Diverse entertainment

Diverse entertainment

Wow, what a busy time we’ve had providing diverse entertainment at a variety of events and venues. All of which I shall tell you about in the following nail bitingly thrilling blog about the trials and tribulations of a real life modern day medieval fool.

The wedding:

It all started the other Friday.  I was booked to perform at a wedding in Bishops Stortford. Now normally the clients wants a magician to wander around performing close up magic for the guests, then maybe entertain the kids in another room as the speeches are made. But not this time. This client had seen our show at a festival and booked me to perform a one man stage show lasting 2 whole hours!

That means increasing the length of my stage show by 400 percent! No mean feat. Luckily for me my show has evolved over the last 30 years, so I have a wealth of discarded routines cluttering up the fools house. A few hours of rummaging through cupboards,  shelves and boxes. Occasionally interspersed with cries of “oh I’d forgotten about that trick” or “what the heck is that and how’s it work”, resulted in more than enough good, strong material. Then I had a week or so of reacquainting myself with the props. Making sure that my fingers still had the skills needed to work them. Then came the hard part.

An audience will happily sit and watch 4 people perform half hour sets. But for one man to keep them engaged for 2 hours, without a break, that was one of my biggest challenges yet. I must had written and rewritten my script 10 or more times before I finally came up with a set that I was happy with. One that would make their special day a truly awesomely special day.

I arrived at the venue, got changed and set to work. I must have only been working for a few minutes before 3 children decided to give me a hard time, and that was a blessing in disguise. A large part of my family show is based on the fact that children will heckle me, and the interaction between us. So thanks to those 3 children a one man show had now become a 4 man show. The adults enjoying the way I dealt with the children and the kids enjoying their part of the limelight.

Come 8p.m. my show was over and, although I was pleased with my performance! I was well and truly worn out, but this was no time to relax. I had to quickly get changed, then meet up with Jester Dragonfly and Stormageddon. They were picking me up and taking me to our next venue on the other side of London. We arrived at Morden hall park at around 10pm. Parked our trailer up then headed off to a hotel for the night and a few hours well earned sleep. But only a few hours. Come 6 am, we were up and running again. A quick coffee and shower, then off back to Morden hall where we had medieval tents to erect and 3 days of shows, workshops, Walkabout and fun at The Morden Hall Country Fair.

 

The Morden Hall Country Fair;

Stormageddon and our newest dragon, the good lady rosie, on the land train

We’ve performed our “Total Immersion Show” at this event for several years and it’s a firm favourite of ours. There’s lots happening all day and the public are a true pleasure to work for. Stormageddon was in heaven as not only was his favourite land train there giving people trips around the site, which meant lots of free rides for him. but Stan was also there with his inflatable slides.

Stan is a good friend and a true gentleman. Not only that, but he also has some awesomely tall slides. All of his staff know stormageddon and know that he has a free pass. Now whilst this may be good for stormageddon, it does provide us with a problem. Stormageddon’s motley (jester’s clothes) are only 2 months old, but he’s spent so long on stan’s inflatables that he’s already starting to wear a hole in the bum! Maybe I can sue stan for a new one.

We worked hard and fast, setting up by 9 30, ready for for 10pm opening and my 10 30 show. We do 4 shows a day at this event, plus walkabout and an all day circus skills workshop. So it’s a full on event for us.

Stormageddon wielding the big, heavy hammer (of doom)

 

Opposite us was “Odyssey Blacksmiths“. Run by a lovely young couple called James and Jenny they make and sell all sorts of metal work. They also provide demonstrations and “have a go” lessons, including a chance for children to stamp their names into soft metal necklaces. If you ever see them at a show, do take your kids over to them as they have a great way with children. Stormageddon had a go at this. He used the hammer whilst James held the punch for him. To his credit James didn’t swear once when stormageddon hit his fingers, although after the second time he did change the hammer for a somewhat lighter one.

Jester Dragonfly trying very hard not to look terrified, whilst Stormageddon takes it all in his stride

At one point Jester Dragonfly and Stormageddon were feeling brave and wandered over to a stall run by a group known as “reptile events“. They rescue and look after reptiles, all sorts of reptiles. Including a rather long and beautiful snake that somehow ended up draped over their shoulders. Why wasn’t it draped over mine as well? You think I’m a fool

I was surprised by the amount of faces in the audiences that I recognised from previous years and was more than a little flattered when public came up after a show to tell me that they come every year just to watch our shows and several people enquired about our costs for birthday parties and took our card.

Eventually,  after 3 days of walkabout, circus skills workshops and a total of 12 shows, it was time to break camp and head back to the fools house, arriving home around 11pm. Again it was a case of grab a few hours sleep and a shower before the next gig.

School circus skills workshop;

This was a gig we’d really been looking forward to. Today we were hired to run fun and educational workshops at Manea primary school. This is the school that stormageddon is lucky enough to attend, and I do mean lucky. It’s a wonderful little village school with great teachers who do a wonderful job. Not just teaching but also making learning fun. The way Stormageddon looks forward to school means that I really can’t praise them enough.

They’d hired us to work with the students who’d achieved 100 percent attendance.  A sort of thank you to them. We started the day with a fun demo of how to use the equipment safely, what you’re capable of achieving with it and the various learning stages. Then we spent an hour with groups of around 20 children at a time.

With these types of workshops and the age of the children what matters isn’t whether or not they learn to juggle. The important thing is to build their self confidence, show them what’s possible if you strive hard enough, and most importantly of all, to have a fun time. Having said that, I think that every child managed to achieve something. Be it moving a spinning plate from the stick onto their finger or the basic 3 ball juggle. They loved it and so did we.

Tuesday evening was spent doing nothing other than staring at the telly and having a well earned rest. Then Wednesday and Thursday was spent unloading the trailer. Cleaning and repairing equipment and cutting out around 100 braiding disks ready for Fridays work.

U.K. day;

The braiding disks are about 3 inches in diameter with a hole in the centre. They are made out of cardboard and have 8 slots cut into them. So by the time I’d cut 100 of them my fingers were well and truly aching. Once made we then had to thread various different coloured wools onto them and put each one into it’s own plastic bag. Why? Because Friday we were working at U.K. day.

U.K. day is an annual event (not only that, but it’s also held every year) for the school children of American forces based in the U.K. I daren’t say where it’s held as that’s probably an official secret and the last thing I need is a C.I.A. squad renditioning us to Guantanamo bay. Could you imagine Stormageddon there? The poor yanks would never know what hit them (“look, it’s waterboarding. You’re meant to me upset, not giggling”).

We arrived at the base, whizzed through the security checks so quickly that, unlike last year, I didn’t have time to put a clothes peg on any of the camp guards and set up a couple of tents. One, the largest of our tents was Jester Dragonfly’s work space. Here she would teach the children all about the life of a medieval lady, including medieval crafts. This would finish with the children learning how to braid (hence the braiding disks).

The other tent, a smaller bell tent, was my backdrop. Here I would play the part of her fool and teach them the history and role of the medieval fool, including not only various parts of my routine, but also lots of little known facts about and the various roles of the fool in medieval England (did you know that we were spies also bodyguards, or that St Bartholomew’s hospital was founded by a jester)?

We really enjoy working at this gig however, I do have one complaint. A large part of the fun in my show is the children heckling me. I love it as I never know what they are going to say, so it really keeps me on my toes. However the children on this base are always so polite. It’s all “yes sir” and “no mame”. It takes them a while to realize that not only can they give me hassle, but that I want them to. The other complaint is that they have never been to a pantomime, so things like “oh no I didn’t” just dont get the “oh yes you did” response that you’d expect. Having said that, I am very good at turning nice, polite children into first class hecklers and know better than to try any pantomime lines on this audience.

Saturday was a well needed day off and a chance for us to give in to the colds that we’d both caught. It’s not too bad when you’re performing, as you live off the adrenaline rush and are too busy to think about being ill. But when you finally have time to give in to the aches and pains of man flu, boy do they hit you. With all the subtlety of a speech by Donald Trump.

She checked the red bag (of doom), it was empty. She said magic words and a birthday card magically appeared inside the bag!

Birthday party;

Sunday afternoon we were performing at a birthday party. I love birthday parties. Although the audiences are smaller than at festivals, they are more excited, they all know each other and there’s less distractions. All of which makes for a more intense show. Oh, and another reason I like parties is there’s always birthday cake.

The party went well, with lots of silliness from Jester Dragonfly and I. Not just during the show, but also before and after and jester Dragonfly made loads of her award winning balloon models. Enough for every child.

Corporate entertainment;

Then Monday was the kind of work I really REALLY enjoy. A business meeting with some corporate clients in a lovely pub. After 23 shows and workshops in 10 days (including the 2 hour long show), this was a lovely way to end the latest run of shows. Now we have a few days off before the next show. I say days off, but the truth is I never really have a day off as I’m always working on new routines and tricks for you, my loyal fans.

The trick I’m working on now is promising to be one of my most mind boggling ones yet and it’s very nearly ready. So I’ll do a deal with you all. My facebook page currently has a grand total of 993 likes. That’s just a mere 7 likes short of 1,000!!! Now I really want 1,000+ likes and I know that you all want to see this latest masterpiece of magic. So if you can convince 7 people to like my page, then I’ll put a video of me performing it on line for you to all gaze at with wonder.

Until then, on behalf of all here at the fools house, I bid thee all farewell

your brilliantly humble fool

Peat

P.S. To check my availability, or to see where I’m performing next, please check out our events page

Happy Aprils fools day

Happy Aprils fools day

A slightly belated “happy aprils fools day” to  all our readers. And what a great Aprils fools day we had. But before I tell you all about it, let me start by telling you that we’ve recently made some changes to our website and would love to hear your views on them.

Our “birthdays page has new, more up to date photos and we now also have a special page for our “brownie circus performers badge workshop“. Please take a look and give us your views etc via the comments section at the end of this blog.

East of England food festival:

It only seems like yesterday that we put all of our festival kit away for the winter. Yet already we’ve had to clean the kit, take the dust cover off Stormageddon and change his batteries. “Why”?. Because it’s festival season again. Indeed we’ve already got a few under our belts.

Only last weekend we were performing at the “East of England food festival”. This is a well established show with a great reputation and despite the wind, it was well attended by both the public and traders.

I was in oral heaven as various stalls took it upon themselves to keep the cool fool fed. A wonderful lady selling succulent Indian food would accost me several times daily with bags of freshly cooked pakora and spicy samosas.

Farr Brew porter. You’d be a fool to say no

Those wonderful folk from “A moment in time” were doing a display of medieval cookery and, on discovering that we’re vegetarians promptly decided to make their display medieval vegetarian cookery, and very yummy it was.

The “Farr brew” brewery thought it would be good to have a photo taken of me holding one of their bottles of Porter.  Obviously I couldn’t be seen to endorse a product I haven’t tried, but I can now tell you that their Porter is a true work of art. As are both their dark and light bitters. I’ve heard a rumour that they will soon be releasing a new “joker ale”. I so hope that they want me to endorse that as well. Maybe I can do a deal with them where they use my logo on the bottles and I get a lifetime supply of joker ale.

But it wasn’t just fine food and drink that was on offer that weekend. There was also several marquees of craft stalls, including the lovely lads from “Lord and lama“.

These two gentlemen specialise in wooden, handmade works from far off exotic lands. Here you can pick up anything from a bespoke flower vase to a large teak table, or maybe you’d like a set of hand carved garden chairs with 7 foot high backs, all carved like giant oak leaves?

Stormageddon and jester Dragonfly weren’t at this event, so we didn’t have the full set up, but the fool was set up and running over the two days, performing his own brand of zany humour and magic. If you missed it then dont worry, as at the end of this blog I’ll tell you where we’re performing next (cause I’m nice like that).

Festival of fools:

Stormageddon in his new motley (that’s the correct term for a fools clothes)

This weekend, being April’s fools day, we headed up north to “Alnwick castle” in Northumberland.

We traveled up there via nottingham so as to pick up Stormageddon’s  new motley from those wonderful wizards of costumes and creations, “Brighid designs“. Who just happens to be one of the best creative costumers in the business. If you want anything from a handmade, unique wedding dress to a 17th century pirate coat (or even an amalgamation of the two), then these really are the folk to see. Please, dont confuse them with “bridget designs“. Although they are both outstanding in their fields, the latter is an amazing website designer. Funnily enough, I knew a scarecrow who was also called bridget, and he was outstanding in his field as well (think about it).

“But why” I hear you ask “did we choose to spend Aprils fools day at Alnwick castle”? Well I shall tell you. Alnwick castle is not just the ancestral home of the Duke of Northumberland  (who still lives there) and where several of the quidditch and broom flying parts of Harry Potter were filmed, but also one of the last castles to have a residential fool! So where else could be more symbolic than the lawns of Alnwick castle.

Oh, and the other reason is that they paid us to be there. Indeed this weekend they hired in a total of 4 fools (5 if you include our zany, the infamous Stormageddon) to partake in their festival of fools. An event that they hope to put on around this time every year!

On one part of the lawn was 2 fools known collectively as “Zooted”. I’ve known them for a good number of years and can say in all honesty that they are nearly as good as myself. On the other side was ourselves, with 3 of our medieval tents, the jesters school of…….well……….jestering and my magic and juggling shows.

The highlight of the shows for me was getting the chance to gatecrash a really posh wedding banquet that was happening in another part of the castle and perform a couple of quick impromptu routines for the bride and groom. But the highlight of the whole weekend must have been the B&B we stayed at.

Like father like son

Wedding anniversary:

We arrived at “The Alndyke farm ” B&B friday evening and were greeted by its owner, Laura.  She’s the type of woman that you instantly feel at ease with and, upon learning that we’d be leaving before breakfast time, said she’d leave milk and cereal out for us. The room was lovely, with a single bed for storm, a massive double bed for so many pillows, we could of used a different one every day.

The next day was Saturday, the first of April. Now this date isn’t just special to us because it’s April fools day. It’s also special because it just happens to be the day I got married! And funny enough, it also just happens to be the day that my wife also got married. Well, when else could a fool do something so foolish? Besides, it’s a date I can remember.

Work went well with large crowds for both, our shows and our workshops. So when we got back to Alndyke farm we were well and truly tiered (except for stormageddon who runs on duracell batteries). Unbeknown to me, my wife had told Laura that it was our wedding anniversary and given her some banners and balloons to put up in the room. To get back to that was a wonderful surprise for me. Then we noticed the bottle.

Thank you Alndyke farm B&B, it was a lovely surprise

Laura,  upon discovering that it was our wedding anniversary had gone out and brought us a bottle of champagne! It was a lovely gesture and something that I’ll remember for years to come. It’s little things like that which make special days magical and one of the many reasons why I really can’t recommend this lovely, family run business highly enough. If you’re ever looking for a relaxing break in some wonderful english countryside, at a B&B that looks and feels a lot more expensive than it is, then check out Alndyke farm. You really won’t be disappointed.

Sundays weather was a lot warmer than Saturdays, so the crowds were even larger. James, the castles events manager came to watch my show and was impressed, not only by my linking rings (of doom) routine (of which I am immensely proud), but also by some of our bespoke, custom made magic props, designed to look medieval and professionally made just for us. After all, you can’t have plastic props in a medieval show, that would just be wrong.

 

Eventually the day came to an end, the crowds went home and we were left to break camp, pack the trailer, then head back to the B&B where Stormageddon  and Jester Dragonfly fell asleep in front of the telly, leaving me to relax, practising my latest trick. I don’t want to say to much about it yet, but if all goes well then this summer I’m going to be performing a close up magic routine that really will blow your minds. All I’ve got to do now is practice, practice and practice.

Having fallen off of my broomstick, it then hovered back down to me.

Monday morning came along and, after checking out of the B&B, we headed back to the castle to play at being members of the public. The state rooms are truly stunning and give a big insight into the “upstairs downstairs” life of times gone by. I was particularly moved by their display about employees who joined the forces to fight in the 2 world wars.

Then Stormageddon and I took part in the Alnwick castle “broomstick flying lessons“. These are great fun and very well taught. They also include some great tips for photos of the students flying. Both Stormageddon and I loved it. Infact, Stormageddon loved it so much that he took part in it not once, but twice!

The morning quickly turned into the early afternoon. So, with a long way to go, we decided to head homeward, back to Manea and the fools house. Once home it was time to unpack and clean the equipment before reloading, ready for our next event.

“But what is your next event”? I hear you cry. Well we’ve got an action packed summer full of events, including some old favourites, such as “The loxwood joust“. This is surely the best medieval event in the country. Infact it’s so good that it happens not once but twice! Always on the first two weekends of August. There’s also some new ones like “The Berkshire easter craft and country fair” near reading. Held on easter Sunday and monday, this is an action packed show with entertainment all day every day. Then, on 22nd and 23rd of April we’re performing at the Calne ST Georges day medieval reenactment in, well,  Calne. This is a wonderful event. It’s put on by our dear friends from “The white hart coaching hotel” and is guaranteed to bring you all a taste of life in medieval times. Not just the excitement of Knights fighting for honor on the field of valour, but also living history where you can see and chat to all sorts of folk from days gone by.

Well that’s all for now folks. Please take a look at the new improved “Birthdays page” and make any comments via the comments link below. Also, my facebook page “DevilStick Peat” now has 949 likes. That’s so close to the magic 1,000. So if you haven’t liked it yet, please do so and in return we at the fools house promise to love you for ever


 

winter past and spring to come

winter past and spring to come

As spring is in the air and Christmas is now nothing more than a distant memory, empty biscuit tins and sellotape marks on the ceiling, so I thought that it’s about time I enthralled you with yet another riveting blog describing the life, times and tribulations of a modern day medieval fool.

Here at the fool house we’ve had a great winter season. Some of the highlights of which were as follows:

Melford Old Christmas Fair.

devilstick peat performs at christmas fairs
The long melford olde christmas fair lantern parade

This was a wonderful event put on by the local people of long Melford. I must say that they really know how to push the boat out. There was a Santa’s grotto, reindeer, stalls galore, wondering magicians and of cause, yours truly was there. Performing shows and walkabout routines. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, at the end of the day they had a lantern parade through the town. This was a particularly nice touch as it gave the local children (including the grown up ones) a chance to show off their home made lanterns and really put everyone in a christmassy mood.

You can see photo’s and find out details about this year’s fun packed event via this red coloured link to their facebook page.

Santa Claus.

devilstick peat performs as a magic performing santa claus
When Jester Dragonfly came to visit Santa, guess which book I found her in?

This year I had the privilege of being allowed to play santa, not once, but twice! (and only one child was heard to say “hey, Santa sounds just like storms daddy”). O.K. so I didn’t get paid for it. Well, not in money anyway. But this job isn’t just about the money. It isn’t just about the look on their faces when Santa does some magic (although that is one of the best parts). It’s about playing with and feeding a child’s imagination. And with that comes both, great satisfaction and great responsibility.

Do it right. Feed his imagination in the correct way, and he’ll grow up to be an imaginative adult. Just like the ones who had the imagination to dream of a world where telephone lines could link computers, or of incubators to help keep newborn babies alive. O.K. that might sound extreme to you but, as some of you may know, in my role of a humanitarian, I have done around a dozen tours of conflict and war zones. Here I’ve met children whose imagination has been fed the wrong way. Children who quite literally havent even smiled in over a year. How many of them are now members of Islamic state is anyone’s guess. Look at it that way and you realize just how important our job is.

BBC INTERVIEW

And that brings me to yet another of my winter highlights. I was approached by BBC radio cambridgeshire and asked if I’d be willing to talk about my work in war zones live on radio! It was broadcasted at 9A.M. on the 22nd of January on a program called “Nic Conrad on sunday”.

Devilstick peat about to be interviewed by the BBC about performing in war zones
DevilStick Peat at the BBC studio’s

This is like a local radio version of desert Island disks. Nic played a selection of my favorite tunes (ranging from “Puff the magic dragon” to “The time warp”) and in between we chatted about my life. I openly admit to being very nervous at the start. Not least because the last time the BBC interviewed me about my work in war zones they asked the sort of questions that you really shouldn’t (E.G. what’s the worst thing you’ve seen!). However I have to say that Nic was brilliant. Not only was he sensitive to the subject matter, but he really made me feel relaxed. It felt more like a natter with a mate than an interview.

 

You can hear the whole thing here. But hurry as it’s only available for another 11 days

Other highlights.

our circus skills badge session starts with our demo and ends with the students demo
Stormageddon and DevilStick Peat teaching Brownies how to use the equipment safely.
whole brownie, girl guide and scout packs get their circus skills badge in one session with devilstick peat
Juggling 3 scarves.
Scarves are perfect for learning the basic juggling pattern as they are so slow and floaty

We’ve been doing a fair few workshops over the winter. Including brownie and rainbows circus badge workshops. When not jestering, Jester Dragonfly volunteers as the local girl guiding district commissioner. So we do a special, discounted rate workshop aimed at getting whole brownie packs through their circus badge (including the art section) in one night. I love doing these as the ladies who run the packs always seem to get more joy out of the sessions than their brownies do. More than once we’ve had a brownie leader squeal with delight as they get a plate spinning or a flowerstick up and flying. In Fact they’re so much fun that we now have a new page on the website, especially for the Brownies circus performers badge workshops

We also ran a workshop for a special needs group of young adults in the town of March. We’d been paid to run a workshop for them earlier in the year and it was just so much fun, that we offered to come back again for free around christmas time.

Again, it’s not just about the money in this trade, it’s also about enjoying the work and this group are a real pleasure to work with. Both Jester Dragonfly and I were surprised by just how much they’d remembered from our last visit. A sure sign that they’d had fun.

Up and coming events.

But enough of this nostalgic reminiscing. For winter is past, and spring, with its daffodils and snowdrops is once again upon us (Hence the reason their threatening snow). So it’s time to look forwards and let you know not only a little about what we’ve got planned for this coming year, but also how to get those all important discounted tickets!

Once again we will be performing at all our regular events, including, but limited to;

Battle Medieval FayreA lovely little event that’s held outside Battle Abbey in east sussex every year on the late may bank holiday. There’s no discounted tickets avalible for this event, but that’s because it’s totally free to enter.

The loxwood JoustHeld at loxwood near Guildford over the first two weekends in August. This event ranks as one of the best medieval events in the country. It has everything you’d expect to see and a lot more besides. A great day out for the whole family. Discounted tickets can be found on their website (Follow the red link above).

England’s Medieval FestivalThis year the event, which is held at Herstmonceux castle in east sussex, is celebrating it’s 25th year. This has always been a big, spectacular event, but this year they’re really pushing the boat out to make it the best ever. It even has camping, glamping and bed and breakfast as well as a wonderful nightly medieval banquet. Discounted tickets can be found on their website (Follow the red link above).

The Cambridge Living History Fair. Well attended by traders, re-enactors and the public

But the very next event we’re performing at is “The Cambridge Living History Fair” on the 18th and 19th of February. I’m not going to go into too much detail about this event as there’s already a review of it in one of my earlier blogs. If you missed it, then you can view it hereFor more info about those attending, or to book yourself a stall, please check out their facebook pageSurfast to say that there’s not just stalls galore selling goods from all historic periods, but there’s also some wonderful entertainment guaranteed to amaze and amuse the whole family. So if you’re looking for an unusual valentines present for your partner, why not treat them to a day at the fair.

Then, on the 25th and 26th of March, we’re performing our “Total Immersion Showat “The east Of England Food Festival”. This is a wonderful event that’s held at The herst county showground, AL3 7TP.

This is a fantastic, fun filled festival of food, crafts and good wholesome family entertainment. There’s even going to be various personalities from masterchief attending.

So if you’re looking for a cheap, fun filled day out for all the family, then come along and join in the fun.You can even buy discounted tickets simply by following this link.

 

After that we pack up and head up north to Alnwick castle. here we’ll be spending April the 1st and 2nd celebrating Aprils fools day with various other fools. More info on that festival to follow latter.

As for all the other events we’re performing at. Well, I’ll tell you about them nearer the date. For now we’ll going to keep you in suspense.

“But What if I miss the next blog” I hear you cry. “Then I wont know where to see you”!

Fear not my friend. For all you need do is join that merry band of faithful followers who have subscribed to my blog. It’s really easy to do. Just enter your email address into the link at the top right hand side of the blog home page then click on the bit that says “sign up”, easy-peasy. That way you’ll get an email every time I post a blog and don’t worry. We at the fool’s house take privacy very seriously and promise not to sell or give your details to anyone else.

Well that’s all for now folks. I’m going to bid you all “hail and farewell”, switch off the computer, then stare out of the window at the snow clouds over head and think about how lucky I am to spend the winter in england with a wife and kids, as opposed to those horrible long gone winter days of freedom spent traveling around the beaches of India.

Yours foolishly

DevilStick Peat

Birthday entertainment and special needs circus workshop

Birthday entertainment and special needs circus workshop
DevilStick Peat devilsticking his devilsticks (of doom)
DevilStick Peat devilsticking his devilsticks (of doom)

Before I tell you all about Birthday entertainment and special needs circus workshop, just a quick reminder that bookings for next year are coming thick and fast. So much so that in a couple of days time my first ever newsletter should be out. It will include a list of events that you can see me at and the latest details on how to get discount entry to many of those events. “How do I sign up for it”? I hear you cry. Simply scroll down to the very bottom of this page and look in the left hand corner, where all shall be revealed.

The booking;

My latest attempts to get booked for local birthday parties has so far met with mixed results. The wonders of internet technology means that it’s now a lot easier to advertise one’s wears. Not just locally but around the world. “Which”, I thought as we started the 3 hour drive, “may well be the reason I’m performing in Stafford today as opposed to Cambridgeshire”. However I later learned that they’d seen me perform at a festival, and were so impressed that they sort me out in the hope that I’d perform at their children’s medieval birthday party. Well, who am I to say no.

I’d been booked not only to entertain at the birthday party, but also to run a circus workshop, which is always popular after one of my shows. The party was in the village hall in a lovely country village (not that you get many city villages) and we arrived in good time.

The hall itself was laid out like a medieval banquet, complete with a head table for the birthday boy and girl. (Note to would be parents. If you’re going to have more than one child, have them around the same time of year, that way you save money on parties). I do so love it when the parents have taken the time to think about theming the hall as well as the cake etc. It really does add to the suspension of disbelief, which is what my jobs all about.

Meet and greet;

DevilStick peat and Woodbine, his friendly, pot noodle eating polecat
DevilStick peat and Woodbine, his friendly, pot noodle eating polecat

I met the proud parents and birthday kids, checked what we’re doing when, then got changed and set up my stand, ready for action. Then I got Woodbine (my burping polecat puppet of doom) ready to meet the children. As per normal he totally refused to behave, burping in kids faces, running up my arm etc. The kids loved him and he really helped them to get in the fun party mood before they’d even taken off their coats. Many of the kids were dressed as knights and princesses, which again only helped to add to the mood of the day. This was going to be one fun party and a true pleasure to perform at.

After everyone had arrived I messed about a bit, using some walkabout magic to entertain the children as they greeted each other with hellos and wildly swung wooden swords that somehow failed to cause any major injuries (always a good thing). Then it was show time.

The new magic cake (of doom) routine;

I must admit to being somewhat nervous as I gathered the children and got them to sit on the floor in front of me. Not because I was performing at a birthday party, but because I was going to use a new trick. One that I’d never performed live before. I’d practiced it and even put it on youtube as a wedding present for a friend, but until you try something live, you never know how the audience will react. I’m pleased to say that the look on their faces left me with the feeling that it’s money well spent.

Rather than be nervous all through the show, I decided to take the bull by the horns and open with the new trick. It’s a lovely classic bit of birthday magic, the effect of which is this;

I take what is clearly an empty baking tray and pour in some sugar, flour and an egg or two (including the shells). I then add a little flame from a lighter resulting in a sudden and unexpected bright flash. I put the lid on whilst it cooks for a couple of seconds, then remove the lid to reveal a large birthday cake The youtube clip is a very adhoc, spur of the moment thing which can be viewed here.

The performance at the birthday party was a lot more polished than the youtube one and the sudden flash caught everyone by surprise, including me. I’d decided to make the flash just a little bit bigger than the one in the video, so doubled the amount of “flashy thingy”! There was never any danger. The flash is bright, not hot. However it did make me take a large step backwards. Which was a pointless thing to do as I was holding the baking tray, so it just stepped back with me. However in hindsight, I think the fact that I looked so genuinely surprised at the flash added to the effect and shall now stay as standard.

Adults joined in;

The new trick over I could now relax and enjoy the rest of the show, as did the children and a fun, chaotic time was had by everyone, including the adults. Then we had a break for food, medieval banquet style (well, as medieval as sandwiches, crisps and jelly can be). As the children ate, so I retired to the kitchen area with other adults and, refusing the really nice offer of a beer (I don’t want kids smelling it on my breath), settled for a good old fashioned cup of tea before running the workshop.

Circus skills workshops
Stormageddon teaching spinning plates

Food over it was workshop time. I gave them a quick demo of not only how to use all the equipment, but also how to use it safely, then it was their turn to have ago whilst I wandered around helping and advising not only the children, but also the adults who were prepared to give it a go. It’s great when the adults join in. Oh so often mummy and daddy will sit there and refuse to try anything incase the other adults see them fail! Just what type of example do they think they are they setting for the next generation of possible olympic medalist?

Eventually the party came to a close and kids, knights and princesses all headed home. Again I was offered a beer and, as I’d now finished work and Jester Dragonfly had yet to collect me, so I happily accepted, not just the opportunity to have a beer with a proud daddy, but also the other beer he gave me for the long journey home. I know I’ve done a good job when the booker pays me a bonus, and what better was to pay a jester a bonus than in beers.

Why I can’t say no;

Our next gig was a somewhat different one as it was a workshop for a special needs group that meets in a town near our wonderful village of Manea. When they first asked my price and I quoted them my normal price I think the lady must of had a heart attack (we’re not expensive, indeed we’re cheaper than your local plumber and other skilled tradesmen, but still she seemed surprised). She told me more about the group, it’s size etc and I offered her what I believe was generous discount. However they are a small, self funding group and still couldn’t afford our price, so I asked what they could afford, and now it was my turn to call the crash team. However, I didn’t even hesitate in agreeing her price, and here’s why.

People of all ages and from all walks of life enjoy our circus skills workshops
People of all ages and from all walks of life enjoy our circus skills workshops

It must of been ooooooh, maybe 27 years ago. I was still learning my trade and every month I’d head up to oddballs, a juggling shop in london. Here I would meet other jugglers and try and buy new equipment. One day the owner of the shop, a wonderful lady called suzy oddball, told me that someone was looking for a workshop teacher to work with his special needs group. At the time I’d never even spoken to someone with special needs, and the thought of teaching them scared me so much that I said no! Fast forward two days and I’m at my girlfriend’s house (yes, I had one once) and she gave me a choice. I could ring the man and tell him I’ll do it, or she’ll dump me, because she was fed up with my bad mood. She was right. I was in a bad mood. I was angry with myself for being scared. So I rang him up and took the job.

 

Like I said, I was scared when I turned up, but soon relaxed and realized that people are people, regardless of any disabilities. I noticed one youth, Peter was his name, and he was into repetitive motion. E.G. he would sit down then stand up, then sit down then stand up, over and over again. I got him using a diablo, which involves a repetitive arm movement. he was happy playing with it and I thought no more about it. Then someone called his name and, as he looked up to see who’d called him, so he accidentally threw the diabolo up into the air. By pure chance the diabolo landed back on the string again, and that was it. For the rest of the day he was happy throwing and catching the diabolo. A good day was had by all and I walked away feeling that I’d done a good job and thought no more about it.

It was about 6 months later that I was working at a banquet in Dover castle as a jester. There was a storyteller there called Tony Cooper and we got talking about juggling. He told me all about a special needs group he runs and how he got a juggler to run a workshop for them. I listened politely and somewhat amused by the fact that, in the candle light and my make up, he didn’t realize that it was me he was talking about. Then he told me about Peter. How his main problem was lack of confidence. How if he wanted to pick up a cup of tea he wouldn’t know if he was capable, so he’d just stand there, reaching out for the cup, them retracting his arm, time and time again. Then he told me how, because of that juggler, not only does he have the confidence to pick one up. He now has the confidence to go and make one!

And that’s why we took the job. That’s why we will always take those jobs, regardless of the price. I don’t think I’ll ever see another piece of magic like that again. Let alone be privileged enough to be part of it. But that ain’t going to stop us from trying.

The workshop;

We arrived at the venue early (to be early is to be on time,

A member of the public learning  club juggling at our circus skills workshop
A member of the public learning club juggling at our circus skills workshop

to be on time is to be late, and to be late is

unacceptable). Once there we chatted with adults and youths, some of which we already knew, unloaded the car and set up ready for action. We were ready about 15 minutes early and you could taste the anticipation in the air, so rather than just stand around we decided to extend the workshop by…….well…… about 15 minutes.

Normally we start our joint workshop with a 30 minute fun filled intro that is not only funny, but also shows everyone how to use the equipment safely. We didn’t know what the attention span of our clients would be, so were ready to cut out some of the comedy should minds start to wander. We needn’t of worried, both youths and adults alike enjoyed the show. Then, once chairs had been pushed to the sides, it was their turn to have fun whilst we helped and advised where needed.

I’m so lucky to have a work partner like Jester Dragonfly. Someone who see’s the person as opposed to the disability and can concentrate on how best to help them achieve their objective. Also, I’ve got to give credit where credit is due, and credit was due to the adults there. So often I’ve worked with special needs people only to have their carer say “there’s no point in him trying that, he’ll never do it”. At the risk of sounding controversial, those people don’t deserve their jobs, and their clients really don’t deserve that type of carer. It doesn’t matter if little billy can throw and catch a ball. What matters is the fact that he, like any child, is given the chance to try, and you’d be surprised at just how often I’ve proved those carers wrong. In the past we’ve even had a somewhat larger lady on a tightrope, complete with her wheelchair! O.K. so it took 4 of us to hold the chair, but the fact that she is chair bound, doesn’t mean she hasn’t got the right to try. Like I said, these adults were the types who, like us, had a “can do” attitude and only took breaks from helping the youths try stuff when they were trying it themselves. It was a great workshop with lots of laughter and more than one look of surprise when a youth or adult got a plate spinning, or a diablo going.

DevilStick Peat teaching a new plate spinner how to put it on his finger
DevilStick Peat teaching a new plate spinner how to put it on his finger

Near the end of the workshop we let the youths stand up and show off to the others what they had learnt. A plate spinner here, a diabolist there, and more than one stilt walker who, in attempts to give us all heart attacks, decided that rather than stilt walking, they would have a go at stilt dancing. Then the night ended with me showing them some of the things that it is possible to do with the equipment. All you need to learn it all is determination, a can do attitude and a few years of no social life.

As we were driving home Jester Dragonfly must had been reading my mind, for she told me how much she enjoyed the night and suggested to me that maybe, as they have no government funding, we could go back sometime and do something for free. I’m happy to report that today I emailed them with my suggestion.

What’s next;

When Jester Dragonfly came to visit Santa, guess which book I found her in?
When Jester Dragonfly came to visit Santa, guess which book I found her in?

Christmas is fast approaching, and I’ve been booked to perform at Melford Christmas fair on Sunday 27th of November. This will be the first time I’ve performed at this event. So if you’re around then come and say “hi”.

Then the Sunday after that I’m performing at snettisham Christmas market. I performed at it last year and had a great time.

And on December the 1st it’s my favorite Christmas gig. For that’s the day that I go to my daughters school, wear a red suit, shove a pillow up my shirt, and be Santa for the day. I don’t get paid for it, but it’s great to use a little bit of magic and prove to the children that Santa really is……. well…….. magic, and keeping that belief alive in the kids is worth so much more than money.

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