Prime time busking in the market


Not surprisingly, one of the very best spots for Ottawa busking is in the Byward Market.

It’s at the corner of George and William, in front of the patios of what used to be Oregano’s and what is now the Aulde Dubliner. It has a large space for building a crowd, and a pretty steady traffic flow, especially in the evenings. Another advantage is that the people on the patio are usually quite appreciative of the “free” entertainment, and will often tip generously.

This spot is the favourite of itinerant buskers from other parts of Canada and the world, especially those doing “circle” shows, which are the types of shows where the performer does acrobatics, juggling, magic, fire-breathing etc. etc., and rather than getting tipped from people walking by, they build a crowd and then “pass the hat” at the end of their performance.

The usual etiquette is that everyone gets an hour-long time slot to do their show, on a first-come-first-served basis, so that most evenings you spend your time waiting and hanging out with the other performers while the shows go on.

Sometimes performers draw straws and the winners get to pick the “prime” time slots, where the largest groups of people are expected.

The system provides a good sense of camraderie between the regular buskers, and many of the same ones  come back year after year. It is easy to see how constantly observing each other perform is a good way to get techniques and inspiration from each other. I’ve befriended professional buskers from western Canada, the US , Australia , England , New Zealand,  and Ireland — all from working  that same “pitch” regularly.

The William Street pitch also makes for some excellent people watching.

– John Carroll is a Singer/Songwriter/musician from Ottawa, who has performed in bars, coffeeshops, musical theatre productions, on a civilian cruise ship for military personal in a war zone, at house parties, weddings, on the streetcorner, in art galleries, at folk festivals, on national radio, and probably a few other places. He loves what he does, and usually it loves him back.


  1. Nice article. It’s ‘Byward’ Market by the way.



  2. Hey, that’s the guy who told me to piss off when I pointed my camera at him (since I hadn’t paid first).

    Hope he wasn’t in a grouchy mood when you took his picture.

  3. I’ve seen it referred to as “By Ward” and “Byward”, the first because of the namesake of the Ward, Colonel By.


Comments are closed.