Q&A: Hendry White – Callants Annual Busking Competition

With the 2022 Creative Peebles Festival fast approaching, the Peebles Callants Club is gearing up for its traditional High Street Busking Competition on the opening Saturday (27 Aug). Hendry White, a member of the Callants Council, reveals more about this wonderful community event

Hendry White (left) together with fellow Callants Club judge David Robb (right) and Jamie Webster, a past winner of the Dennis Todd trophy

What exactly is the Peebles Callants Club and what does it do?

The Royal Burgh of Peebles Callants Club was born from the Peebles Beltane Festival. It was 85 years ago now when five local stalwarts founded the club and the Callants Supper to raise funds to support the festival and various community groups within the town. It continues to do so to this day, providing grants to many organisations within the burgh. Membership has grown from 36 in 1936 to 170 today, with members giving their time and skills to help maintain and enhance the town’s parks, gardens and streets.

And why get involved in a busking competition?

In a way it all goes back to the first constitution of the Callants Club which listed amongst its aims “to preserve and stimulate interest in the history and traditions of Peebles and to encourage the cultivation of local sentiment, and to foster local literature and song”. When a young Callant, Dennis Todd, a talented musician and songwriter died tragically 25 years ago, it was decided to donate a trophy in his memory to be presented annually to the winner of the long-running Peebles Arts Festival busking competition.

Typically, who enters the competition and what kind of tunes do they play?

It’s a real mix! All participants register outside the Tontine Hotel and then choose their pitch at locations along the High Street. Over the years, there have been some amazing acts – Highland dancers, magicians, jugglers and, of course, singers and musicians covering every possible style of music.

We remember an astounded visitor asking one year: “Is it always like this in Peebles?!” What does an event like this say about the town?

There is something special about hearing music being played up and down the High Street. The acoustics in the street are excellent and project and enhance the sound of instruments and acts all the way from the Parish Church to the Eastgate.

Tell us more about the judging of the performances

Adults and youngsters often take part and where they do so together, it’s the youngsters who are rewarded with the trophy. The object of judging is not necessarily to place acts in an order of merit for musicianship, but more to reward enthusiasm and participation.

And what are you most looking forward to about this year’s competition?

We hope young and old will take part again this year to raise money for their favourite charities and give visitors to Peebles another reason to smile!

Creative Peebles Festival

One of the opening events of this year’s Creative Peebles Festival, the Callants High Street Busking Competition takes place from 2pm-4pm on Saturday 27 August. Following much deliberation amongst the judges, the winner is announced on the steps of the Tontine Hotel shortly after! See our home page for the full festival programme.