It was a scene that would have made Ben Bebbington proud.
Thousands of people took over the streets of Shrewsbury, many spilling out of restaurants and cafes as the crowds gathered, in celebration of his passion – music.
About 300 musicians performed during the third annual Big Busk – an event born as a tribute to Ben which has grown into one of the most popular events on the town’s calendar.
Those taking part included singers with guitars, opera, massed ukulele bands and Japanese Taiko drummers. And even before the event – held over two days this year for the first time – kicked off, musicians were at Shrewsbury Town’s Greenhous Meadow stadium to entertain the crowds before the club’s Good Friday game against Dagenham & Redbridge.
The free event is held every year in memory of musician and artist Guy Benson Bebbington, known as Ben, who died from head injuries after being attacked on a footpath in Ditherington in September 2012. Bradley Davies, 18, and Stewart Doran, 21, both from Shrewsbury, were jailed for life for his murder.
It is also held to raise awareness and cash for The Shrewsbury Ark, a homeless charity which supported Ben, who was 43 when he died.
The Big Busk was first held on what would have been Ben’s 44th birthday and was intended as a one-off.
But it has been held every year since and has grown on each occasion due to its popularity.
Ben’s sister Karen Higgins, one of the organisers, said: “Shrewsbury was heaving this weekend.
“People were coming out of restaurants, bars and cafes because it was packed. A total of 300 performers took part and that is just amazing.
“All credit to the town and Shropshire itself because it is made by everybody taking part, volunteering and enjoying it. It is a wonderful reflection of what our town is like.
“I can’t thank the people of Shrewsbury enough for their support and generosity.”
She added: “Although the Big Busk has got bigger each year, we are anxious to ensure we do not lose sight of the basic principles, which are that everything must be free and that anyone who wants to come and have a go and take part is allowed to do so.”
During the daytime on Saturday musicians played in streets around Shrewsbury town centre. There were a number of attractions which have already become a fixture, such as the Massed Band of the Ukuleles, which features uke players from different groups around the region and The Big Sing, when musicians gather on Pride Hill to lead shoppers and visitors in a mass sing-along.
On Saturday evening musicians took to some of the pubs around town to keep the music going.
Yesterday, the fun moved to St Chad’s Church where a family fun day, with face painting, an Easter Egg hunt and an Easter Bonnet competition were held.
And there were also two very special moments during Sunday’s proceedings.
A song written, performed and recorded by Ben Bebbington called Alone in the Crowd has been reworked by Shrewsbury singer/songwriter Paul Henshaw, and was performed as a duet between Ben and Paul inside St Chad’s in the afternoon.
And Paul and his band, the Scientific Simpletons, also performed on the roof of St Chad’s – a first for the church.
Karen said the point of the first Big Busk was to reflect the life her brother lived.
She said: “The events of September 2012 were just too horrific to even begin to get my head round and I needed something positive to come out the darkness.
“My brother was a very gentle soul with unfulfilled creative ambition and the Big Busk was my way of saying: ‘There you go Ben, you’re sharing the music just as you always wanted. Love you!’”