A Sussex medical student has been awarded £300 worth of free keyboard lessons, after he won a national anthem guessing contest hosted by a busker who plays regularly in the underpass which connects the campus to Falmer Station.

Passers-by are invited by Alan, the 68-year-old busker and professional organ player, to identify 5 national anthems from excerpts he plays. He has a repertoire of 66 national anthems, meaning the probability of randomly guessing all five is less than one in one billion. Alan told The Badger that, of the hundred or so Sussex students who have taken his challenge since he started playing the underpass in October 2015, only one has triumphed.

The bat-eared victor, a medical student named Harry, won the contest on 2nd February with the help of his girlfriend. Harry will receive a spare keyboard on loan from the professional organ player, so he can practise at home. However, his girlfriend will not be permitted to sit in on the lessons, following Alan’s complaint that teaching them simultaneously “would be like teaching in a co-ed school: they’d be snogging over the keys”.

In a bitter recount of his first ever defeat, Alan the underpass busker said: “Harry just picked South Korea out of the air. I gave him only one clue: that it sounds like European music, but isn’t. It could have been anywhere in the world, apart from Europe. He also got Fiji, which I thought was impossible”.

The busker, who has two History degrees from the University of Exeter, told The Badger he dropped out of his Oxford doctorate studies to pursue a life in music. Now, he is drawing from his in-field experiences to write what he hopes will be the “definitive book on busking”.

Alan claims he has been stolen from and subjected to profanities in other busking locations: “Buskers are sitting ducks, targets for any kind of anti-social behaviour which might be going on”. Allegedly, a child pelted his head with a rock at one Brighton-busking haunt; in Lewes, he was mugged by a heroin addict.

However, he says he has “not had one single negative comment” since setting up in the underpass and playing for students. He says: “I like being in here, because I am totally protected from all that nastiness outside”.

He told The Badger he comes exclusively in the evenings, even though people put more coins in his hat during the day, because it is easier to talk and to play his national anthem game when the underpass is quiet.

For a chance to win Alan’s “sensational prize”, catch his eye on your next walk through the underpass.

Mark Tovey

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Mark Tovey

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