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May 23, 2024

577 performances around the city for mental health

Ben Roberts is on a quest to perform in every Adelaide city alley, lane and street to help combat the stigma around mental health.

  • Words and pictures: Sophia Lattas

Ben Roberts, South Australian musician and founder of Ukelele Death Squad and The Timbers, kicked off The Concrete Connection Project on last month with a live musical performance outside of Cafe Troppo.

He has since played on over 60 streets in the southwest quarter of the city and has a target of 577 performances.


Ben updates his location and performance times daily on social media.

Connect with Ben on Instagram to follow along.

This initiative aims to engage the community and leave a lasting positive impact on their mental wellbeing as he jams his way through the four quarters of the CBD.

His project aims to destigmatise mental health discussions and raise awareness and funds for charities that support people experiencing mental health issues.


Ben tells CityMag that the mental health conversation needs a bit of “rebranding”.

“Everyone has mental health in some capacity whether it’s good, baseline level or struggling,” he says.

“I think mental health, and people working on their mental health, needs to be celebrated — just like physical health.”

Having worked through anxiety and depression, he hopes his project will not only work to better educate himself but others as well.

Ben is raising funds through The Concrete Connection Project’s GoFundMe page, his busking sessions and performances. A share of the streaming royalties from his first, newly released single ‘Anthem‘ will also help with fundraising.

Ben says music is a powerful tool to work through emotions.

“Back when I was experiencing a bit of a low, I find it hard to talk about [mental health], so I turned to music to help me through that,” he says.

“When mental health issues can be so isolating, [‘Anthem’] touches on the stability and reliability music can provide when human support isn’t available.

“Setting up your tool belt with tips and tricks of how to cope is [highly important] and, for me, music really helped me through that time.”


Aside from his musical performances, Ben will do live art, journaling and songwriting. He will also undergo “street talks” with local businesses and musicians.

Travelling on foot, Ben’s “fully loaded” trolley contains everything from amplifiers and instruments to equipment fit for filming podcast episodes and, of course, his lunch.

Setting up on Bartels Street, his first stop of the day, he describes playing on these little side streets as being a bit of a “Catch-22 situation”. Not playing to anyone in particular he says acts as an icebreaker, should just one person walk past.

He’s often hit with the question: “What the hell are you doing on this street when two streets up it’s completely busy?”

“The one-on-one conversation is where the magic happens because we can have a chat about mental health and I can make them aware of [The Concrete Connection Project] — it’s an actual connection,” Ben says.

As a member of The Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association, Ben says he will disperse the funds raised to charities most in need of support that best aligns with the project’s objectives like the Family Connections program and Sophie’s Legacy.


The project is a full-time commitment, so Ben is dispersing funds raised. He says 50 per cent of donations raised go to chosen charities, 25 percent are dispersed into project expenses, and another 25 per cent funds an income for himself.

“I think I’m taking home about four dollars a day from this project,” Ben says.

“It is very hard to make a full-time income as an artist [and] I do need to take the day off here and there.

“I’m lucky that I’ve had about eight years’ experience as a bathroom renovator and tiler, so my old employer is happy to throw me a day’s work when I need it.”

He says it’s hard to just be a musician and that you’ve got to look for other avenues.

June 23 will mark the completion of his tour of the South West with Ben set to perform at Diverse-City in celebration.

Follow Ben on his journey via Instagram where he posts his Concrete Connection Project schedules daily.

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