After a year off, free music festival The Big Busk is returning to the streets of Shrewsbury to celebrate what would have been the 50th birthday of the man in whose memory the event is held.
The Big Busk will take place in and around Shrewsbury Town Centre on Saturday 6 April 2019, the day talented musician and poet Ben Bebbington would have turned 50. The Busk was first held in 2013 in memory of Ben, who died after an unprovoked attack by two men in September 2012.
The event raises money for, and awareness of, Shrewsbury Ark, a centre for vulnerable and homeless people in Shrewsbury which meant a lot to Ben.
In 2017 the Busk raised more than £8,500, but organisers took a break this year to manage some of the challenges which arise from the Big Busk getting bigger each year. The small core organising team also had many personal milestones, including a wedding, new babies, house moves and new jobs.
Planning is now underway for next year’s event.
Karen Higgins, Ben’s sister and one of the founders of The Big Busk, said: “We said when we announced in 2017 that we were taking a break that it would only be for one year and we are very excited to be bringing The Big Busk back to Shrewsbury in 2019.
“It is especially poignant that the event should fall on the very day that Ben would have turned 50 and we will making sure that there is a real party atmosphere that Ben would have been very proud of.
“We are in the very early stages of planning, but our basic philosophy will remain the same – you will be able to experience many styles of music all day on 6 April and everything will be free – we only ask that people donate whatever they can afford to support the fantastic work that Shrewsbury Ark does for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“Everybody who makes this wonderful day possible – from the musicians to the volunteers in the lead up and on the day – gifts their time and talent to ensure all proceeds go to the Ark and I can’t thank them enough.”
The work of the Shrewsbury Ark is changing to reflect increases in demand and changes in the issues it is dealing with.
Tim Compton, Shrewsbury Ark manager, said: “There is a perception the increase in anti-social behaviour on the streets is attributed to many of the clients at The Ark but this is simply not the case; in fact, many of the people we support need protection from criminal elements in our town.
“The changing dynamic within society and in particular around homelessness has presented us with many challenges; we have seen in particular over the last few years an increase in drug use and criminal activity, with many of the town’s vulnerable homeless being targeted.
“Responding to these changes, we have introduced a new structure to ensure the most vulnerable among us are protected and supported safely.
“We continue to operate each weekday, with rough sleepers having open access for breakfast each morning. Throughout the day, they have the opportunity to participate in planned activities such as art and music, as well as develop life skills to access work or volunteering.
“After breakfast, those homeless and vulnerable clients will be able to access additional support and help on an individual basis to take positive steps to improve their circumstances. Engaging in activities is a really big step for vulnerable clients who may not yet be ready to face their bigger life challenges.
“The changes to our services means we now only offer lunch for clients who are actively engaging with us, even in small ways; the lunchtime drop-in has sadly provided the biggest opportunity for certain high-risk individuals to abuse the service at the expense of our vulnerable clients.
“Our Outreach service continues to operate in partnership with Police, Shropshire Council and other partner-organisations to support and encourage those vulnerable rough sleepers to access the help available to them.
“We will never charge anyone to access our services.”
The Big Busk will be held in Shrewsbury town centre on Saturday 6 April 2019.