This former community worker turned musician at the age of 30 has been busking in more than 10 countries and is a well-known street entertainer in Newcastle.
He drops the fingers of his right hand onto the 52cm diameter steel pan, it looks more like a UFO than a musical instrument.
He then drops his left hand, alternating between the two to produce a unique and rich sound that is almost spiritual.
Though the sun has not yet appeared on the cobbled path of Northumberland Street, his hands keep moving with fluidity, unhindered by the cold chill in the spring air.
He raises his head and looks toward the crowd of 10 people that have gathered, opens his blue eyes and shows off his white teeth.
He is connected with his instrument, both physically and emotionally. He is playing his heart out.
The crowd remains silent, transfixed on the majesty that is unfolding before them, unable to affix their gaze on anything but his hands.
A man with a broad Geordie accent interrupts his jam and innocently asks: “Oh, man, what is the name of that instrument”? Simon continues to play and says with a wry smile, “It’s a hang.”
Simon found music relatively late in his life. In the year 2000, at the age of thirty, he had a chance encounter while at Glastonbury Festival with some friends.
One night he came across a tribal jam session with people playing all different kinds of percussion instruments and letting themselves go in the music.
It was three in the morning when a guy, coincidentally also from Newcastle, encouraged him to have a try on his djembe drum.“Have a go, man”, he said. Simon recalls that on that day he found his true passion and became instantly attached to his new instrument.
“It was great. I felt great. I was hooked. My life changed that night”.
From the African djembe drum, Simon was quickly introduced to the congas and bongos of Cuba, before gaining an affinity for the Indian tabla.
He started playing in the streets, using his percussion to entertain the people but realised that he would have to travel to India in order to take his skills to the next level.
But after six years with tribal percussion in his blood, it was an encounter in Amsterdam that changed his life yet further; a dreadlocked man with his eyes closed in rapture was busking, playing a new version of the steel pan with his hands – the hang drum.
Simon was instantly transfixed by the transcendental tune of this new instrument, and the rest is history.
Now, Simon plays the hang to live. Although he participates in gigs and concerts, he decided to be a street entertainer – a term that he uses rather than busker.
Though he is able to make a living from his craft, he recognises that the life of a street entertainer can be inconsistent.
“You can go one day and play the same music, be in a good mood, meet lots of people, smile at everybody and do brilliantly. But you could do the same thing the next day and make 20% of what you made the day before. You never know in this job. There is no logic to it”.
But despite the ups and downs, he is happy to be a Newcastle street entertainer. “This city is pretty good for busking,” he admits, “They don’t have a licencing scheme but if you play too long or too loud you will be asked to leave.”
Without direct involvement from the council, street performs in Newcastle are more grass-roots, and work collaboratively in order to make things fair.
“In a way, a lot of buskers have an un-written code. We speak to each other. We work together. Almost like a community.”
With 74,265 views on his Youtube channel, a studio album called ‘Here and There’, and over 10 countries under his belt, Simon has truly become an icon of busking in Newcastle.
*Profile produced for the Press Association via Tunes of the Toon
*Video produced by Jie Yin and Juan Trillos