The future for street performers is grim, predicts tarot reader

Card reader now working from canal boat blames Covid for killing trade

Thursday, 14th April — By Hayleigh Evans

Merlin Trotter

Merlin Trotter

BY HAYLEIGH EVANS

A PROFESSIONAL tarot card reader who has been forced to relocate his business from Leicester Square onto a canal boat has warned the pandemic has “killed” street performers.

Since the 1980s, Merlin Trotter, 66, has been performing tarot readings around London – that is, until the pandemic struck.

This week, he told the Tribune that a combination of tighter rules and decreased foot traffic forced him to move his business onto a boat.

The Rosie, the boat from which Mr Trotter lives and works, will be moored near Islington Tunnel until Tuesday.

Mr Trotter says he can provide a glimpse into the future or, for clairvoyant sceptics, an interesting conversation at the very least. Instead of offering readings for a set rate, Mr Trotter accepts donations.

“[Tarot readers] can charge 150 quid. Donations are the fairest way. How do we know how much the information we’re giving is worth? A donation is fair on them,” Mr Trotter said.

“If you’re not good at reading, you won’t get none, will you?”

He spends two-week stints at mooring locations along Regent’s Canal and takes a route that includes Broadway Market, Islington, King’s Cross, Camden, Regent’s Park, Little Venice and Paddington.

Mr Trotter’s canal boat

“It’s meant to get your problems, solve your problems and make you think positive about them. So when you walk away from a reading, you should feel positive,” he added.

He previously worked in Leicester Square, but after Westminster Council altered rules for buskers and street performers in 2021, Mr Trotter to took the canal.

“We only charge a donation which keeps you in the law,” he said. “I sat out there for three years, and then all of a sudden, the council came to me and said I’m breaking the rules, not the law. As an Englishman, I should be allowed to work in the middle of my city. I worked out there since the 1980s and never had problems.”

Mr Trotter learned how to read tarot cards from his aunt when he was 13 years old and turned professional after he started offering sessions in his local pub at the age of 17.

Westminster Council received a complaint about Mr Trotter from local businesses, but he claimed he did not disrupt anyone in the area.

He said: “I don’t say ‘come and get your cards read’. I just sit there. People come up to me and ask. There’s no fairer way to do that.”

He added: “The pandemic killed the street entertainers, straight off. We didn’t get furlough. We lost all our tourists in London. I was in Leicester Square the other day, and it’s nothing like what it used to be.”

On a weekend, Mr Trotter performs around 30 to 40 readings a day. For each reading he invites visitors to shuffle his tarot cards twice. Both believers and sceptics stop to have their cards read, and some return to confirm Mr Trotter’s tarot interpretations.

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