most now
But still no instrument cases
Exhausted, I get off and wait for the next train and start all over
On one carriage I see the two policemen again
Surely I look suspicious by now?
They don't care
I continue on my quest, but still no instrument cases
No obvious musicians
A cute girl plays with her headphones
She looks at me
We smile
I wonder what it is I am actually really looking for....

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

My letter to William Hill, bookmaker

After reviewing the calculations for my challenge, I realised that this was quite a big feat. Maybe not possible. And I needed some inspiration to drive me on. As I'm doing this completely for free, with no pay, I thought a monetary gain would be helpful.

Not wanting to detract any donations from the charity, I set about writing to a man called William Hill. I hear he likes bets. Below is my e-mail to him.

Dear Mr Hill,
My name is Shaun Buswell and I perform musical challenges for charity. The latest is something called The 12.12.12 Underground Orchestra Challenge, in aid of Music4Life, a project ran by the charity Kick4Life (
The challenge is to form an entire orchestra (30-100 piece) made up of strangers I’ve met for the first time on the London Underground. I have to approach anyone on the tube who carries an instrument and try to form an orchestra which must then perform at one of the top twelve London venues on the 12th December 2012. More information can be found at
To date 7 of the 12 venues have declined and based on my calculations here - I estimate I will have to meet 2,620 musicians before December.
Based on this, and taking into account at least 1 month of rehearsal time, I believe I will have to meet 291 musicians each month. 67 a week. 9.5 a day. I'm not sure how to meet half a person.
Considering the enormity of the challenge, I think this falls into the category of "not very possible". And considering you're a betting man, I was wondering if you would like make a bet with me.
I think the odds are probably 121212-1, but I'd settled for a reasonable 12-1. I'm a very fair man, you see.
I look forward to hearing about which outlet I can visit to make such a bet.
Kind regards
Shaun Buswell