MUSIC LOVER: Northern Rivers busker Toby Gerrish is looking to raise funds to record his second album.
MUSIC LOVER: Northern Rivers busker Toby Gerrish is looking to raise funds to record his second album. Marc Stapelberg

Busking is a way of life for Toby

TOBY Gerrish, of Dunoon, heard a man crying and as the man approached, he realised that he had approached to speak to him.

Mr Gerrish has been a busker for 15 years on the Northern Rivers and had been singing a song he wrote in remembrance of his father.

The man that approached had been moved to tears by the song and subsequently asked if he could play the song at his own father's funeral.

Mr Gerrish is a blind pensioner who depends on his busking in Lismore to help sustain a small family, single vehicle and help pay the bills.

He also depends on sales from his debut album 'Buskin Blind' which he sells while busking in Ballina, Brunswick Heads and Ballina.

Mr Gerrish grew up in a family of music lovers on a steady diet of blues and folk music and loved listening to Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and The Beatles, and is looking forward to raising funds for his second album.

His love for playing guitar was just as profound and helped him get through the life changing moment when he woke up blind after an operation to remove a large macroadenoma.

The benign tumour which was feeding itself off his optic nerve, also affected his pituitary gland and he put on a large amount of weight as a result of the operation.

"I woke up in darkness," he said.

"I asked why all the lights were off.

"I was just distraught."

But Mr Gerrish subsequently used his love of music to help overcome the devastating realisation that he would remain blind after the operation and instead turned to entertaining hospital patrons with his songs.

His love of entertaining people meant it was a natural leap to start busking.

"Buskers are the colour and life of the North Coast.

"We are not the only life and colour but we certainly add to it."

Mr Gerrish contacted the Northern Star thanking entertainment reporter Javier Encalada for highlighting the benefits that buskers bring to our towns and communities.

Lismore City Council has recently released new guidelines around busking permits to help protect both shop owners and buskers.

"The guidelines are not about choosing who should perform, or what they should perform, or deciding what is and is not art," Development and Compliance Manager Peter Jeuken said.

"We just wanted ensure there is clear guidelines for businesses and buskers following a complaints process that made us realise we did not have those sufficiently in place.

"We want businesses to have surety around what busking permits allow and for buskers to know what is expected of them. There is nothing about the style or content of someone's performance included in the guidelines - the next Bob Dylan is very welcome to start busking in Lismore."

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