ERIC QUILLIAM

London is busy as always, even though it is raining. A lot. So there aren't that many street musicians out there entertaining. Well, it turns out that you just have to know where to look for them. Bryan, our local guide and a native Londoner as well as a storyteller, takes us on a tour around London, showing us places he knows are street musician potential. And along the way we get to learn a lot about London that can't be read in any tourist book!

Eric Quilliam street musician London

Eric, the accordion player

We first meet Eric Quilliam on a cloudy morning in the old churchyard of St. James in London, where he has played his beloved accordion almost every day for the past 16 years.

Honestly, we are right away enhanced by his charm, musicality and ability to handle this, in some ways, awkward instrument as if it's the easiest thing on earth.

From La Bamba to Blue Danube
His repertoire is amazing. Ask him to play "An der schönen blauen Donau" (Blue Danube), "Torna a Surriento" (Come back to Sorento) - I got rhythm, La bamba or Kalinka. He plays it all with an accuracy and intensity that calls for respect. And no notes, of course! It's all in his head, quite good for an 82 year old!

However, when he plays the polka he really can't hide that this is his favourite genre. And if you're lucky you'll hear him play one of his own compositions as we do - namely "The Piccadelly Polka".

John Eric Quilliam
- was born in Coventry in 1926 and started playing the accordion when he was 8 years old (besides playing he also sang in the church choir for many years. He's not very keen on singing these days, but we persuaded him to sing a tune. Though a bit rusty, his voice still works).

At the age of 10 he played at his first concert together with his farther, who also played the accordion. In between getting his diploma from the University of Liverpool, managing a boy's school and working for the city council, he has more or less been entertaining people with his music and his charm, ever since.

Fulltime street musician
Since his retirement 15 years ago, Eric has been playing his accordion "full time" around St. James in London. And we're quite positive that he'll be around, enjoying himself entertaining his audience for quite some time yet.

Despite his somewhat shy appearance he's full of wit and humour, always ready to tell you a story or two about life and the music he loves so much.

Enjoy!

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