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It's not all about the money in Edinburgh busking paradise

By Stephen Eisenhammer

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Buskers from all over the world descend on Edinburgh in Scotland for the Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world. They come for the money, the company and, who knows, maybe even fame.

Just 30 pounds ($46.72) buys you a busking pass and after that it is about meeting at 10 every morning and a bit of luck. Performers put their passes in a hat and organizers draw them to allocate the areas where they can hold performances.

With 854 street performers in town for this year's Fringe each act only gets two 30-minute slots per day. But in that time performers told Reuters you can make between 150 and 200 pounds a day over the 25 days of the Fringe.

A rough calculation puts the amount of money passing through hats of street acts during the Fringe at more than 3 million pounds.

No wonder acts are flocking to the Scottish capital. The number of performers is up 40 percent since 2009.

Geordie Little, who plays a guitar in a distinctive style resting it on his knees and beating out a rhythm on the instrument's frame as he plucks the strings, is at the Fringe for the second year in a row.

Originally from Australia, he has been busking for two years and now lives in Berlin.

"I heard about the Edinburgh Fringe from a friend when I was in Berlin and thought I had to check it out," he told Reuters as he packed up his guitar, CDs and amp, on the flyer-strewn Royal Mile where many street artists perform.

Little says he makes slightly more at the Fringe than elsewhere but mainly comes for the networking and the gossip.

"You've got a lot of the best street performers in the world here and you can learn a lot."

For Little, the street is just a stepping stone. He gets gigs off the back of it and sells his studio-produced album, "Where the Walls Once Were," for 5 pounds.

ANYONE CAN PERFORM

Tom Popadom, from Slovakia, has a juggling act involving a glass ball which he moves fluidly across his body. For him, the gallivanting has a clearer motivation.

"I travel around all year, always picking a place that isn't too hot and isn't too cold... Edinburgh in August is a good temperature," he told Reuters on the steps of a church on the Royal Mile, where he was hoping to pick up an extra 30-minute performance slot.

If street performers arrive two minutes late for their slot, it is handed to the artist who has been sitting on the steps the longest. "One extra slot can double your hat," Popadom says.

"The great thing about Edinburgh is how well organized it is. At some festivals you just show up and have to fight for your place."

Andy Meldrum, who organizes the street performances, known as Virgin Money Street Events, told Reuters the events are a vital part of the soul of the Edinburgh Fringe.

"Like the Fringe itself, street events are open access, meaning anyone can perform whatever their experience and performers come from across the world to take part."

(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer, editing by Paul Casciato)

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