Charlie Cavey – The Busker in the bin

Charlie Cavey with the famous binTilly Palmer

“What came first, the chicken or the egg?” has puzzled humans for generations, but even more puzzling is finding yourself, on a Wednesday afternoon on King’s Parade, asking a man who has just stepped out of a trash can after you’ve frantically waved at him through a tiny slot: “What came first, the busking or the bin?”

Charlie Cavey has become an iconic figure to the Cambridge community for years – yet he remains relatively unknown. Unlatching the bin from the inside to climb out, Cavey reveals himself as a sunburnt man in a pink Hawaiian shirt. He tells me he was going to get a coffee and returns with a domestic-style pink china mug. It seems that this randomness is integral to his character. “This must be about my twenty-first or twenty-second summer, and it all started because I was working for myself, punting on the quayside. I was on the quayside touting, and a bin lorry pulled up next to us, and he (the driver) went over to the bin. He reached in and opened it up and took the bin out and was emptying it in his lorry. I looked at this empty bin and thought ‘I think I could fit in there,’ and that’s pretty much what happened. He put the bin back, shut the bin and I said to my friend ‘watch this’ and reached in, found the latch and opened it. I couldn’t play the guitar at the time. I learnt it the following winter and so the following summer when we all got back and started punting again, I showed my friend a few songs and he said ‘why don’t you try and do that in your bin?’ I said it was logistically impossible, and he said ’no feed the neck of the guitar through the hole, and hey presto that’s it twenty years later.”

“I looked at this empty bin and thought ’I think I could fit in there”

A fixture well documented on social media and frequented by celebrities – Tyson Fury was seen singing along to Oasis[1] with him last summer – he explains that “people walk along, they hear the music, they look around confused and then they see the arms sticking out the bin and think ‘What?’ and then they take pictures.” But it’s not all plain sailing. The University hasn’t taken kindly to him in the past. A Tab article in 2016[2] called him ‘the worst thing about Cambridge’ and in 2012, students were reprimanded by colleges[3] for an incident involving stink bombs and bleach being thrown into the bin. Interestingly, Cavey seems to be one of the only buskers in central Cambridge that isn’t using an amplifier. I ask cautiously about his opinion of the university students, rightly expecting a negative response, but Cavey tells me “nine-nine point nine percent of it has been absolutely positive. If a busker played the same thirty or so songs outside my bedroom window, and it’s not just a bedroom, it’s like their flat, it’s their bedsit – for a year, I would understand, I can completely empathise with their annoyance. Sadly their reactions have let them down, but it’s only a handful. And it’s really only going to be these guys who live here. And it’s alright, it happens, it’s merely a lack of ability to communicate on their part.”

I ask him what’s changed over the years, if reactions and song choices have evolved, but he is most frustrated about the evolution of bin design. He used to busk by on Bridge Street and pick which one to play in at random, “I used to use them all along that street, it didn’t matter, it depended on how I felt that day. Then one day I turned up and they were moving them all. They were replacing them, I don’t know how long you’ve been here but before they were aluminium they were fibreglass and so I had to buy my own.”

The last twenty years have witnessed a series of bins and music, but Cavey’s career does not consist of just busking: “for the last four years before lockdown I ran a kids music club called Mr Baboon’s Dancing Tunes and I’ve managed to find a proper job Monday to Friday now at the school where my kids attend.” Cavey seems incredibly content with his lifestyle; he’s not interested in releasing music or changing careers anytime soon. “I started to realise how much fun it really is, because I’m forty-two and just through wisdom and having lots of other jobs I’ve kind of realised that this is one of the nicest ways to live, the money might be less but the lifestyle is better. Because I get out of bed when I want, I start when I want…I don’t answer to anybody and I get to play music and make people happy which is pretty ideal for me.”

“I’ve kind of realised that this is one of the nicest ways to live, the money might be less but the lifestyle is better”

I ask if this lifestyle is a heavily communal one, if there is camaraderie or competition between the buskers. He’s not massively involved: “because I’ve got two children of my own, I come into town, busk and go home. I know a few of them, though having seen them and liked what they’d done and gone over and introduced myself. But maybe three or four, there probably is a nice community and there are a lot, you’ll see a lot more a lot closer to summer.”

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist…Ruyi Rix

His laid back attitude is admirable, and a career in busking seems to never afford a dull moment. In fact, he’s met Bob Geldof, Carol Vorderman, Gregory Porter. Crowds of people take an interest in his unusual busking format and remember him for summers to come, partly because of the unusual format of the bin, but also because it is clear that this is someone who does what they love, however eccentric. Love him or hate him, he’ll never know anyway, in his continual unflappable way he tells me,“I turned the news off eight or nine years ago. I hear everything from mouth, it makes it a much nicer world.”


  1. ^ Tyson Fury was seen singing along to Oasis (www.cambridge-news.co.uk)
  2. ^ A Tab article in 2016 (thetab.com)
  3. ^ students were reprimanded by colleges (www.huffingtonpost.co.uk)

Boxer went from 2 years out of sport driving lorry for B&Q to becoming Olympian

Team GB’s Cheavon Clarke has been given more than enough signs that boxing possibly wasn’t for him – from almost dying twice to quitting the sport all together and becoming a lorry driver.

But against odds the 30-year-old, originally born in Jamaica before moving to South London[1], managed to climb to the top and recently punched his name on the ticket for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

On finally clinching his spot at this year’s delayed tournament, Cheavon told My London[2] he’s “more relieved than excited.”

“To be honest I’m just relieved. The job’s not done, when the job’s done I’ll be excited,” Cheavon said.

READ MORE: Senior Met Police Officer wins back job after tribunal rules sacking over child abuse clip was unfair[3]

Cheavon was driving lorries for a living before becoming a Team GB Olmypian
Cheavon was driving lorries for a living before becoming a Team GB Olmypian (Image: Cheavon Clarke)

The heavyweight boxer has his sight firmly fixed on a gold medal but four years ago Cheavon, known to his friends as Chev, was driving a lorry for a living.

Cheavon made a strong start in boxing and at the tender age of 18 years old he was winning championships.

A ruptured appendix months into his budding career which almost killed him couldn’t even stop the Jamaica-born fighter’s prospects.

After a six-month break he continued on a tear through the sport. Frustrating decisions against him and an unsuccessful trial for Team GB had the star contemplating his future in the sport, but he still couldn’t be stopped.

Cheavon competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games representing Jamaica, but it was a surprising loss at the tournament that finally put his boxing career on pause.

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I lost and I shouldn’t have,” Cheavon said.

“To make it worse everyone was saying ‘that was terrible, I should have won that’ so I was like ‘I’m putting up the gloves’ and stopped boxing for two years.”

As one of the best young boxing talents in the UK, Cheavon put it on pause, taking a lorry driving job delivering to Homebase and B&Q.

During his hiatus between 2014 and 2016, the incoming Olympian said he “loved” his new job.

“I was making money,” Cheavon laughed.

Frustrated with boxing Cheavon stopped to be a lorry driver
Frustrated with boxing Cheavon stopped to be a lorry driver (Image: Cheavon Clarke)

He continued: “Up until December 2015 I didn’t train or do nothing. It was great, I loved lorry driving, any time boxing gets on my nerves, back in the lorry.

“I just go on what I feel, if I enjoy something I do it, I’m not a slave to my trade, I do what I enjoy. It was fun, it was really great.”

Cheavon said his friends constantly pestered him to get back into boxing during his time away and at the close of 2015 his coach, out of the blue, told him to prepare for a March bout.

Before he knew it Cheavon was back competing again at a high level picking up medals and finally landing a spot with Team GB where he competed at the European Championships winning a silver medal in 2017.

The boxer who only started boxing as a teenager looking for something to do in the summer, became Team GB’s number one fighter.

On his start in boxing Cheavon said: ” I used to play football and that was my thing, I was passionate differently about football, people said I should box because I would always be shadow boxing.

“It was one summer my friends were trying to convince me to go to a weights gym and I was like weights are pointless, it’s boring then I saw the boxing club down the road from me.

“So I tricked my friend into going with me.”

On his rise to the top Cheavon has crossed paths with the likes of Anthony Joshua, Rio Ferdinand and even Prince Charles.

The prospect of being a global boxing star along with other British fighters Joshua and Daniel Dubois doesn’t phase Cheavon, he’s focused on one goal.

“I know I can beat anybody in the world,” Cheavon said.

He continued: “Right now the focus is going to the Olympics and executing and performing.

“I don’t care about nothing else. They could offer me a million pounds, nope, Olympic medal.”

Iceland opens Northern Irish depot to tackle Brexit red tape

Iceland store

Iceland[1] has opened a new depot in Northern Ireland in an attempt to return some of its EU trade “to the way it was pre-Brexit”.

It is the latest bid by a major supermarket to minimise post-Brexit trade disruption with the EU.

Iceland’s new distribution centre will serve its European customers and help to bypass the tariffs and red tape that emerged following the UK-EU trade deal.

“The primary reason for doing it is to make exporting to the EU easier,” head of Iceland International Alistair Cooke told The Grocer. “It’s more cost efficient as there are no tariffs and it’s effectively back to the way it was pre-Brexit.”

The warehouse will act as a dedicated international hub for supplying countries including Spain, Netherlands and Norway, as well as potentially the US. Cooke said it will create a “dedicated international depot as opposed to sharing a depot with Iceland UK”.

Iceland MD Richard Walker voted to leave the EU in 2016 but backed a second referendum in 2019 calling the “opportunity cost” of Brexit[2] “now unacceptable”.

An executive at another major supermarket told The Grocer this week it was abandoning ‘just in time’ deliveries to Northern Ireland because of the disruption caused by the NI protocol. Just-in-time delivery models consist of frequent deliveries of small quantities, a method reliant on each lorry load transporting up to 100 different product lines.

This has become impractical for moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland since checks began on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

“We’re now only putting three products in a lorry,” said the supermarket executive. This is possible because of the retailer’s distribution centres on the island of Ireland, however they highlighted this will not be possible for supermarkets who supply their NI stores directly.

With just under four months until full checks begin on the Irish Sea border, all retailers are working on plans to address the burden. Tesco[3], for example, has started asking[4] some British suppliers to ship directly into the Republic of Ireland, where the supermarket will then transport their goods into Northern Ireland.

Iceland’s new Northern Irish depot comes as part of broader plans to expand its international network. It is currently witnessing double-digit growth year on year, said Cooke, with “no limit” to the level of business that could be generated around the world.

As well as opening new franchise stores across Norway and Scandinavia, the retailer is expecting “huge growth” in China over the next five years through ‘bricks and mortar’ sites as well as online retailers.

Asked why Iceland’s international business was succeeding where many others struggle, Cooke said it was important to recognise that supply chains are often set up to service the UK rather than abroad, and find ways to work with this “rather than trying to change the way the ‘mothership’ operates”.


  1. ^ Iceland (www.thegrocer.co.uk)
  2. ^ Brexit (www.thegrocer.co.uk)
  3. ^ Tesco (www.thegrocer.co.uk)
  4. ^ started asking (www.thegrocer.co.uk)

Brexit a double-edged sword for the UK labour market

Five years from the seismic Brexit referendum of June 2016[1], the UK labour market is feeling its consequences. We have seen a notable shift in international job search patterns on Indeed UK. The news is mixed, with both positive and negative developments.

EU jobseekers are less inclined to search for UK jobs, with lower-paid positions seeing the greatest fall-off[2]. These are jobs most likely to be affected by new skilled worker visa rules.

We see evidence of a clear Brexit effect, rather than just a pandemic travel effect. Falling searches from the EU contrast with rebounding searches from non-EU countries and from Ireland, whose citizens are unaffected by post-Brexit immigration policy thanks to the Common Travel Area. Non-EU interest in higher-paid jobs has actually registered a substantial increase.

The changes in international jobseeker interest in UK positions suggest that the shift in the UK’s immigration regime is working very much the way the government intends — to “reduce overall levels of migration and give top priority to those with the highest skills”.

For some employers and recruiters, this spells a need to rethink recruitment strategies 

For some employers and recruiters, this spells a need to rethink recruitment strategies. For those that previously relied on EU workers to fill lower-paid jobs, such as cleaning, social care, distribution, childcare, food and hospitality, that is likely to mean an increased reliance on domestic candidates. This could be problematic in some cases, given a historical reluctance of home-grown workers to do some types of jobs and the fact that some jobs (lorry driving for example) involve lengthy training periods. Where recruitment difficulties prove persistent, the answer is likely to ultimately involve reviewing pay and conditions.

Concerns over skill shortages in a range of industries from social care to haulage have generally been met by the government rejecting calls for increased flexibility

Concerns over skill shortages in a range of industries from social care to haulage have generally been met by the government rejecting calls for increased flexibility. The Home Office has repeatedly emphasised that employers should focus on hiring and training British workers. The need to recover pandemic job losses among the domestic workforce has only reinforced this position.  

It’s a very different story for those recruiting for roles paying higher salaries, including tech, engineering, finance and medicine

It’s a very different story for those recruiting for roles paying higher salaries, including tech, engineering, finance and medicine. Rising non-EU interest in UK jobs means they are well-placed to tap into new talent pools. Several current and former Commonwealth countries have notched some of the biggest increases. Jobseekers from India and Pakistan are particularly interested in software development jobs, while we’ve seen rising interest in nursing jobs from Nigeria.

Meanwhile, job searches from Hong Kong spiked after the UK government offered citizenship to around three million residents of the special administrative region in July 2020 and have stayed high since.

For the UK labour market, the changes we’re seeing underline that Brexit is a double-edged sword. Jobseekers have reacted to the new immigration system, while British employers wanting to hire from abroad will benefit or suffer depending on the type of work they offer. Some will need to be creative in how they respond and think carefully about how they attract the workers they need from pools of candidates who may have different characteristics to those they previously relied on. 

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Jack Kennedy, UK Economist at Indeed