Held over the bank holiday, this is one of the largest medieval events of it’s kind, and as this year they are celebrating their 25th year, so it’s going to be even bigger and better than the last 24 years combined.
It’s also one of the few medieval events that you, the public, can camp at, so the fun doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down.
For advanced tickets, please click here
To read my somewhat poetic review of last years festival, please click here
Without a doubt the best medieval festival in Britain. We are truly proud to be part of this event. If you only make it to one show this summer, make this that show. Every year it not only gets bigger and better, but also better and bigger You really won’t be disappointed.
Our totally unbiased review of last years event can be found here
Discounted tickets can be brought here
This is a private event at an American school. I use various magic and juggling routines to teach the history of the fool.
A very entertaining and educational show
Hi, hail and welcome to yet another breathtaking blog from yours truly, DevilStick Peat, the cool fool.
Happy belated St George’s day. Not just to my fellow Englishmen, but also to my dear friends in Beslan, North Ossetia.
It seems that those Hazy lazy days of summer have finally arrived, I.E. I’m actually doing gigs minus my long John’s. We at the fool’s house are already in full festival mode. Performing at all sorts of weird and wonderful events.
Easter bank holiday;
Only the other week we were performing at “THE Berkshire Easter country fair”. Held in Berkshire (no surprise there) over the Easter weekend (again, no surprise there) this was a fun and diverse event with all sorts of entertainment ranging from a historic display of war horses to Jez Avery, stunt rider par excellence.
Jez is one of my sons favourite entertainers (other than me). If you haven’t seen him captivate an audience with his motor bike and crazy car stunts then keep reading my blogs, as next time we’re at the same event, I’ll be sure to let you know.
However, I think the highlight of the whole weekend for Jester Dragonfly and our 4 kids must of been the Monday morning Easter egg hunt. The kids loved it as it involved chocolate. Jester Dragonfly loved it as it gave her the chance to take embarrassing photos of yours truly searching for Easter eggs whilst making a point of not finding them before the kids did.
Then it was back to the fool’s house. Hidden away deep in the heart of the fens. This is where we spend our spare time thinking up and practising all the new crazy comic magic and juggling routines that make us one of the best fool troops on the circuit.
Facebook and the jumping dragons (of doom);
And on the subject of new magic, I’ve been working hard on a new and unique magic routine. Some say that the old classics are the best. Others that magic should always be new and exciting. Well this routine promises the best of both worlds. It’s not ready for public viewing yet, but those chosen few who’ve been lucky enough to have a sneak preview have been left amazed, amused and perplexed.
In fact I’m so proud of the routine I’ve written that, once it’s ready, I might even put a video of it on my Facebook page. Which brings me nicely to another subject. Those fans loyal enough to have liked my Facebook page, were able to take part in a pole (If you haven’t liked it yet, just click here) I gave them a choice of several routines and asked which one they’d most like to see? The overwhelming majority of fans voted for “Jumping Dragons” a wonderfully funny routine performed with some bespoke medieval props. If you’re intrigued then check out my Facebook page (see the link above). But don’t forget to click the like button. We’re currently on 982 likes and so want to make it a nice round 1k.
St George’s day;
Last weekend was St George’s day. So we headed down to Calne in the south West of England.
It’s here that The white Hart coaching hotel takes over
the green near their pub and, at great expense to themselves, put on a fantastic celebration of medieval wonder. Last year’s event was such a success that this year they made it a two day event. Run over the Saturday and Sunday it was truly an action packed event with living history from The Bodrugan Household (Lots of medieval tents, sweaty men in armour and buxom wenches). Hands on displays where you and your children could try on suits of armour etc. and ask all sorts of rude and personal questions about life in the days of old, and of cause, lots and lots of hand to hand combat, where brave knights would do battle in the name of King, country and St George.
Considering that this was the first event that the Bodrugan Household has ever put on, I was mightily impressed, but also somewhat confused. You see reenactors do what they do for a hobby. They go out on the field of honour and get hit on the head with large, heavy blunt instruments for no pay what so ever. Me? I never take part in the battles. In fact I do nothing dangerous yet I get paid to be there. So how comes they call me the fool?
We took our Total Immersion Show with us, so when I wasn’t performing my show or walkabout acts, I was helping Jester Dragonfly run our circus skills workshop. The crowds were a lot bigger than last year and very appreciative. So much so that by the end of the weekend I’d picked up 3 more gigs!
Our evenings, like everyone involved with the event, we’re
spent enjoying fine food, beers and company in The white Hart coaching hotel. Owned by two friends of ours this is a wonderful hotel. The walls are festooned with paintings, relics and artefacts from days of old. A knight’s helmet here, a mounted arrow there. All interspersed with deers antlers and paintings of noblemen. The banqueting hall sports a very large and grand feasting table and equally grand chandeliers that hang majestically from its high ceiling. And it was in the banqueting hall that the white Hart laid on a medieval feast for as all. There was enough food to feed a small army, which was handy as that’s just what we were. They even supplied veggie alternatives for me and the other meat free munchers, with wonderful hand sized pies that tasted divine.
Stormageddon and Jester Dragonfly were booked into the hotel for the weekend, but I, your poor, humble and awesomely brilliant fool was billeted in one of our tents to help keep them secure overnight. This suited me fine as Stormageddon tends to get up around 6 30 in the mornings, so it meant I could have a lay in till 8 (oh the decadence I hear ye cry). Well Saturday must’ve been good fun as neither Jester Dragonfly or Stormageddon arose much before 9.
After yet another wonderful breakfast, care of the white Hart, it was time to head back to the green for another day of fun and frolicking, with shows, walk about, our circus skills workshops, ferret racing care of a ferret rescue charity and of cause, the living history and battles, care of those wonderful knights and damsels known as The Bodrugan Household
The show finished at 4pm. Then it was time to take down our encampment, put Stormageddon back into his box and head back to the fool’s house. Once home it was a case of clean and check all of our equipment. Then start to get ready for our next show.
We’ve got a busy weekend ahead of us. Friday I’m performing at a wedding, then we head down to Morden hall in south West London. Here we’ve got 3 days of performing our Total Immersion show for those wonderful folk at Oakleigh fairs. We’ve worked at this show for several years now and love it. I honestly believe that it’s a great, action packed event with loads happening all day, every day and is guaranteed to give you great value for money.
Now I know what you’re all thinking. You’re thinking “Oh, if only we’d known sooner, we’d of come along, but we’ve made other arrangements. Why oh why didn’t you give us more notice”?
Well I hear your cries and feel your pain. This is why we’ve added a new page to our website. Now, if you click on our future events page, you’ll see a calendar with all our bookings on it. Here you can check where we’re working, gain access to discounted tickets and also check if we’re free for your event, wedding, child’s birthday party etc. I’ve yet to get every gig on there, but it’s getting there.
Please take the time to take a look and leave us any feedback in the comments section of this blog (We do so love your comments and feedback).
Well that’s all for now folks. Now it’s time for me to get back to learning my new, super duper illusion. But before I do, I’d like to send a special thank you to Vix. I’ll think of him every time I perform it.
Your humble and brilliantly awesomely talented fool
P.S. Don’t forget to like our Facebook Page. When we make the 1k mark, we’ll celebrate by adding a new video
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.
About This Jester Festival entertainer;
Although this weeks blog is entitled “Jester festival entertainer”, I’m actually a festival entertainer who gets a lot of repeat bookings. Many go back over 10 years. Some go back over 20 years! That’s nearly a quarter of a century of performing at the same festival year after year. So in this blog entry I’ve decided that, for the first time ever, I’m going to tell you some of the ways I insure repeat bookings.
Like I say, some shows have used me for over 20 years! So trust me when I say these ideas work. Adapt them to your persona and they will work for you as well.
Last weekend we were performing our “Total Immersion” show at a country fair on the grounds of Shugborough Hall. We arrived early on Saturday morning and eagerly set about putting up our brightly coloured medieval encampment. Then, once we were set up I headed down to the main gate, or “front of house” as we say in the trade. here I’d meet the public as they enter.
The show didn’t open until 10 a.m. I knew that there’d be no public there until 9 45 a.m. and my first show wasn’t until 10 30 a.m. But still I was there at 9 30 a.m. and here’s why.
Secret To Success;
I want every show that books me too want to book me next year as well. As this isn’t just good for my ego, but also my bank account. To do this the show needs to be a success and I need to be seen making it a success. So this week’s blog is an in depth look at some of the ways I achieve this. That doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you all about the routines I use. After all, what works for my persona may not work for yours. Instead I’m going to tell you the theory behind what I do and why it works. That way you can take the bare bones and add your own skin to it. As a stand up performer I know that the secret to a successful show is to have a strong beginning, middle and end. Well believe it or not, this also applies not just to your performance, but to the whole event.
Having polite car parking attendants and enough cash tills to negate any long queues is an ok beginning, not a strong beginning. A strong beginning is where the public are laughing before they even enter the event. Where someone can answer simple questions whilst keeping the queues amused. A strong beginning means that they will only remember the funny man at the entrance, not the cost of entry.
That’s one of the reasons I’ve got there early. I now have time to look at the program and see what’s on. Talk to the gate crew and ask a few questions (even if you already know the answers, ask anyway as it makes you look keen). Most importantly of all, if they aren’t rushing around in a last minute panic, have a quick laugh and joke with them. Get them on your side. Why? Because they are going to help get you that repeat booking, they just don’t know it yet.
By the time the public start turning up you need to know the following;
First Aid Tent;
In over 29 years of performing, I’ve never once needed to tell someone in the queue where the first aid tent is, but it’s always a good thing to know. Afteral, one day it might be me that ends up needing it (have you seen my knife juggling).
Where the nearest toilets to the gate are. After all, there’s no telling how far they have driven to get to the show and no one wants them to have to turn around again and go home just because little billy has had an accident. Well, not before they have paid to get in anyway.
Sure, they can ask the person on the till once they get to the front of the queue, but if little billy is bursting, then it’s much better if you escort billy and a parent to the toilet (if the event is well laid out then there will be one just inside the gate). Then escort them back to their place in the queue.
One of my meet and greet routines involves telling the queues what on and “bigging them up”. This does two things. It not only adds to the excitement and expectation, but also helps convince people that the shows worth the money. You’d be surprised at how many families turn up, look at the entrance fee, then turn around and go back home. Thats a lot harder to do if the funny man has just told little billy about the jousting etc. However, never…… NEVER tell them what time the other shows are on, or where in the show ground they are performing. This is really important. If you want to know why, then read on.
Now if you’ve done the above right and if you’re good at your job. Then it’s not just the public who are going to talk about how funny you were, but also the gate crew. Also, they’ll talk about how you made their job easier. Something that will get back to the event organiser, and that’s good news for you.
All of the above has taken around 45 minutes. Sure, it’s more than they booked you to do, but look at it this way. You can spend more than 45 minutes looking for a booking for next year. Then you have to add on to that the time taken to email and ring a new event that may or may not book you. Truth is that 45 minutes has saved you a lot of time, guaranteed your financial well being and impressed not just that client, but also any other potential clients that have turned up to see what the oppositions booked.
The First Sneaky Bit;
When you told the queues what’s on and “bigged them up”, you didn’t tell them when and where they are performing. However, you did tell them where and when your first show is. Also, you “forgot” to mention that you’re doing 3 shows a day. You only mentioned your first show.
So far you’re the best (and only) thing they’ve seen. The kids are amazed by your magic and the parents are amused by your jokes. They know where and when you’re doing a show. All these things will help to ensure that your first show is a big one, and that’s important as the events only just opened, so the field isn’t at full capacity yet. This means that the event organiser can stand in the middle of the field and see all the stages and if you’ve got the biggest and loudest crowd, then that’s going to stick in his mind. In fact that’s one of the main reasons he is going to book you for this show again. Not in 6 months time, but at the end of this weekend.
The strong middle is basicly your shows and walkabout routines. There’s no point in me telling you what to do there as it’s your show, not mine. but here’s some advice on how to use your performance to your advantage.
If like myself, you’re booked to perform walk about as well as shows, always make sure that, whilst interacting with the public, you not only let them know where and when your next show is, but also invite them to come and watch it. Make the invite sound genuine and personal. This last bit really makes a difference with the children. They love the fact that the funny man invited them, personally.
When you’ve done your shows, don’t just say “thank you” and walk off. Always hang about and talk with one or two kids. This is important for two reasons. It gives the adults a chance to ask for a card, contact details etc (you’d be surprised at how many birthday parties I get via country shows). But more importantly, it gives kids and adults a chance to say how much they enjoyed the show and that’s something you can use to your advantage. When they’ve finished complimenting your show, don’t just say “thank you”. Instead be brazen. say something like “thank you, but if you really mean it, when you leave, if anyone asks what your favorite bit was, tell them it was me”. Because of my persona, I can make a joke out of this. It doesn’t matter if you sound like you mean it or not. What matters is putting that thought into their head. OK, so normally most people won’t say anything when they leave, but you’ve put a seed of thought into their heads. One that you’ll use at the end of the day. Most importantly of all, remember their faces, as they are going to make you look amazing.
The shows over, the public have had a good day and you’re worn out from a hard days work. There’s just one last thing to do to help ensure that repeat booking. You’ve got to be down by the gate as the people leave, ready to do the good byes. The goodbyes are probably even more important than the hallos, as it’s going to really stick in the people’s minds. I always take two sets of routines with me for the good byes. One set is quick stuff for people who don’t want to stop, the other set involves slightly longer routines for those who aren’t in a hurry to get home.
I never do the goodbyes in a static position as this makes me look too predatory. Like one of those charity chuggers you get in the high street. Yes I’m around the exit area, but moving around as I perform for the exiting public.
What ever routine I’m performing I always ask the person I’m doing it for if they had a good time and what their favorite bit was. this is valuable information for the client that booked you, and if you want a repeat booking then you need to be valuable to him in every way possible.
The Second Sneaky Bit;
Remember how you told that child to tell the gate crew how wonderful your show was? Remember how I
told you to remember their faces. Well now you’ve noticed them walking towards you on the way out. As you’re moving around interacting with the public, so you’re going to move closer to the gate crew. When you do your goodbyes for that child, you’re going to ask him what his favorite bit was. You’ve already planted the answer in his mind but the gate crew don’t know this. All they know is that every time they have heard you ask the question, everyone’s given the same answer. YOU!
If it’s a good event, then it stands to reason that it’s been put on by a good events organiser. Good event organisers alway have a crew debrief after a show. They will always ask for and listen to all the crews feedback.
If you’ve done your job right. Then the gate crew have seen you working the queue before the event even opens. They’ve noticed how you took the time to check what’s on and used this to entice people in. They’ve not only seen you working the public as they leave, but also heard lots and lots of public feedback, and it’s all been about you. Add to this the fact that your first show was bigger and louder than any of the others. All this makes you not just valuable, but invaluable to the event. and that folks, equals a repeat bookings. Some of which have lasted me nearly a quarter of a century.
From the 5th of August until the 15th of August we’ll be away at one of Europe’s premier medieval festivals. “The Loxwood Joust“. This is a totally amazing concoction of everything medieval and I do mean everything. There’s jousting, living history, a gruesome executioner, knights and soldiers competing in battles and lots more. Including authentic witches (you’ll find them in the woods), enchanting music from the “Medieval Baebes” and of cause, our “Total Immersion” show, staring myself, Jester Dragonfly and the adorable Stormageddon.
Held every year at The Loxwood Meadow, WEST SUSSEX, RH14 0AL, this event has proved so popular with the public that it now happens for not just one, but two weekends! The 6th, 7th, 13 and 14th of August. If you only make it to one medieval event this year, make it this one. You really won’t be disappointed. It truly is awesome and a big point of pride that every year they choose us to be the jesters.
For a look at what’s in store, check out this video of last years event
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