The Big Busk raises over €320,400 for vital homeless services

Focus Ireland CEO calls on Taoiseach Simon Harris to take urgent action on the homeless crisis.

by Alison O'Hanlon
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The Big Busk for Focus Ireland, proudly supported by Today FM, took place nationwide on Friday April 12, raising €320,400 toward vital homeless services.

More than 240 Irish music acts, including singer songwriters, jazz bands, hip hop groups and school choirs performed in venues around the country to raise funds and highlight the urgent need to tackle homelessness, as the number of people now homeless in Ireland continues to rise.

All day busking events took place in Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny, Limerick and Sligo while more than 90 buskers hosted events in their local areas to raise funds to combat homelessness.

Irish artists including Gavin James, Erica Coady, Lea Heart, Saibh Skelly and Cathy Jordan supported the Focus Ireland fundraising event with live performances and appearances on Today FM. Today FM presenter Ray Foley, also toured the country throughout the day visiting some of the host your own buskers.

This year’s Big Busk packed an emotional punch as Today FM show presenters and many of the buskers played songs from a newly compiled Super Focused Setlist of tracks requested by people who have experienced homelessness. The setlist also included contributions from Focus Ireland staff.

Focus Ireland LEAP Ambassador, Des Murphy, 70, who has experienced homelessness multiple times, took to the stage in Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, singing a selection of songs with personal meaning including A Winter’s Tale by David Essex. Des is neurodivergent and uses the arts to explore his creativity. He said, “This song just makes me think of past relationship breakdowns and reminds me of the pain we all feel when this happens. It can be a lonely time and makes me realise how much we need other people.”

Speaking about The Big Busk, Des said, “Focus Ireland brought me into the arts. They helped me stay above water and gave me a breakthrough. They treat people with dignity and this for me is giving back, but at the same time, I’m getting experience on the stage!”

Today FM presenter Matt Cooper hosted Irish music and social media sensation, Lea Heart, on his show. Lea performed Valerie, by Amy Winehouse, live in The Last Word studio. The song from the Super Focused Setlist was requested by James Flanagan, who experienced homelessness as a child and has been supported by Focus Ireland. About the song, James said: ‘I always heard my mother sing it and then I’d be hearingit on the radio, so it brings me back to the time when we were still smiling through the struggles’.

Pat Dennigan CEO focus ireland with fundraisers, Paul Gannon, Lorraine Toner, Rita Amen, Dorothy Choing pictured during the Big Busk for Focus Ireland at Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney

The Big Busk, in partnership with Today FM, featured a live broadcast of the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show, from Galway business Evergreen Health Foods, who bid a whopping €28,000 to get Iano and his award-winning breakfast show team down to Galway on Big Busk Day.

Today FM presenter Dave Moore also hosted a special edition of Music Master, with artists Erica Coady and Gavin James battling it out to see who had the best music knowledge, with Gavin James being named Music Master winner. The artist who also released his new single, Heavy, today, then travelled to Galway for a surprise performance on the Big Busk bus outside the Hardiman Hotel, to help raise more funds for Focus Ireland.

Head of Marketing for Music and Entertainment at Bauer Media Audio Ireland, Roisin Reilly said “What a day it’s been! Over €320,400 raised for Focus Ireland, we cannot thank our brilliant buskers, our hard-working volunteers, and of course our generous listeners enough for today. This money will go such a long way and make such a difference to so many people’s lives who are currently experiencing homelessness right now. We’re thrilled to have raised such a huge amount of money today, but we still have a few more buckets to shake and event organisers who will continue to add to their fundraising targets in the coming days, so we’re hoping that our final total will be our biggest yet. People are incredibly generous.”

Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan expressed his gratitude to the performers and public for supporting The Big Busk and called on newly appointed Taoiseach, Simon Harris, to take urgent action to end homelessness.

He said, Thank you to the hundreds of talented buskers who performed their hearts out for The Big Busk. It was an incredible nationwide effort to raise funds to ensure our services can support over 16,000 people a year who are homeless or at risk. It also helps our work providing over 1,500 homes across Ireland.

“It was so incredible to see all the buskers using their special talents to highlight the homeless crisis in a different and very human way. And remember – It is not too late to show your support for The Big Busk so please continue to donate through or through your Revolut app. Every donation, no matter how big or small, will help Focus Ireland be there, day after day, to give children and families the immediate and practical support they need.

“While The Big Busk is always a fun-filled day of music, there is a crucial message behind it: homelessness is wrong. Homelessness can be ended if the right actions are taken. As we welcome our new Taoiseach, we hope he recognises the passion and commitment of people to end homelessness. There is now a record number of 13,841 people now homeless, including over 4,000 children, so it is truly clear that urgent action is needed to end this human crisis.”

Big Busk donations to fight homelessness continue to be tallied and are still being accepted through or via the Revolut app.

Featured image: Performers Arezu Tabarsi, Des murphy, Saibh skelly pictured in performance during the Big Busk for Focus Ireland at Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, Dublin.

Photo: Gareth Chaney

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