circus skills workshop in chatteris

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);

Stormageddon teaching spinning plates
Stormageddon helping daddy teach spinning plates

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.

circus skills workshop at chatteris midsummer festival
circus skills workshop at chatteris midsummer festival

 

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;

Stormageddon practising for when I'm older
Stormageddon practising for when I’m older

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.

Taking the kids for a stroll jester style
Taking the kids for a Saturday morning stroll jester style

 

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.

Our encampment and circus skills workshop
Our encampment and circus skills workshop at the chatteris midsummer festival 2016

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.

Learning archery with "A moment in time"
Learning archery with “A moment in time”

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.

Just chilling
Just chilling

Tug of war shenanigans;

DevilStick Peat being manly and Joining in the tug of war
DevilStick Peat being manly in the tug of war

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.

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

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.

 

 

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