Food festivals, festivals, fayres and fairs:
As the summer turns to autumn, and the leaves, once a dark green canopy, now turn vibrant yellow, so the festival season draws to a close for yet another year. But before we look forwards towards the Christmas season, let me tell you about our last few festivals and events.
Cherry Hinton Festival;
On September the 16th we were invited back to the “Cherry Hinton Festival” This is a wonderful community based event in a part of Cambridge known as, Cherry Hinton (Which is handy when you consider that it’s also the festivals name).
The public, undeterred by the traditional summer rain, turned out in surprisingly large numbers, but then those who know this festival, know just what great fun it is. Like any community based event, it has it’s fair share of community performances, including everything from Irish dancing to Yi Zhong Yang-style Tai Ji (I can spell it, just don’t ask me how to pronounce it).
In the activities marquee was an assortment of activities ranging from messy play for the under 5’s to archaeological activities. Run by 2 archaeologists from Cambridge university, here you could dig through the different layers of ‘soil’ and discover artefacts in the ‘Excavation chest of drawers’, including 9th century pottery, animal skulls and all sorts of things. They even had “The Brickologists” there with their lego building challenges and some doctor type folk who would help you make your very own “brain hat”
Outside there was a music stage with music and on the sports field there was demos and a chance to try out a whole range of sports. Everything from football to Zumba. Climbing walls and caving pods. Face painting and crazy giant balloon modelling, and all free. That’s right folks, everything on offer was free. A whole field filled with fun and all put on by volunteers from the local community. And to those volunteers I’d like to give a great big thank you. For this is what all community fun days should be like. I take my hat off to each and every one of you.
Upon finishing my days work there, Jester Dragonfly, Stormageddon and I headed south to Faversham, deep within the mountainous countryside of Kent (Hey, I live in the fens, one of the flattest parts of England. Compared to here, the north and south downs are two mountain ranges).
Faversham Food Festival;
This year the theme for “Faversham food festival” was medieval. Hence the reason I was booked (well that and the fact that they wanted entertainment that was of the same high standard as the food on offer). Although this part of Kent is my old stomping ground where I grew up (I’d tell you more, but wouldn’t want to shock you) the food festival started soon after I left, so I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be one or two stalls with grannies selling home made cakes and the local girl guides selling brownies (the biscuits that is, not their younger sisters. That would just be wrong)? Or loads of market stalls from all across Europe and nothing to do with Faversham? More importantly, would there be a good performance space in which yours truly could perform his repertoire of gravity defying juggling, marvellous magic and “lace my corset tighter less I split my sides laughing” comedy?
I needn’t have worried, for the Faversham food festival was a pure delight of orally sensual overload. All laid on with local business’s and local produce. After sampling the free tasters (and not just the chilli sauces) I can put my hand on my heart and say that I now know why Elizabeth Carter, editor of the good food guide, once described this area as The east Kent triangle, an area of excellence.
As for the performance area? As you can see from the photo, they couldn’t of given me a better spot, or a more responsive audience.
It was a lovely sunny day and once the Puppet show had finished I soon had both, kids and adults seated before me. At the risk of sounding egotistical, I can say that the show went down a storm. I judge how good my show is by how much hassle the kids give me (something that I actively encourage) and even the adults joined in, shouting “oh yes it is” etc. in the right places. And the jumping dragons (of doom) fooled all of them, including the adults. There’s even a video of it on their Facebook page. It starts with a 3 ball juggling routine (The likes of which most jugglers would give their right arm to perform). Then concludes with the jumping dragons (of doom). When not performing one of my stage shows, I was engaged in one or more of my walk about routines, including the somewhat apt repeating bananas (of doom) and of cause, woodbine with his pot noodle and another type of repeating.
Other entertainment included a great traditional Punch and Judy show, may pole dancing (in September), little red riding hood and my old friend “Flora the singleton giant”. Always a favourite with the crowds as she leads the parade. Today the parade consisted of all the children entering the fancy dress competition. To my absolute horror, I was asked to be one of the judges. I hate judging the fancy dress as I’m always worried that those who don’t win will cry, or worse still, hate me even more than they hate my jokes!
Then, after the day had finished, it was full speed ahead as we headed home to get ready for the next show
The Ancient Oak Medieval Fayre;
We’d been really excited about this gig. Not only because it’s more money in our pockets, but also because it’s run by some old friends of ours. Many moons ago, when I still had hair (well, more hair than I have now) there was an event called “the Snailwell medieval fayre”. Run by friends of ours this event had a real village green feel to it and was always a favourite, not just in our calendar, but also in the calendars of most local re-enactors and with good reason. Put simply it was a good, well organised event. The type where everyone, families, traders, performers and re-enactors could relax and enjoy a weekend of all that’s best about medieval England. So when they contacted us and said they were thinking of running a new event, well how could we say no.
The set up;
It was held at Stow-Cum-Quy, which is quite local to us, enabling us to arrive early on the Friday. Once there we didn’t just set up and relax, oh no, that would be too easy. Instead Jester Dragonfly took over arranging the traders and allocating pitches and I lent a hand with the ground crew, erecting tents, putting up signs etc. This meant that the main organiser had more time in which to run around whilst muttering that most famous of all event organisers incantations “never again, not ever doing this again ever” ( we don’t call her stress free shaz for nothing). Come night fall the event had come together and was now looking like a medieval event should on the night before opening (I.E. the beer tent was open and full of strange folk in strange clothing shouting things like “hussar” and “Oi watch where you’re poking that sword”).
I’ll be honest here and tell you that when I saw the beer tent, I panicked! During our consultations with the organisers we’d recommended what we consider to be the best medieval beer tent on the circuit. The world famous “Crimson Moon Mobile Beer Tavern” (Never ever call it a beer tent. It’s so much more). They, knowing that we see a lot of beer tents at events had taken our advice and booked the best. So why did I panic? Because it wasn’t until we’d got there that we realized that it was now under new management! “What” I thought “if the range of drinks aren’t as good as they were? What if the staff are a grumpy bunch of folk who aren’t into these events? What if”??? I need not of worried. The beer was good, The cider, very good (I checked it several times, just to make sure). A full range of spirits and kids drinks were all at hand. And all served by lovely friendly staff who were in character and more than “up for it”. Indeed I was so impressed that I’m still happy to call them the best mobile medieval tavern this side of the 16th century (and no offence meant to my good friend Iain, but it takes a lot less cider to find it’s new owner sexy than it ever did him).
Saturday morning we were up early, getting the last few things sorted (I.E. putting up our tents as we were too busy helping out Friday to set up our own camp). As often happens at these types of events, there was a few last minute changes to the program, resulting in a bit of a slow start to the day. But once it got going it was a great two days of medieval mayhem, music and civilized members of the public teaching their children that is socially acceptable to screem for blood whilst watching a bunch of fully grown men beat the hell out of each other with offensively big, heavy weapons.
Music was provided by some old favourites of ours, including “The pentacle Drummers” . A lovely bunch of nutters with a thunderous repertoire of deafening drumming that puts the likes of Cozy Powell to shame (if your saying who? then you’re too young) and the perfect way to wake up a sleepy village on a sunny morn.
“Serpentyne” were also performing with their perfect mix of modern and medieval instruments, all combining to create a magical mixture that perfectly combined the best of both worlds, old and new.
Blood, guts and battles and living history were provided by several re-enactment groups including “The Knights of Honour”, “Wuffa Saxon and Viking re-enactment”, “Ealdfaeder Anglo-Saxons” and our very good friends from your local medieval re-enactment society “Phoenix Warlords medieval re-enactment society”. This wide range of households meant that you had the chance to experience a whole range of different battle tactics. For the fighting style and moves of a fully armoured knight is vastly different from that of a Viking who, although wearing less protection, has the advantage of more speed and mobility. Not that I, as a poor humble fool (all be it Britain’s best poor humble fool) know a lot about fighting. My speciality is entertainment and as such I can say that these heroic warriors were very entertaining and not just on the field of battle. For they came equipped with every thing you’d expect war bands to have. Medieval tents, women cooking around the camp fires. Phoenix even brought their very own cannon with them! It was housed next to their “have a go archery”. Probably one of the most popular side shows in the event. This was where members of the public, both young and old alike, could practice their skills with the famous English longbow. All under the expert guidance of Some of England’s premier archers.
But what would a medieval event be without that most quintessential of medieval sports, jousting? That’s right folks, not only was all the above housed upon this, most green of England’s green fields, but they even had jousting and awesome stunt riding from none other than “The horsemen of the knight”. A foolishly brave troupe of medieval stunt riders who kept us all spellbound as, clad in shinning armour, they took part in death defying duels, charging at each other with lance in hand to the cheers, gasps and applause of public, both young and old.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, they displayed amazing acrobatic feats of skill. Hand stands on galloping horses and many another feat of daring horsemanship. The sight of which would not only get your heart pumping, but also leave the stoutest members of your local pony club reaching for their large bottle of vodka.
The most violent and bloodthirsty battle England’s ever seen, ever;
Both days ended with an awesome, furious battle, the likes of which have rarely, if ever, been seen on England’s fair lawn. These were no ordinary battles, oh no. For these were battles fought by the most fearless and blood thirsty of heartless, hardened warriors. A band of marauding rabid killers known collectively as “the children”.
Armed with long lengths of pipe cladding, soft enough to do no harm. All the children present were invited onto the field of honour to wage war upon each other. We did try to get the knights to join in, but upon seeing the unabated bloodlust and violence unleashed by these future warriors (of doom), what knights we could find were suddenly way to busy shinning shields, or hiding in the toilets saying things like “don’t send me out there. I’ll be good”. or softly sobbing “I want my mummy”.
All joking aside, the kids loved it as it was a chance to run riot and practice all the fighting skills that they had learnt through out the day. And from the parents point of view, they could laugh at their child’s antics knowing not only that the weapons were too soft to cause any damage, but also that, worn out by this last surge of mindless violence, their children were going to sleep well that night.
But I’ll give you a little bit of insider information. The dates for this, East Anglia’s finest medieval event, may well change next year! “What” I hear you cry! “Then how will we find out the new dates”? Fear not my trusty followers. For all you need to do is click on and like this link to “The Ancient Oak Medieval Festival Facebook Page”. Then be you a trader, re-enactor, family looking for a day out, or just someone who enjoys supping on fine ales whilst watching big hairy men beat the living daylights out of each other. The truth is you’ll be able to sleep soundly, knowing that you’ll receive updates with the new dates etc. sent straight to your very own Facebook news feed.
What’s next I hear thee cry;
But enough about battles past. For the fighting/festival season is over. Our tents are once again cleaned and stored away till next year and Stormageddon, his batteries removed, is placed safely back in his box until next spring springs upon us once more.
So what will we do now the seasons are a changing? Lots is the simple answer. We have a whole range of birthday parties we’ve been invited to. Both here in our own sweet village of Manea and further afield in London and beyond. Indeed we’ve more parties than past winters, due partly to the ever growing reputation of our entertainment and birthday circus workshops, but also possibly to the constant tweaking I’ve been doing to our website.
Now although I’m a magician, who’s just won his second world wide magicians competition (Dear Brian Watson, thank you so much for donating the coveted 1st prize wand holder trophy) I’m no website wizard. So I’m going to ask a wee favour of you all. Could you please take a few minutes to click on the “Birthday parties link” and look at the latest changes. If you’ve any suggestions then simply add them to the comments section on this blog and in return I promise to love you dearly. Each and every one of you.
The Cambridge Living History Fair;
But not only do we have birthday parties a plenty, we also have one more final yet fun filled medieval event. Namely “The Cambridge Living History fair”.
Held twice yearly the up coming autumn fair is being held at it’s usual venue in the Woodgreen animal shelter in Godmanchester, PE29 2NH. Every year this event goes from strength to strength, With more stalls, entertainment and customers than ever before. But although it’s a place to perchures all things historical, it’s not just a fair for re-enactors. For here you may see, taste and buy a number of items you’ll never find at any other market anywhere. Toys, as in real wooden wont be broken by new year cause they’re made of cheap plastic toys that, come Christmas morning, will delight children of all ages (even the grown up ones). Mead, the perfect winter warmer for those long, cold winter nights. Beautiful hand made dress’s, sown with love and care. The type that will look splendid on your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend (hey its the 21st century and who am I to judge). All these unique and splendid artefacts and many more can be found all under one roof. There’s even entertainment with story telling, my own sweet self jestering and yet more that we’re awaiting confirmation on. But it’s only on for two days, so make sure you bookmark October the 18th and 19th in your diaries and pick up some bargains galore at The Cambridge Living History Fair.
Well that’s all for now folks. So I bid thee all a fair farewell. If you’re children are lucky enough to be coming to a birthday party I’m performing at, then do yourself a favour and stay and watch. For although billed as a children’s entertainer, I personally look on our shows as family entertainment, with gags that appeal to all ages. If you’re an event organiser looking for good wholesome entertainment, then get in touch, but hurry as we’re already getting booking for next year and are unable to clone ourselves. And if you’re looking for some excellent entertainment for your childs birthday party (or indeed, your own) then please take a look at our “Birthday parties page” and let us make your child’s birthday party so special that it not only becomes the talk of the playground, but also the envy of all the other parents.
So until next time, I bid you all, fair thee well.
Your fabulous fool
25th England’s Medieval Festival review
The 25th England’s Medieval Festival is truly unique in many ways, two of which are as follows;
- Set within the 300 acres of woodland and beautiful landscaped gardens that surround Herstmonceux castle in East Sussex, England’s Medieval Festival is the biggest medieval event of it’s kind. But don’t let the size of the grounds put you off. For the festival, ever vigilant of your needs, has a whole fleet of golf carts laid on with the sole purpose of transporting you to where ever you need to go. So if, after watching the amazing DevilStick Peat in kids kingdom, you wish to quickly travel to the jousting field, just put out your hand, stop a cart and say “Good day good knight, merrily I do ask thee to transport myself and family to the jousting field of honour”, and your wish will be granted.
- With the availability of camping, glamping and even rooms, you get the chance to fully immerse yourself in a by gone age of chivalry, honour and (as you don’t have to drive) mead and fine ales. Not just for a few hours on a sunny Sunday afternoon, not just for 3 whole days, but also for 3 whole nights!
“But what” I hear thee cry “Makes England’s Medieval Festival worth visiting for the entire late August bank holiday”? Well I’m glad you asked. Pour yourself a drink and sit back whilst I tell you all about an average day in the life of an England’s Medieval Festival attendee.
Imagine the scene if you can. You arrive on the Friday evening to the sight of field after field full of brightly coloured medieval tents, their banners flapping in the gentle cooling breeze. You drive right up to your already erect tent and quickly unload as your children, full of excitement, play outside on the grass. Fighting black knights and invisible dragons that only they can see. Then, once sorted, you wander down, pass kids kingdom and living history encampments to the long marquee that houses one of the bars and a stage onwhich a band is merrily playing. Here you sup on one of the many ales on offer. Your wife tries a glass of honey mead and your kids, still fuelled by the energy born of youth, run riot on the soft green lawn, stopping only to gaze in awe at some of the knights frequenting a table.
Your son timidly approaches the knights and asks to see their swords. You’re about to tell him not to bother them, after all the event doesn’t actually start till tomorrow. Too late, the largest of the knights is standing tall, slowly pulling his heavy sword from its scabbard and showing it to your son. He even allows him to hold it and pose for a photo surrounded by the other knights. A photo that he will cherish for ever and the event hasn’t even opened yet!
After the long drive to England’s Medieval Festival and a couple of surprisingly nice ales, your ready to call it a day. The trouble is your children aren’t. This isn’t a problem as you decide on a compromise. You head back up towards the campsite, then take a quick stroll down behind kids kingdom to the outside cinema. Here your kids have the chance to calm down whilst watching a medieval movie. Not only that, but it also just happens to be right next to yet another tavern, giving you the chance for a last night cap before bed.
Come Saturday morning your kids are up with the sun. It’s only 5 30a.m. but they’re so full of excitement that they’re fit to burst and your painfully aware of two things;
- It’s 5 30a.m.
- Your neighbours don’t have children and are very probably still asleep! Or worst still, now awake and planning how to get your kids, or you into the stocks.
You throw some clothes on and take the kids for a stroll whilst your wife goes back to sleep. Outside there’s a mist that wraps around you and the festival. removing you from the modern world and, like the mists of Avalon, magically transporting you back in time to a long gone age. You find yourself in one of the living history encampments. It’s eerily silent as you and your children talk in hushed tones, discussing the various implements outside the camps. Maybe you stroll through the beautiful gardens, or up into the woods, your kids wide eyed at the sight of a squirrel scrambling around on the ground before running up an ancient oak tree (the squirrel that is, not your kids). Maybe you head up to the swings and wooden play area far from tents and sleeping people (which, judging by the time of day and amount of weapons here, isn’t such a bad idea). Eventually you decide that its now a slightly more civilized hour and head back to camp. Here you meet up with your wife and head down towards the festival stalls and the wonderful smells of bacon, sizzling sausages and well needed coffee.
After a breakfast fit for a king you return to your tent and get ready for a day filled with fun, fun and fun. Your daughter is dressed in a blue and black dress with a purple cloak and looks surprisingly similar to princess Anna. Your son is dressed as a knight in armour, complete with plastic sword in hand and as you look at him, so the child inside you wishes that you too had a costume to wear.
Suddenly there’s the loud bang of a cannon firing. Rooks fly squawking from trees. You jump. Your kids scream and your wife, who’s just emerged from the tent, dives back in to change her underwear. “What was that”? your daughter asks with wide eyes. “That” you say as a smile slowly spreads across your face “means the festivals open”.
The fun begins;
As you hurry down to the festival your wife cant help but wonder who’s more excited, the kids or you. Your first port of call is the living history encampments that you wandered through earlier. Now they are a hive of activity. Smoke rises from innumerable camp fires. Here a maid is working a spinning wheel. There a lady is platting her daughters hair, as was the fashion in those days. A knight is sitting on a wooden stall, gazing intently at the long sword blade that he is running an oiled cloth along. Next to him, laid out on the ground is his armour and you stop to look at it. Another, younger knight emerges from the medieval tent, looks at your son, then says “Would you like to try it on”? Your son looks at you for the ok, his eyes wide in wonder. You nod and watch as the breastplate is put carefully over his shoulders and the full faced helmet on his head. In 5 minutes he has learnt more about medieval knights than any school history lesson could ever teach him.
You become aware that the first knight has stopped cleaning his sword and has now turned his gaze towards you. “”Sir Fredric” he says to his fellow knight “I think the young man isn’t the only one who’d like to try it on”. Any attempt to play the responsible adult has now long since left you, replaced by that inner child we all secretly house. Dressed in breastplate, chainmail and helmet and with sword in hand you turn towards your wife for a photo and as you stand there, beaming like a chester cat, so you cant help but notice not only your wifes look of approval, but also the glint in her eye as she stares at her very own knight in armour.
After the living history encampments you decide to head back towards the front of the castle and sit on a slope to its side. Here you’ll get a perfect view of what’s about to happen. The area in front of the castle is roped off and you all watch, spell bound as an argument breaks out between the leaders of the two armies. An argument that results in an epic battle known famously as,
The siege of Herstmonceux;
A giant catapult, or trebuchet to use it’s proper name, launches projectile after projectile towards the castle. The sky darkens as arrows fill the air. A blood curdling cry rings out from the armies as screaming, they charge towards each other, each side set on the demise of their foes. This is no staged battle, with rehearsed moves and pulled punches. The soldiers on this field are fighting a real fight. When a sword smashes into a mans breastplate you can hear the resounding crash of metal beating upon metal, with a force that makes one wince in sympathy for his poor victim. These reenactors are men, real men, who are partaking in real fights with real, heavy weapons. They don’t get paid for it. They do it as a hobby, because that’s what they do. Where as me? I do nothing dangerous, I do it not for a hobby, but for money, and they call me the fool! (There’s something wrong there). Your sitting safely to the side, high up on a grassed bank, but still you feel a surge of adrenaline pulsating through you as spell bound, you watch as men fall whilst others roar in triumphant victory. All this and it’s not even dinner time yet.
The battle over and the dead miraculously brought back to life by the crowd shouting that most magical of spells.” The beer tents open”. It’s time to enjoy the rest of the festival. Your wife wants to peruse the medieval market. Your kids want to investigate the apply named “kids kingdom”. You want to check out the medieval band that’s about to start in the beer tent. It’s not a problem, for what you miss today, you can enjoy tomorrow, or the next day. So your wife heads off towards the medieval market and you’re left in charge of the kids. You take them to the kids kingdom where, on a stage set between two oak trees, surrounded by hay bails and with a backdrop of medieval tents, a jester is getting ready for a show. Your kids head for the front row and you sit yourself at the back with the other adults.
The stage set, the jester walks on, arms raised as the crowd claps. He cuts them short, telling them that was rubbish. That his wife makes more noise than that on the toilet. Again he walks on, this time to clapping and cheers. Again he tells them it’s still not loud enough. “This time you have to clap, cheer, scream, throw little kids in the air and go crazy” he says. Again he walks on. The crowd goes truly crazy, and he hasn’t even started yet.
You thought you were going to spend half an hour bored, whilst your kids watch a children’s entertainer in a jesters costume. How wrong you were. For this is no children’s show. This is a family show. Good wholesome family entertainment for everyone. Performed not by a children’s entertainer in a costume, but by Brittan’s best ever real live jester. The one and only DevilStick Peat. But don’t be surprised, for that’s exactly what England’s Medieval Festival is all about. Good family entertainment for everyone, regardless of age.
The show is a mixture of tommy cooper type magic (all with a medieval feel) and highly skilled juggling. All of it bound together with a unique sense of humour that has you laughing as loudly as your kids. After the show Peats wife, Jester Dragonfly runs “The Jesters School of Jestering“. A juggling workshop where you and your kids can learn many of the skills DevilStick Peat used in his show. As you watch, one of her children teaches your daughter how to use a diablo, and you find yourself thinking that nothing is more authentic than a child following in her parents footsteps.
Drums, Hog Roast and Never Ending Bananas;
Then it’s dinner time and you make your way down to the front of the castle where you’ve arranged to meet your wife. She’s watching the musicians on the castle stage. You give her a peck on the cheek but say nothing. After all there’s no point in trying to talk, not while the 30 plus drummers from “The Pentacle Drummers” are playing like there’s no tomorrow. The sound of their drums is awesome. It fills your whole body. Entering via the ears it travels down to the stomach where it vibrates like thunder. Awakening some strange primeval instinct that forces your whole body to bop to the deep beat of beating drums.
Eventually their set is over and they collapse in a heap of fatigued, sweaty bodies and you go over towards the “buxom wench” beer tent. Outside and to one side, roasting over a wood fire, is a hog. It’s golden brown meat and wonderful smell makes your mouth water. You don’t care if there’s 20 people in the queue. You don’t just want, you need a roast hog bun.
You join the queue and watch as your kids play at sword fighting with other children. Suddenly they stop playing and watch gob smacked as the jester from kids kingdom comes strolling down the road. As he walks, so he removes a small white ball from his mouth. Then another one and another and another. By the time his reached you he’s taken maybe 30 balls out of his mouth and still others appear. He stops and looks into the beer tent, seemingly oblivious to the attention he’s got from the queue. Another 10 balls are removed from his mouth before he notices the children. He gives them an embarrassed smile, then another balls slowly appears in his mouth. The group of children are in hysterics as ball after ball is removed from his mouth. Then he takes a banana from his bag with his left hand. He looks at it confused, shrugs and transfers it to his right hand. As he puts it in the bag, so he notices that another banana has magically appeared in his left hand. Again he transfers it to his right hand. Again another banana appears in his left hand. Again and again, every time he takes it with his right hand, another banana replaces it in his left. He looks at the children and does it slowly, really slowly so that they can see how he does it, but of cause they cant. You look at the wide eyed look of wander in your daughters eyes and are about to point it out to your wife but stop as you realise that she too is watching with wide eyed wander and disbelief. Suddenly your aware of someone talking to you. It’s the man serving the hog roast. Your now at the front of the queue and you didn’t even notice the wait.
The Mud Stage and Jousting;
Your lunch over you decide it’s time to slowly make your way up to the top field where the jousting happens. As you make your way there, so you see a stage unlike any other you’ve ever seen. Sure it’s large and square with hay bails around it, like all the other stages, but this stage isn’t made of wood. it’s made of mud. Thick, gooey, dark mud. The actors on, or rather in this stage are performing a comic slapstick routine and you stop, take a seat and watch a while. Then they ask for a volunteer. With a bullet like speed your on your feet. Unfortunately your wife’s hand is faster than a bullet and she pulls you back down again. You look at her with pleading eyes, but it’s of no use. She’s giving you “that look”. The silent one that says everything. For a second or two your disappointed, but then you remember that not only are you here for 3 whole days, but so is the mud stage. Inside you secretly smile as you decide that tomorrow you’ll make dammed sure that your here without her.
Blacksmith, movies, cider and mead;
The show over, you wipe mud from the children and head towards the jousting. You soon realise that, like the battle, this is not a staged show. Neither the commentator or the knights in armour know who will win this championship, or who will be planted firmly on the ground as, at lightning speed, they charge towards each other armed only with a shield and lance. This really is as true and authentic jousting as you’re ever going to see anywhere, ever.
After the joust you hail a golf cart to take you and your son over to the blacksmiths. There are many activities that you and your children can take part in at England’s Medieval Festival, and blacksmithing is just one of them. Run by James from “odyssey blacksmiths”, this is a great yet fun educational workshop and you’ve had the good sense to book it in advance. Whilst you’re there, your wife and daughter walk through the medieval market where they stumble across a stall called “Magic Mead”. She knows that mead is made from honey, but never imagined that there were so many types of mead. Yet this stall is filled with row upon row of different flavoured meads. Raspberry mead, cherry mead, rhubarb mead and my personal favourite, chilli mead. All laid out before you with samplers on request. By the time they sit down to watch the birds of prey soaring and swooping around the royal arena, your wife has a bag with several bottles of mead. All of which I’ve tried and give my personal seal of approval too. Magic meads meads really are, well, magic.
Eventually the afternoon turns into the early evening. For those silly enough to only have day tickets, the day is over, but not for you. For you were wise enough to buy a weekend long glamping pass. You lucky man you.
The sound of the rousting band playing in the buxom wench tavern, although raucous, in no way interferes with “A knights tale”, the movie the kids are watching at the open air cinema as you relax with a glass of cider from the adjacent tavern. You smile as your children, now experts in all thing medieval, point out inaccuracies in the costumes. “We should think about getting some food” says your wife. You look at your watch and, in an attempt to stall for time, suggest that you let the kids watch the movie first. Then, before she can argue, you make a suggestion. “why don’t you go and put on that dress you brought today. I’ll stay here and keep an eye on the kids”.
Your wife returns just as the movie finishes. “well” she says, “what do you think”? She’s wearing the crimson medieval style dress she’d brought from one of the stalls. “radiant” you say in all honesty. “You need a necklace with that dress” says your son and he pulls out the pendent he made at the blacksmiths earlier. Its a twirly black piece of iron work and not badly made either. Your wife wears it with pride and you look at your watch. “come on kids” you say “time for dinner”.
A Meal Fit for a King;
You lead your family past the food stalls and around to the castle. You cant help smiling as you just know they’re going to enjoy this meal. A meal like no other. “are you sure we’re allowed in here” asks your wife as you enter the castles drawbridge room. “Oh yes” you say as you produce some tickets that you hand over to the young maiden at the door “quite sure”. You take two glasses of mead, one for each of you and pure fruit juice for the kids. Then you lead the way up the grand staircase and into the castles banqueting hall, which is all laid out for a medieval banquet. The look of surprise on your wife’s face as she realises that you’ve booked 4 seats at the banquet makes it more than worth the money and you beam with pride as you take your seats. The meal it’s self is several courses long and between each course there’s entertainment. Sometimes minstrel’s, sometimes dancers. Near the end of the evening the king, sitting at the high table calls for his jester and in enters none other than yours truly, DevilStick Peat, the very best in “banqueting entertainment”.
Your children, who only minutes earlier were yawning sleepily are now wide awake as the highlight of their day performs another set, with different yet equally amazing and amusing magic, including his very own medieval version of the infamous “glass bottle, bottle glass” routine. Then the banquet draws to a close and you head out of the castle. Your son is dead on his feet, tiered out from the days fun filled activities and you daughter? Well she’s already asleep in your arms as you carry her back to the tent. You have no idea what she’s dreaming of, but it’s a sure bet that it involves castles, knights in armour and a certain red and yellow jester (who just happens to be available for “birthday parties”). Your wife wraps her arm around your waist, pulling you close as she whispers a thank you into your ear. It’s only two simple words, but it’s said in a way that makes you walk tall and proud.
The perfect end to a perfect day;
Once back at the tent you put the kids to bed, then head over to the campfire. It’s only a few feet from your tent, so you can keep an eye on it as you chat with other revellers. Sharing tales and highlights of the day with each other. Eventually your wife yawns sleepily and suggests that maybe it’s time to hit the sack. The campfire is warm and inviting, but so is your bed. You walk back to the tent and tell your wife that you’ll be in in a minute. You just want to enjoy the warm clear night. As you sit outside the tent, thinking about how much fun its been, you open your programme. On the timetable you cross out the bits you’ve seen and circle the bits you still want to see (or in the case of DevilStick Peat, want to see again). Then you hear your wife calling you to bed and something in her soft tone tells you that the nights entertainment is still far from over.
And that folks, is a very condensed view of just one day at England’s medieval festival. The first day, when the festivals still just warming up. So what are you waiting for? Just follow the following link and book yourself into 3 days of fun, glamping and fun at “England’s Medieval Festival”. The best medieval festival in the whole of Herstmonceux.
Up and coming events
In two weeks time we’re taking our “Total Immersion Show” to a completely new show called “The Ancient Oak Medieval Fayre”. We’re actually really excited about this event as, although it’s a new event, it’s run by the same people who used to run the Snailwell medieval fayre. This means that it promises to be a great, action and fun filled event for both public and reenactors alike. Its being held on September the 23rd and 24th at Quy Park, Stow Road, Stow-cum-Quy, Cambs, CB25 9AF, United Kingdom. So if your looking for a good end of season event, then come along and say hi.
Next week we’re at not one, but two events. On Saturday the 16th I’m performing my show and walk about routines at “The Cherry Hinton Festival” in Cambridge. This is a free to enter event and full of loads of different types of things happening all day long. I performed here 2 years ago and was well impressed not only by the variety of entertainment, but also by the professional way it was run.
Then that night we head down to kent ready to again perform shows and walk about, this time at “The Faversham Food Festival”. I’ve never performed at this event before so cant comment on it, other than to say that, judging by the write up on their website they are also having a lot of none food related entertainment there. So if you’re in the area, then why not come along and say hi. You know you want to.
Today we had my sons 6th birthday party. Can you believe that Stormageddon is 6 already! It only seems like yesterday that he first appeared in my show, performing the hand balance (of doom) routine. It was a pirate party and the D.J. was a very good mate of ours who goes by the name of “Andy the clown”. Not only did he dress up in a pirate costume, but he also had loads of pirate themed music. He was a brilliant D.J. and when it comes to clowning, he is nearly as funny as me.
Lastly I’m going to leave you with a song by my good friend, Vollsanger. Why? Well it’s in honour of a good friend who recently passed away. He was one of the first reenactors I ever met and very respected in the trade. So fill up your tankards, turn up the volume and join me in a toast to our good friend “Gandelf Strutt”
I apologise for the fact that it’s been so long since the last blog entry. This is because DevilStick Peat and Jester Dragonfly have been so busy performing that they just haven’t had the time to put pen to paper, let alone finger tips to keyboard. That’s why this entry is being written by the true star of our shows, the one and only Stormagedden.
Well since the last entry mummy and daddy have helped me at various events. We’ve ran juggling workshops for various brownie and guide groups and daddy even earnt his girl guides circus badge! These are diffrent from our normal circus workshops, as they a specially designed to get them through their respected badges. When we tought our local guides pack we were joined by two of my sisters, nat and Sophie. Nat is great at teaching diabolo, Sophie is great with poi and I’m great at looking cute and getting all the girl guides to fuss me and tell me how sweet I am (cause I is).
We’ve also worked at several birthday parties, where daddy performs his magic juggling show (the one that has juggling and magic in it). Then mummy and daddy teach all the girls and boys how to juggle, stilt-walk and plate spinning. I like birthday parties. O.K so having to watch daddies show and pretend to laugh at his jokes is boring, but there’s always cake, crisps and e numbers to eat before the car journey home. Quite why adults insist on giving me e numbers before putting me in a confined space is beyond me, but they’re adults, so they must know best.
Battle Medieval Fayre
Then daddy had a weekend away at the Battle Medieval Fayre. Although i didnt go this year, i know from previous years just what a great event this is.
It’s always held on the late may Bank holiday, is free to enter and has loads of things going on. There’s, drummers drumming, a parade that parades through the town, may pole dancing around the maypole, fighting knights in armour fighting with swords and lots more.
Daddy says that this was the first real proper paid gig he ever done, many moons ago when I was but a twinkle in his eye. “What” said I “when you still had hair and a six pack”? I was sent to bed early that night.
Home-Ed Circus Camp
Then Mummy and Daddy took my 3 sisters and I to the foolhardy home ed circus camp.
Held in the school holidays (although why when they are home educated is beyond me) this week long camp is where home educated children get the chance to train alongside professional circus artist. For 4 hours a day, every day classes are held in age appropriate groups. In the Foolhardy Circus big top the older children train hard in skills such as trapeze, juggling, clowning and magic. In the 2 slightly smaller panic family circus big tops the middle and younger children also train in tightrope, juggling, clowning etc. I even got to demonstrate how to use the tightrope to the younger kids. Then, in our very little big top (a mere 14 foot across) parents can relax with a cuppa whilst thier babies enjoy the shade offered by our tents, or practice thier own juggling skills care of our workshop equipment whilst kids listened to stories or raced on bouncy dragons (of doom).
Daddy says it’s not a well paid gig, but it’s an important one as some of these kids really will be the next generation of circus and festival performers. In deed, several of them already have the skills and stage presents of a pro. I don’t know about that, but I do know that next to the tea urn there’s always an endless supply of biscuits which, togeather with the nightly shows makes it the best circus camp I’ve ever been to ever.
Templecombe Medieval Pageant
Unfortunately daddy had to leave a couple of days before the camp finished as he was booked to perform at the Templecombe medieval pageant down in the west Country. It must be so hard for daddy, having to leave mummy and his 4 lovely children, just so that he can spend 3 nights surrounded by hardened drinkers. Oh how he must of missed us. Apparently the land owner has had a new sheep pen built that just happens to look like a medieval tavern. It was all paid for by donations from re-enactors. The names of which are proudly displayed on Shields that adorn the walls and ceilings. And there, hanging over the bar was the name of another jester, Firery Jack (who is not only my God daddy, but also nearly as funny as daddy). I understand that daddy is in negotiations with them about having a shield put up above Firery Jack’s. One that says
“DevilStick Peat, funnier than”!
We’ve also been working at various country fairs. These included the Cambridge town and country fair. A really big, free to enter event on parkers piece, right in the middle of the city, and Dansan park country fair, in Dansan park in London and the Rockingham country fair at Rockingham castle.
I love the country fairs as some of my bestest friends ever go to them. There’s Stan, the bouncy castle man. I love stan almost as much as I love his really tall bouncy slides and one of my jobs at these festivals is to incourage other children to go on them. I do this by spending hours and hours running up and sliding down them. It’s really hard work but I don’t mind because I love Stan and want to help him.
Then there’s the land train. They always get me to ride on the back and help people get on and off. Again it’s hard work, having to smile and wave as we pass people, but it does give my legs a little brake before I go back to stans bouncy castles.
And of cause there’s Sue. I love Sue and when I grow up I’m going to marry her. She works for Totally Alive and let’s me help her feed some of them and put them away at night. Then, after we’ve finished work, if she’s been good, I take her to the beer tent and read her a story from one of my school books before I go to bed.
Totally Alive also have ferrets, goats, sheep, cute little rabbits that you can pet, birds of prey (that you cant pet), ponies, all sorts of weird and wonderful chickens and of cause, last but by no means lest, blue the wallaby.
We even done a corporate event last month. It was the companies 30th birthday. So it’s owner hired out a country pub and put on a big medieval party in the beer garden. There was birds of prey and stocks where you could throw sponges at management and tug of war and bands. Mummy and daddy even done their fire juggling routines in the night time. But the bestest bit of all. Even better than the bouncy castles, was the padding pool. It was full of really cold water and had bottles of soft drinks in it, but that’s not what made it so great. What made it so great and even more awesome than the power rangers was the water pistols. Imagine a foam rubber bicycle pump filled with water. One that can shoot a jet of water 30 foot across a field. Add to this loads of hyper excited children and a really hot day. Within about 5 minutes of the event opening I was drenched from head to foot, as was every other child, and any adults silly enough to get within range.
They even gave me 2 to take home and daddy says his going to have loads of fun taking them to events where he can shoot friends whilst remaining hidden in his tent. But apparently I’m not allowed to tell you that, so I won’t.
We’ve also performed free of charge for various good causes like the kingsfield school summer fete. Daddy says it’s important to support your local community, but personally I think he does it for the box of chocolates they give him every year.
Well that’s just some of the highlights of the last couple of months. But before I sign off and go back to my other job (I.E. being the multi coloured power ranger, but shhhhh, that’s a secret) I best tell you a little about some up and coming events.
This weekend we’re at the 2nd of this years Loxwood Joust. Held over the first two weekends of August this is by far the bestest and most unique medieval event of the year. It’s got men in armour fighting for king and country, super cool jousting, lovely music from the medieval babes, a witches wood and lots more, including a brand spanking new torture area with blood, guts and all the other really cool stuff that us kids love.
My sisters and I will be there both weekends running my Total immersion Show (with a little help from mummy and daddy). And this year I’m going to try and remember not to leave the top layer of finger skin stuck firmly to the really really hot fire box!
You can read all about last year’s joust and just how much fun it was here
The Ancient Oak Medieval Fayre
We’re also performing at a brand new medieval event in September. it’s called “the ancient oak medieval fayre” and is being organised by the same people who used to run the Snailwell medieval festival. Mummy says that means it’s bound to be a fun filled gig with a nice family feel to it. Daddy says that one day all these event organizers will learn how to spell “fair”.
British Juggling Convention
Next April we’re all going to the British juggling convention in Canterbury. Daddies been asked to perform in the big, posh public show. He says its not the first time his been asked to perform at it, but it’s still a great honour to perform for some of the worlds best jugglers ever. Jugglers, clowns and circus type folk from all over the world will converge on Canterbury for 9 whole days of fun, juggling and circus type things. Apparently there will be lesions in everything from “this is how to juggle” right through to “this is how to juggle 9 balls behind your back”! And lots of shows, games, and fun fun fun.
On the subject of how to juggle, heres a little video of me teaching 3 ball juggling
Welll hats all for now as I have to go and fight the monsters in my bedroom. The imaginary ones that only I can see (cause I’m a super hero)
(Power ranger, super hero and jester)
(But very nearly 6)t
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
P.S. To check my availability, or to see where I’m performing next, please check out our events page
Everyone wants their child’s birthday party to be the best party ever. That’s only natural. After all, that’s why I’m so popular and busy. But ensuring that you’ve booked the best entertainer money can buy isn’t the be all and end all of making a great day special. There’s so much more that you can do to guarantee that your child’s birthday party isn’t just the talk of the playground, but also of all the other parents.
And that’s just what this blog is going to be about.
I’ve been performing at birthday parties for 30 years and the following simple to implement party tips are based on that 30 years of experience. Some of them might sound obvious to you. Others you might not of thought about. But if you only get one simple idea from this blog, then today’s mission has been a success.
These party tips are offered to you free of charge. Regardless of whether you book myself, or the world’s second best children’s entertainer. Why? Because it’s my honest belief that your child not only deserves their special day, but also that their special day should be one that’s never forgotten. Not just by you, the other parents and their children, but most of all by the birthday child. And following these few simple party tips will really help to do just that.
- Avoid a clash of dates with a classmate whose party might fall on the same day by getting your party invites out in good time. Many parent follow this up with a reminder invite a week or so before the big day.
- If you tie a bunch of balloons to the front door, fence etc; it guides not just Peat, but also all your guests to the party house and helps to build up the excitement and set the party mood before they even enter the building.
- Let other parents know what’s happening when. Peat likes to get set up before the children arrive, so he can greet them on arrival. Also it’s horrible for a child to arrive knowing he has missed part of the show, or worse still, having to leave part way through the show! So please put the times that he has been engaged for on the invitations.
- Get a BIG cardboard box and, as the children arrive, put the presents that they bring safely into the box so that they may be opened AFTER THE PARTY. This way not only will you know who brought what so that thank you letters can be sent, but this also ensures that nothing gets lost or broken during games etc.
- Save squeakers, hats, blowers and balloons till the end or they could spoil the party! Hang the balloons up (out of reach) and give one to each child as a going home present. Don’t leave them on the floor as they won’t last long and may result in a crying child!
- Seating the children around a table to eat in another room is always preferable because you isolate the food and drink in one area. This gives the children a subconscious message that it’s time to calm down and eat.
- Don’t serve ice-cream, sweets or other refreshments once the show has begun it’s asking for trouble! Most of the food will end up on your carpet and sticky fingers will get everywhere.
- Having a party outside, without a large marquee and a solid floor IS NOT a good idea. Rain and mud can ruin not only my props, but also someone’s best part dress. Hot sunshine can often result in restless children, or worse still, short tempered children. A sudden change in the weather can mean that children are running for cover whilst I franticly pack up my props before moving under cover and birthday photos of little sally with a ruined hair do and a soggy jester just aren’t nice for anyone. However, you might find it more convenient to feed the children in the garden should the weather be warm and dry (but be aware of wasps).
- If you have hired a bouncy castle, please let it down before I start my show. This will not only help me to gather them into an audience, but also insure that they all watch the show that you have paid for. After all, if one child goes off for a bounce, all the other children will follow, and we both really will want them to watch and get the most out of my show.
- Parents and other adults are very welcome to watch the show providing that they sit at the back and behave themselves!
- If the children have to leave a show before the end they, quite naturally, get very upset and it disturbs the other children too. So try to get any parents that arrive early to wait until the performance is over.
- When you want Peat to return for another party, he will give a different show, but you need to let me know that it’s a return visit. The truth is that I do so many birthdays that I cant possibly remember every one. However I do keep a data base of what shows were performed for which booking.
- Peat loves animals, but some pets find a room full of excited children very alarming and not all children are comfortable around animals. For both their sakes, please keep all animals in a separate room.
- Do you really want the party at home? Think carefully about this. Is the room Peat’s to perform in wide enough (I alone need a 6 foot wide by 10 foot deep area)? Is there enough ceiling height (minimum 10 foot)? Are there lots of fragile Ming vases etc. just waiting to be knocked over? A village or church hall only cost a few pounds, yet offers enough room for all the children to run around and wear themselves out, ensuring you a peaceful night. Also, it’s a lot easier to remove ice-cream, jelly and sticky goodness knows what up from a halls floor than it is from your new white carpets, sheepskin rugs etc.
So that’s my party tips. Like I say, many of them might seem obvious to you, but if no one says them, then how will folk know? Also, if you’ve got any that I haven’t mentioned, please feel free to add them in the comments as we here at the fools house love reading all your feedback.
For more information on our unique birthday parties, including our ever popular circus skills workshops, please click here
Lastly, if you’ve liked this blog, then please share it as you might just be helping other parents, and if you’ve really really liked it, then why not scroll back up to the top and look to the right of the page. There you’ll find a link by which one may subscribe to this blog on the life, trials and tribulations of DevilStick Peat. A modern day, medieval fool
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.
We arrived at the venue early (to be early is to be on time,
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.
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.
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.
Now, before I go, I’d like to remind you all that it’s now possible to subscribe to my blog. There by insuring that you never miss another thrilling instalment. Simply scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your email address. Then, every time I get the time to blog, you’ll get a cute little email letting you know. so go on, you know you want too.
Lastly, it for you haven’t liked my Facebook page yet, don’t worry, there’s still time just go to Facebook.com/d.s.peat and click on like.
Beach within reach;
Before I tell you about the best medieval festival entertainment this year, let me ask you a question. How many of you have fond memories of taking your kids to the beach? Of helping them build sandcastles? Of enjoying their squeals of delight as they paddle amongst the waves?
Yep, me too. Now imagine that you’ve never been able to join them on the beach! Or worst still, they’ve never been able to join you on the beach! Why? Because wheelchairs and soft sand really don’t mix.
Enter “Beach Within Reach” A wonderful bunch of people with one simple aim. To lend out beach friendly wheelchairs to anyone that needs them. These come with special, wide wheels designed to stay on, as opposed to in, the sand. They can even go in the water. Thereby enabling not just parents and grandparents to join in the family fun, but also little Billy or Jane.
Now personally I think that this charity is awesome. Not just in the simplicity of their aim, but also in the effect it can have on the whole family. Making memories that can last a lifetime.
They don’t charge for this service. Their only payment is the knowledge that they’ve helped make your day special. But there’s a problem
These all terrain wheelchair ain’t cheap. Plus there’s the cost of maintaining them to a high standard. That’s why Sandwich medieval fayre gave them a free stand at the event. It’s also why I’m giving them a big shout out on my blog.
Now I don’t expect you all to go empty your bank accounts to help them, but there are a number of other ways you can help.
If you’re putting on an event in the area, why not offer them a free stall to fundraise from. Better still, put on an event to help raise money on their behalf. If you do, and I’m free. I’ll even come along and perform free of charge.
When all is said and done, a day on the beach with your loved ones is hardly one of life’s greatest luxuries.
Unless of cause, you’re a child who’s never had the chance.
The best medieval festival entertainment this year;
Due to prior commitments we didn’t get to sandwich till very late on the Friday evening. So rather than wake the whole site up by hammering in tent pegs, we stayed in a travelodge instead. this was handy as it gave us a chance to fill up the tea caddy free of charge. Now I’ll tell you a little known fact about travelodge. Years and years ago radio 4 done a damming report all about travelodge. Obviously travelodge wasn’t to pleased about this. Which is why, to this day, their T.V.’s have only have radios 1, 2, 3 and 5. There’s not a travelodge in the land that has radio 4 on it’s tellies. Talk about holding a grudge.
I’ve called this blog entry “the best medieval festival entertainment this year”, because for us, that’s just what “The Sandwich Medieval Fayre” was. We arrived on site early Saturday morning and were met by Barrie and Kate. They were the two main organizers of the event and, considering the amount of stress organizers suffer on the opening day, so laid back they were almost horizontal. A real pleasure to work with. They even let us decide where to pitch our tents. This was great, as it meant that I could juggle 5 balls without being blinded by the sun.
We were performing our “Total Immersion” Show and the promise of a hot day meant that we had
loads of happy crowds and soon “The Jesters School Of……..well……..Jestering” was full of happy kids. Eagerly they tried and learned new skills and a larger than average amount of adults also joined in the fun. A sure sign that today was going to be a good day for both, them and us.
The first performance was “The Medieval Siege Society” trebuchet. A giant medieval catapult that sent cabbages sawing into the distance to the cheers of the crowd. Then came the first battle of the day. People cheered and boo’d as the two armies, muskets, swords and pikes in hand, clashed in mortal combat (and sweaty armour). This was followed by jousting from “the knights of the dammed”, one of England’s best stunt riding and jousting teams. As per normal, they put on a great display, leaving both the public and reenactors alike, very impressed. Hyped up by an over load of mindless violence, the3 crowds were in the mood for still more fun and merriment. Which was handy for me as it was now time for my first show of the day.
The Knife Juggling Routine (of doom);
I soon gathered a crowd around our encampment. To the front of the crowd sat the children. Behind them stood the parents. behind them, standing back a bit from the crowd, stood the adults who wanted to watch the show, but didn’t want to be seen enjoying a children’s show. I enticed them closer, joking about how they can just pretend to be with the children. Most took the hint and moved closer, ready to see if I was worth watching or not.
Although I advertise as a children’s entertainer, I class myself as a family entertainer. This is because my show has jokes and skills that can be enjoyed by all ages. Not just the kids, but also those holding the cheque books. And when I stand there, waving 3 large, offencive looking knifes in the air shouting “who wants to see the weirdo hurt himself”? It’s always the adults who shout the loudest.
My knife juggling routine (of doom) is a funny piece of entertainment that combines both skill and comedy. The part where I go from juggling the knives, straight into balancing one on my chin always gets a great reaction. Today was no different and I fed off of the applause and cheers. Although I say so myself, today I was on form. I.E. the knife ended up point upwards on my chin. Not point downwards and sticking out of my eye. Always a bonus.
I must’ve done something right as after the show I got rid of most of my business cards. Always a good sign that they enjoyed the show. The organisers even allowed me to add some friends to the guest list. So they were also happy.
The heat of the afternoon sun mellowed the crowds with many retreating to the shade of the large beer tent to hear the bands whilst sampling the cool beers and ciders that were on offer. Due to the positioning of the beer tent and it’s open front, it was possible to enjoy it’s shade whilst still seeing the jousting or birds of prey. More importantly, you could hide from the sun whilst still keeping an eye on the kids as they battled imaginary dragons with wooden swords brought from one of the many medieval stalls.
Dinner and music;
After the days festivities had ended, we quickly secured our tents and headed off site to Dover for food and a romantic touch of nostalgia.
Dover is where I lived when I met my wife. Whenever she’d come to stay I’d treat her to an indian meal. In my life I’ve traveled the world, including Asia. In my opinion the indian restaurant in dover was one of the best I’ve ever found. Beaten only by osho’s in Mandvi, India. All day long I’d mentally been savouring its pallet burning delicious delicacies. So I was a little disappointed to discover that it has now changed hands. The meal was still very nice but, unlike the romance that blossomed there, no longer the best ever.
After the meal we headed straight back to site and enjoyed an evening comprising of lovely, cool cider, really good bands, and pleasant conversation with crew and reenactors. Eventually, tiered out by working in the heat of the sun, we retired to our tents and peacefully fell asleep as the music continued in the background.
Magic dealers And Credit Cards
Sunday was pretty much the same as Saturday, but with two major differences.
A) Zanes magic shop turned up with a stall
B) Jester Dragonfly allowed me to approach it with a pocket that contained not one, but 2 credits cards!
I like both, Zanes magic shop and it’s owner, Zane. He is a nice man, easy to get on with and more interested in making sure you’re a happy customer than he is in making a sale. End result? I’m now working on a routine based around a tightrope walking, acrobatic flea. More on that when the routine is ready.
As the show came to an end, so I wandered over to the exit. here I would joke with the public as they left site. This is important for several reasons. By laughing and joking with the public as they leave, So I put a strong ending to the day, meaning that they leave feeling happy and not sad because the days over. Something I call positive psychology. Also it gives me the chance to get any feed back from them and pass it on to the organisers so that they can constantly improve year after year. It came as no surprise to me that all the feed back was positive. After all, it has been the best medievfal entertainment this year.
The day ended but, rather than eagerly pack and leave, we instead took the unusual step of relaxing first. After all, not only had we been working in the heat all day long, but we’d also been doing it in woolen clothing! Or motley to give a fools costume its proper title.
As I sat there, enjoying a last cider (Jester Dragonfly was doing the drive home), so I looked at the new kit I’d brought from Zanes. My thoughts jumped back and forth between two things. One was the tightrope walking flea routine (Of doom) and the other was my greatest fear. Indeed it’s surly the greatest fear of every magician in the world. Not, as one might expect, that a trick will fail, but rather that, should I die before my wife, then she, in all innocence, will sell all my magic for the price I told her it cost!
Next week we’re performing our “Total Immersion Show” at “The Shugborough country fair”. We’ve never done this show before, but have had some good reports about it. There’s a medieval village, birds of prey, a horse display and loads more. So if your in the area then come and say hi to the cool fool and co. Go on, you know it makes sense.
This coming weekends event;
Before I tell you about puppet psychology, let me tell you about next weekend.
This Saturday, the 9th of July I’ll be performing in Earith. It’s the primary School’s summer party. Ran by Friends Of Earith School.
It’s a fun filled day where you can enjoy yourselves safe in the knowledge that you’re helping a good cause. I.E. the education of children.
It’s being held at Earith Primary school, School Road, Earith, PE28 3QB
I’m performing there all afternoon, so do come and say “Hi”.
I’m going to share with you a little trick of the trade that I like to call “Puppet psychology”. I was booked to perform at a 2 day country fair in Danson Park in Bexleyheath. The show opened at 10 a.m. and my first show was at 10 30 a.m. Doing a show half an hour after the event has opened can be somewhat problematic, as most people don’t want to stop for a show. Their instinct is to look around first and see what’s where. Luckily for me, over the years I’ve developed several strategies to convince them otherwise. This time I decided to use my favorite way. It’s my favourite way as it’s a little bit devious, in the sense that they wont know that they are stopping to watch a show until it’s too late.
The puppet set up;
I set up my stand in my allotted place, on the side of the walkway and stood in the middle of the path facing the entrance. In my hands was a puppet I call “Woodbine“, my pot noodle eating, burping polecat (of doom) and waited. I made a point of not looking at anyone, preferring instead to look into the distance, behind them. My head was bobbing about a little as I tried to look over and beyond the people heading my way. This head bobbing was important as it really helps to get their attention, even from a distance.
After a couple of minutes a family stopped, transfixed by Woodbine, trying to work out if he was real or not. After a few seconds I pretended to suddenly notice them, but only the children. I moved closer as I spoke to the two children, making a point of not looking the adults in the eye. Then, once woodbine was a few inches from the oldest boys face, he suddenly pulled his head out of the pot and burped in the child’s face. It was a long, loud, deep burp that made both children jump back in surprise, before bursting out in laughter.
The loud burp, sudden movements of the children and their laughter, all worked to make a few more people stop and watch as I held Woodbine out for them to stroke. Then, when the mother went to stroke him, that’s when he shot up my arm, resulting in her giving a little scream. This was just the reaction I’d hoped for as it caused even more people to stop and watch. Up to now I’ve totally ignored all the adults, concentrating solely on the two children. This was important as, if I’d spoken to or even looked at the parents or other adults, half of them would of smiled politely and walked away. Something that obviously I didn’t want, as these people were going to help me get an audience. They just didn’t know it yet.
I asked the two children if they wanted to see a quick little magic trick, they of cause said yes. The use of the words “quick” and “little” were vital here as they implied to the adults (who still wanted to look around first) that it wont take long. I went to my stand and produced a little blackboard. It was imperative that it was a small trick as this not only strengthened the idea that it’s a quick trick, but also encouraged people to move closer when asked. I walked part way back to the children before motioning to them and the other children that have stopped to watch to come closer. Still I hadn’t looked at or acknowledged any adults. The children came a little closer, followed by their parents.
Getting them closer;
I started a routine that involves chalk lines that jump around the blackboard, disappearing then reappearing. Then, just before the magic actually happened, I paused. Now it was time to finally acknowledge the adults.
“If you come closer” I said, looking at the ones near the back, “I get bigger”. This not only got a laugh but also, because those at the back tend to stand there in the hope that the strange man wont pick on them, it also convinces them that they are actually safer in amongst the crowd. As everyone moved closer, so I took a couple of steps backwards until I’m in line with my stand. There was now only about 15 people watching the trick, but the fact that they were all laughing and loosely grouped together (almost a crowd) soon attracted others to stop and briefly watch to see whats happening. After all, humans are nothing if not inquisitive.
At the end of the routine people were going to clap and walk on, an idea that I had to remove from their minds. So as soon as I’d finished that routine and they started to clap I reached behind my stand. My hand reappeared holding the next routine up proudly in front of me as I paused. Pauses are as important to visual art as they are to music. Done right, at the correct length and tempo and they can double the laughter, make an audience relax, or simply increase their antici……….pation. Done wrongly and you’ll ruin your whole performance as surly as you would a song (and if you’ve ever heard me sing, you’ll know why I do comedy for a living).
There are two reasons why I paused here. one is to acknowledge the applause and wait for it to die down. The other is to give the people a chance to look at the object I was holding. A carved length of wood with 3 pieces of rope hanging from it. On the end of one piece was a large ring. I wanted them to look at it so as to arouse their curiosity. Sure, some folk walked off, but most were happy to hang on for a minute or two just to see what it does.
Getting the children to sit;
“Here I have a piece of wood” I said, and again I paused as a thought suddenly occurred to me. “hey kids, the grass is dry so take a seat and watch whilst I perform some high tech magic”. I didn’t say “do you want to sit” as this implies that they have a choice, and I didn’t want them to choose to stand. If they were standing then there was more chance that their parents would get them to leave.
Once seated I looked at the back of the crowd of maybe 20-25 people. “Adults, can you just move a bit closer as we’re blocking the walk way”. They weren’t, but the closer knitted they were, the more they would laugh (strange but true). Also, it meant that more people would come over to see what I’m doing if there’s a crowd blocking their view (again, strange but true).
“That’s it, just come close enough to throw money”. This last line does several things. It makes them laugh and it convinces them that everyone else is already moving closer. “Only joking” I said, “I’m paid to be here, that’s how comes I can afford to pay these children to sit here”. This line is again important as I didn’t want them to think I’m busking. Also, as I mentioned the kids, so I looked at them. There were still one or two standing and it gave me a chance to politely ask them to sit so that the children behind can see.
The show had only been open 40 minutes. I’ve only been working for 5 minutes and already I’ve got a reasonably sized crowd. One that’s big enough for me to start my show. Job done, and I hadn’t even announced that a show was going to happen. Now how cool is that?
Rum and fun;
I done 4 shows that day and lots of walk about in between them, so it was a busy day. But even so I made a point of doing little bits for the stall holders.
One of the stalls was selling “morant bay spiced rum” and its owner asked me to pose for a photo holding a bottle. Of cause I obliged. “Do you drink” he asked? “Occasionally” I replied. I knew he was giving away free tasters and was all set to decline an offer to try it (I never drink whilst working), but rather than offer me a thimble sized glass of rum, he gave me a small bottle to try latter! I drank it on the train Sunday night and can honestly say that it’s one of the nicest spiced rums I’ve ever tried. If you like your rum, you’ll love this one. I give it 10 out of 10 for smoothness and flavor.
The day came to a close and tiered but happy I retired to my tent, sitting outside and enjoying the late afternoon sun. Then about 7 p.m. I headed down to the beer tent for food.
On Saturday nights the beer tent puts on a roast meal for those staying on site. Tonights meal was roast turkey, complete with all the trimmings. As per normal there was more than enough to go round. I’m a strict veggie, so I didn’t have the turkey, but richards roast spuds are legionary and a good hearty meal is just what one needs after a hard days work. Now not only does he do good spuds, but he also runs a good beer tent, with several real ales (I counted 5 at this event) as well as lagers, ciders etc. He also has all the spirits that you’d expect to see in a pub. Not just the basics but all the girly ones like archers etc. So if you’re looking for a beer tent for a wedding or event, give richard a shout. I think you’ll be quite impressed.
Sunday brought glorious sunshine and even larger crowds. Everyone, showmen, stall owners and public were in good spirits, which always makes my job so much easier. Even so, working in that heat and jumping around in a woolen motley (that’s the correct name for a jesters clothes) meant that I had to stop at regular intervals to take on water. It was during one of these quick breaks that I got talking to the owner of one of the miniature steam engines that were on display. % minutes later I had a massive grin on my face as I proudly sat on it’s seat, driving it around site, beaming like a school kid in a sweet shop. It’s just a shame that we didn’t get a photo of it.
The day came to a close, the public left and we started to pack up. I was on a tight schedule due to train times but made it to the station with minutes to spare. My train came in and I sat in my seat. I was feeling very tired and wondering how on earth I was going to keep myself awake. It was then that I remembered the bottle of rum I’d been given the day before. As we left london I sat there, sipping away on a wonderful bottle of rum. Thinking about driving steam engines and how incredibly lucky I am to do what I do.
I love my job, I really do
This coming weekend I’m performing on my own (no circus skills workshop, Jester Dragonfly or encampment) at “The Danson park country fair” in Bexleyheath, Kent. Postcode DA15 9PW. There’s loads of other acts booked to support me including; birds of prey, steam engines, medieval reenactments, have a go terrier racing and loads more. I’ve never done this gig before so if you’re in the area then please come and give me some support.
The circus skills workshop gets a helping hand (or 2);
Last weekend we were performing and running our circus workshop, “the jesters school of…….well…..jestering” at “the chatteris midsummer festival“. This is a gig that’s close to our hearts as until quite recently, we used to live in the town. Also, my partner in crime (Jester Dragonfly) helped to start it up several years ago. The festival has gone through many changes since then. Originally it was a medieval reenactment festival, then a multi-period festival. Now, every year the town has a public meeting where the locals can decide on that years theme. This year the theme was “the Rio Olympics”.
Now I know what you’re all thinking. You’re thinking “what on earth has a medieval jester got to do with the Olympics”? Well the answer is not only a very simple one, but when you think about it, it’s also a very obvious one. Nothing, but the fact is that over the years we’ve become firm favorites at the festival. Enjoyed by both, adults and children alike. So it was a true pleasure to be invited back again. This year however the booking was different. This year I was booked not to perform, but to run a circus skills workshop with our jesters school of…….well……..jestering.
However, before we could arrive and set up, we had two major problems too over come. The first being that, due to problems with one of our trailers (see my last blog post) we needed some urgent welding doing to it. The second was that, due to the hire car that replaced the hire car (again, see my last post) not having a tow bar, we had no way of moving a trailer. Enter the wonderful world of reenactors.
The reenactment world is a small, close knit community of lovely (if somewhat strange) people who really do help each other out when needed. Within minutes of posting on Facebook I had two offers of help. One from a member of “the phoenix medieval group”, (a wonderful local reenactment group who are well worth seeing/booking if you get the chance). He offered to weld our trailer back together. The other one was from a member of “A moment in time“. Another reenactment group who were booked to run the have a go archery at the event. They reenact various different times in history and can even supply you with some unusual foreign armies. They offered to pull the trailer for us and we really cant thank those groups enough. Your true stars.
So it was that I arrived on site Friday morning and eagerly set up our medieval encampment. Then had a lazy evening sitting around a camp fire with some old friends from the pentacle drummers, before retiring for the night as tomorrow was going to be a busy day.
Parades, performers and a party in a park;
Saturday morning was spent putting the finishing touches to our encampment before taking Stormageddon and his younger cousin up town to the parade. The parade passed through he town center and was, as always, a noisy, colourful affair. It consisted not only of performers, but also lots of local groups, including brownies, preschools, army cadets etc. All dressed up as athletes, Brazilian parrots and the such like. Except the army cadets, they were dressed up like army cadets.
People cheered as the parade passed through the town with majorettes twiddling their batons, drummers drumming and preschool kids not having a clue what was happening, but happy to take part anyway. As we passed the crowds, so they would join onto the end of the parade and follow us down to the festival site. (Note to other events. This is a really good way of getting lots of attendance and the sudden influx of people, all full of excitement, really helps set the mood for the day).
Once at the site I stayed near the entrance, using my skills to entertain the queues and keep them amused as they waited to enter. Then I opened up the circus skills workshop, and I must say that I was genuinely impressed with how busy it was. All day long I was kept busy with teaching juggling, diabilo, devilsticks and lots of other circus skills. It wasn’t just children who enjoyed the circus workshop, but also parents and other adults had a go. Due in part to some comic one liners that I’ve come up with specially designed to entice the adults in.
Some had never tried circus skills before, others wanted to improve their circus skills and learn more tricks, or the chance to show off to their mates etc. Whatever their reasons for joining in, join in they did. All day long. So by the end of the day I was a tired but happy jester who was proud of the fact that I’d managed to teach so many children and adults so many circus skills. My only regret was the fact that so many people asked what time my show was going to be and I had to tell them that it wasn’t happening because there were so many other acts booked this year. So once I’d finished for the day I went and spoke to the organizers who reorganized the Sunday program so that I could do two performances, and I didn’t even charge them for it, but then you know what they say about a fool and money.
Although the circus skills workshop finished at 5 p.m. the festival didn’t, as on the Saturday night they have “the party in the park”. A long mobile stage (I.E. a lorry trailer) is set up at one end of the festival and here local, yet highly talented bands and musicians can showcase their skills with a wide variety of music ranging from country to rock. One man and his guitar to complete bands. The weather was good and the night air warm, so people relaxed in chairs under the large half moon listening to artist performing both original works as well as covers.
Whilst enjoying the music, they also enjoyed a pint or two from the sportsman beer tent, including some lovely real ales. The sportsman supports the festival all through the year, running fund raising nights etc. So if you’ve enjoyed the festival, please show it by using their pub, especially on fund raising nights.
Tug of war shenanigans;
Sunday the event changed somewhat. There was still lots of entertainment, but also lots of competitions. These included an archery competition ran by “a moment in time” in which my partner in crime, Jester Dragonfly came third. I should add here that she is also a medieval archer, which is why I’m always happy when I get home and she says that she missed me. There’s also a dog show with lots of different categories. A silly yet fun “it’s the knock out” type of games, and a tug of war.
This year the first two teams in the tug of war was the sportsman (Now I think I’m right in saying that in all the years that the tug of war has been held, they have always won it), and the festival crew. The crew team was made up of mainly ladies. The sportsman’s team was made up of fit, burly men with a giant of a man on the end. Jester Dragonfly, who was helping to run the competition wasn’t too happy with this. She thought it was somewhat unfair. So did she offer to join the ladies? Oh no, instead she volunteered me!
I strutted out to the middle of the field in a manly manner. Well, as manly as one can in curly up shoes and a horny hat. I took hold of the rope and leaned back, ready to pull for the crews honour. Then, after someone pointed out that I was facing the wrong way, I about turned and awaited our chance to do what every team has done over the years. Lose to the sportsman. So I was somewhat surprised when we won the first of the best of 3 rounds. Then came the second round. Win this and we’ve finally broken their years long winning streak.
The sportsman’s team eyed us like a pack of lions eyes an injured zebra as we, bolstered by our surprise win, took the strain. Others, encouraged by our British trait of reveling in the face of certain disaster, decided to lend a hand and came running across the field to join us. And so it was that, in a totally fair match (well, as fair as possible when your team has 7 more members than your opponents) the festival crew team won first place in the tug of war. Hooray.
My second show;
After our win it was time for my second show of the day. Some of the audience had come to my first show, so I decided to change some of my routines for this one. Amongst the different routines I put in was a routine I call “the blindfolded card trick performing duck (of doom)”. I really enjoy this routine as it not only involves a child volunteer, but also a quick one liner gag that, in true Tommy Cooper style, is guaranteed to make the adults groan out loud. Today was no exception and the whole show went down a storm. I even got a couple of enquiries for birthday parties out of it. A sure sign that I’m doing something right.
Then, after the last of the competitions had been won (and lost). The last show performed and the last child with an ice cream smeared face was led sleepily home, it was time to pack up the circus skills workshop (much to the disappointment of the adult who’d spent most of the weekend perfecting his club juggling). Drop the tents and head off site and back to the real world.
Because it was a local event it didn’t take that long to get back home and I must say that it made a pleasant change to arrive back at base at a civilized hour. Once home I kicked off my boots, put the telly on and watched the news. It seemed full of people reeling with shock and horror and saying how horrible it was that the British voters had got their own way regarding Europe. As I watched this it occurred to me that the British people view politics much the same way as they do the summer. I.E. they spend most of the year saying how good it will be when it happens, then come the day they complain that it’s too hot
But hey, what do I know after all, I’m just a fool.