My harp will go on: Titanic battle looms as busker vows to keep playing hit movie theme tune

A busker criticised for repeatedly playing the theme tune from Titanic refused to be silenced today, vowing: “My harp will go on.”

Peter Murphy is a familiar sight — and sound — at South Kensington Tube station, but was singled out during a consultation by Kensington and Chelsea council over “irresponsible” busking.

Strict new rules due to come into force early next year could include bans on busking in certain areas of the borough, with transgressors facing fines.

Hundreds of residents had called for tougher action and one said: “Could you please ask the harp player in the South Kensington tunnel to introduce another song into his repertoire? The only one he can play (and he plays it incessantly) is the theme from Titanic.”

But Mr Murphy, 62, who left his accountancy job and learned the harp at 45, claimed he was “giving the people what they want”. He said: “People love film themes. I do covers because that’s what people like. I have done my own arrangement for Titanic and people love it. Sometimes there are so many stopping to listen they block the tunnel.

Stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1997 epic (Reuters )

“To be successful you have to play what is popular.” He also does weddings and commercial events and said he had played at The Ritz, Leeds Castle, the Café de Paris — and Buckingham Palace. He added: “Of course I know how to play other things. I have played at Buckingham Palace and had a four-year residency in a hotel. On the Tube it’s different, I’m giving people what they want. This is my living.” 

He plans to record his “unique arrangement” of My Heart Will Go On, from the 1997 epic starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Céline Dion’s version has sold 18 million copies.

Mr Murphy has a Transport for London licence to play at South Kensington. On the council’s plans to get tougher, he said: “On the Underground it works well with licences. However, there are raucous buskers in the streets sometimes and that can be a problem.” Fellow busker Terry Fox said: “Peter is great. He does play Titanic a lot but his music’s in keeping with the calm atmosphere.”

Kensington and Chelsea announced the crackdown after getting 1,200 complaints a year. It will use Public Space Protection Orders. Will Pascall, the council’s lead member for streets, said: “Our goal is not to limit artistic creativity but to enhance quality of life.”

Chester Bingley, of campaign group Keep Streets Live, called the move “an attack on freedom of expression”. Florist Linda Boyce, who works at Gilding the Lily in South Kensington, said: “We regularly ask buskers to turn their music down. One woman dressed as Pikachu and used to play club music and dance to it.”
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