So the blog title, “Festivals, Jesters, Tutus and Filmwork”, shows just what a busy few months we’ve had since I last posted a blog. So let me tell you a little about what we at the fool’s house have been up to.
I, your ever humble narrator, has been busy working on various new routines to frill and entertain you all. I have a new Tommy Cooper style “glass bottle, bottle glass” routine care of one of my sponsors, the wonderful folk known as “Magic Mead”. You can find these wonderful folk at various events, including England’s medieval festival and their mead really is the nectar of the gods. Although sadly, all the bottles they donated were empty.
I’ve also been busy working on a unique version of an old con known as the pea and shell. But fear not, as this is a “no money, purely for fun” routine involving the biggest pea and shells you’ve ever seen, ever.
Shows and workshops
In between training and learning the skills needed to execute these “so exciting that the public might just wet themselves” routines, we’ve also been busy working and performing all over the country. This has included children’s Birthday parties in London, circus skills workshops, including a week long circus camp for home educated children (although how teaching juggling ended up with me wearing a tutu is another story, for another day), adult birthday parties in Lincolnshire, and our “Total immersion” show at various events. Including“Battle medieval fayre” a wonderful, free to enter event run by the local community and housed under a hot sun in the shadow of the towns impressive looking abbey.
At “templecombe medieval pageant”, deep in the heart of somerset (a wonderful event run for charity), I had the pleasure of performing outside a reconstruction of a genuine medieval tavern! Then, latter that night, I also had the pleasure of tasting some of it’s wears.
Closer to home we ran our total immersion show at The Famous “Cambridge town and country fair”. Again this is a free to enter event. It’s held on the fair green meadows of Parker’s piece in the city centre and, in our humble opinion, has something for everyone. There was a horse display (with real live horses), birds of prey (although who they were praying to, I know not), an array of live music care of the buskers stage, the goat show (this is a show involving, well, goats), steam engines, stalls and lots more.
There was even a stall run by “The cambridge pentacle magic club”. Here you could see a whole range of different types of magic and performance styles. It’s a shame I had to work, or I’d of spent all day at the stall, stealing ideas and routines. If you’ve ever wanted to learn magic, then this, amazingly friendly club is the place to start.
At midsummer we were again down south. This time at eastbourne for “The Pentacle Drummers” summer solstice celebrations. Imagine not just the sound, but also the earth shaking vibrations of over 30 mad drummers, each one of which is “going for it” with all the suttalness of a deranged dinosaur on hot coals!
This yearly celebration of all things eccentrically british (I.E. Morris dancing, warm beer, kilts, and a pagan celebration wherein the oak and holly kings beat the heck out of each other with pillows to the background roar of face painted adults all setting an example of reasonable behaviour for their kids by screaming for blood) is a wonderfully small and friendly event which we love performing at. The daytime performances were all free entry this year. Then in the evening there was a great selection of bands, including our good friends “Portcullis”. A great medieval band, perfect for handfastings, events and medieval re-enactments.
But it’s not just been about making money. we’ve also been busy doing free, educational stuff. Next month we’re running a free workshop for children in Ely, and only the other week we were at Manea primary school. Here we put up a small medieval encampment and taught several class’s about medieval life. Why did we do stuff for free? Because its our local community and therefore local children and we here at the fools house strongly believe in supporting our local community. Besides, the kids were great fun to work with and the look of awe in their eyes as Jester Dragonfly proved how many arrows she could shoot in a minute was a true joy to behold (in days of old an English archer was expected to be capable of shooting ten arrows in a minute, jester Dragonfly managed eleven!).
More recently I’ve been filming for American television! This was long hard work outside in the heat of the sun in a woodland clearing. They were filming a pretend medieval festival and I of cause, was playing the part of the festivals premier fool. This involved juggling for anything up to 2 minutes whilst the main stars walked around, or gazed in wonder at my gravity defying feats. Then we’d stop for a few minutes, then refilm the same bit again and again and again.
To put this into some kind of perspective, we started filming the first one minute long scene at around 9 30 am and finished filming it at around 12 15. Nearly 3 hours for a shot that, once edited, will last less than a minute, but that, as they say, is show business.
On the subject of filming, keep watching this space, as we are again filming in august. Not for telly vision this time, but for our new video all about us. A professionally made promo video highlighting what we offer and why you should book us above all overs (and we’ll cry if you dont). It’s being made on location at one of Britain’s best medieval festivals, none other than “The loxwood Joust”. This festival is based near Guildford and is so popular that it has to be held over not one, but two weekends. Obviously, being Britain’s bestest medieval festival, they need Britain’s bestest fools, Jester Dragonfly, DevilStick Peat and the jesters jester, Stormageddon. So why not come along and enjoy not just our shows and the jousting, but also the cooling shade of it’s ever increasing woodland areas. Who knows, you may even end up in our video.
We’re also planning on making some instructional videos. These are designed to help all you potential jesters, young and old alike, to learn juggling and circus skills so that one day. should you work hard at it, then you might be nearly as good as we are. Who knows, I may even teach some very effective, yet easy to master magic (that way I’ll have the privilege of being kicked out of the magic circle before I even join it).
Shows throughout Britian
But we’re not just filming this action packed summer. We’ll also be spreading merriment and laughter the length and breadth of the country. Next month we’ll be spending a week way up north in “Alnwick castle”. This lovely castle is one of the best in england. Not only is it one of the few castles still inhabited by it’s owner, but its also so beautiful that some of the scenes from harry potter was filmed there. we’re there for a whole week, so if you’re one of our more northern fans, then do come along and not only say hi, but also enjoy our award winning shows and circus workshops.
In August we’re way down south at “England’s Medieval Festival”. Held at Herstmonceux castle in the sussex countryside. This event has gone from your average medieval festival, to one where you can camp over and enjoy not just a day of jousting, battles and brilliant jestering, but also a night full of fun with it’s open air cinema (showing medieval themed films) banquets within the castles banqueting hall and live, medieval music within its tavern, crammed packed with knights in armour, wenches and princesses.
In september we’re off to the east of England for “The Ancient Oak Medieval Fayre” in east anglia. This is not just east anglia’s premier medieval event, but also where our son, Stormageddon is going to undergo a life changing experience. That’s right folks. For the first time ever in his whole life, Stormageddon is going to have what my parents would call “a PROPER haircut”!!!
“But why is this going to be a life changing experience” I hear you cry. Well I’ll tell you.
Firstly, Storm has decided to donate his lovely long blond locks to “The little princess’s trust”. This is a truly inspirational charity who make wigs from real hair, then donate them free of charge to children who, due to cancer treatment and other illness’s, have lost their hair. A wonderful and life enhancing idea that can change a child’s life, made all the more beautiful by the simplicity of the concept.
Secondly his doing it as a sponsored event. The funds he raises will go to the following causes.
This wonderful small charity has not only supported my work with children in conflict zones, but has also offered to buy the hoist my nephew (who suffers badly from muscular dystrophy) needs to get in and out of his mothers car. Thereby making not just family days out easier and less trouble, but also more mundane things like the school run.
March 2nd Beavers
A precursor to cubs and part of the scouting movement, beavers is great for younger children and storm wants to raise money for his own pack as a way of saying thank you for all the fun.
Neither his mother or I want him to lose his locks. Indeed I can see his mother shedding a tear or two (although I, being a manly sort of man, will merely have smoke in my eyes). However, not only must we respect his choice, but we also feel truly proud of the way he wants to use it to help others.
Now I know that, in these times of austerity, not everyone can afford to sponsor Storm, but you can still help by spreading the word via social media etc, or talking to your boss about the company sponsoring him etc. By doing so, your be helping Storm help others and have our eternal thanks.
To see his sponsorship page and read more about it, just click on the photo below
Well that’s all for now folks, I have to step away from the computer now as it’s a wonderfully sunny day, the lawn is freshly cut and the paddling pool is filled with fresh cool water. All on which means that my kids are complaining that they’re bored and want to go on youtube.
So until next time I bid thee all hail and fare thee well
Once again we’ve had an exciting few months with not just events, but as a children’s entertainer, also birthday parties.
The queen of hearts;
It all started with a birthday party down in London. The birthday child had seen me performing at Templecombe medieval pageant down in the west Country and decided there and then that I, your sweet humble narrator, was the the man she needed to entertain her friends (even at that tender age, she had good taste).
I decided to train it to London as it worked out cheaper and less hassle than driving and arrived in London with plenty of time to spare. Finding the venue and the right bus to it was easy. It was paying for the bus that proved the problem.
London busses no longer take cash! Only oyster cards and contactless debit/credit cards. The problem is, being in entertainment and sharing dressing rooms and all, I won’t have a contactless card. Luckily for me the young lady driving the bus, taken by my dashingly handsome looks and realizing that I am but a poor country bumking, let me on for free!
Once at the venue (before the booker, which is always good). I changed into my motley (that’s the proper name for a fools costume) and set to work meeting all the young guests and getting them in the mood to party.
I should say here that the birthday girl looked awesome, all dressed up as the Queen of hearts, which given her reputation for head removals was a little disconcerting. Lucky for me that both, the Queen and her subjects, loved the show, with all the adults joining in the shouting of “oh yes you did” and the such like. It was a true pleasure to perform for them all, but for me the best bit was yet to come.
My performance over it was time to do the birthday cake and what a cake it was. Topped with lashings of thick cream, covered in sweet tasting fruit and mini marshmallows and festooned with candles it looked good enough to eat. But for me personally, the icing on the cake (pun intended) was the pictures of yours truly that towered above it all. Yes, I know that’s egotistical of me, but then that’s all part of being a performer. Silly little things like that just add to the beauty of what we do.
They even had “thank you for coming to my party” stickers with a photo of me on it. If I’d known that before hand I’d of asked them to include my website on it, but hey, you cant win them all.
Special needs workshops;
Recently we’ve been doing some circus workshops with special needs children via the NHS. These are children with conditions like autism and the such like. We do them at a special, discounted price for several reasons. Partly because we know how underfunded mental health is in this country. Partly because the work is rewarding and loads of fun. But mainly because we feel that it’s actually quite important. Not only because it helps them with spacial awareness and concentration, but also because it gives them something that is sadly often lacking in our society, the chance to interact with adults members of our community. O.K. so the adults in question are two professional fools, but hey, you cant win them all!
Cambridge Living History Fair;
Next was the Cambridge living history fair. Now although it’s called the Cambridge living history fair, it’s not actually in Cambridge. It’s held twice a year at the woodgreen animal shelter. Now although it’s called the woodgreen animal shelter, it’s not actually in Woodgreen, but Godmanchester. But despite these misleading labels it was very well attended by both public and traders. It’s one of the few gigs that book me for both, my skills as a fool, juggler and magician and my skills with the cláirseach (that’s fancy talk for folk harp). She’s a 26 string Colombo harp from “starfish designs” who, in my humble opinion, are not one of, but the best harp makers in the UK.
The Cambridge living history fair is a wonderful event where all sorts of weird and wonderful folk gather to buy and sell all sorts of weird and wonderful goods. Should you wish to purchase a new bow or arrows, then there’s several stalls to meet your needs, including “Arbalist Armoury”. Run by my friend Nick Winter, he sells a wide range of products and is a wonderful guy who’s more interested in making sure you get what’s right for you than in making a sale (oh, and I’m also impressed with the way he interacts with children). Or maybe you want a period costume made to measure and unique to you, or something special for your wedding or party. If this is the case then make your way over to “Brighid Designs”. Run by a lovely lady with a real passion for her art (and trust me on this, her works are pieces of art) she can advise you and make your dream dress a reality. One you’ll treasure for ever.
But it’s not just a place to buy and sell. Oh no, it’s also a place to meet people and learn about our history in a way that a school or book just cant ever compete with. You can even find out about joining a re-enactment group care of groups like “A Moment In Time”. A wonderfully friendly bunch of nutters who enjoy re-enacting days of old and are always up for a laugh.There’s also loads of entertainment laid on, all free of charge! Including myself, a story teller and hands on demos from“The Ninth Legion Hispana”. Here both adults and children alike can learn the fighting skills of the romans. Arguably one of the best fighting armies in history.
And if you’re feeling peckish, then make your way to“Cowleys Fine Foods”. Their website says “We specialise in all things edible” and when they say “all“, they aint kidding. Here you can try and buy anything from vegan and veggie goodies such as “Suzie’s Vegan Jerky : Sweet Potato Texan BBQ” to more exotic goods like their “Gourmet Chilli Jerky Trinidad Scorpion”. As a veggie I’ve never tried it, but I know those who have and it comes highly recommended.
Sorry you missed it? Well fear not, for this fine event is so popular that it now happens twice a year. So there’s no reason why you cant come along and see my show at the next one on the 17th and 18th of February 2018.
Children’s entertainer and pirate in Manea;
Then it was time to get ready for another birthday party, this time a little closer to home. In fact it was a lot closer to home as it was being held in Manea village hall, which is in the same Street as our house.
The theme for the party was pirates, so I resurrected an old character that I used to play at larp events. A character I lovingly called “shipwrecked again peat”. I must admit to being a little bit nervous about this party, as most of the guests were of preschool age. Younger than most kids I work with. I’m pleased to say that I needn’t of worried. We split my show into two parts, so as to allow for a shorter attention span and put the birthday meal in between the shows (and unlike many children’s entertainers, I don’t charge for the extra time this involves). They loved it and the look on the birthday child’s face when a birthday card magicly appeared in an empty bag was priceless. Again the adults joined in, some of them laughing as much as the children. But then I always say that, although folk book me to entertain children, I class myself not as a children’s entertainer, but as a family entertainer, with good, clean wholesome fun for everyone. Besides, I realised very early in my career that it’s the adults, not the kids, who hold the cheque books.
Children’s entertainer in Huntingdon;
This time the party was in the metropolis known as Huntingdon. Apparently they, like so many of my bookers, had seen me at an event and decided that I’m just what they are looking for. I like it when that happens as it means they know what they are booking and what to expect. They’d tried to book me the year before, but I was already booked up (if only i could clone myself, I’d make a fortune), so they booked me very early this year. Maybe you should do the same and guarantee having the best in the business perform at your child’s/wife’s/husbands birthday party. Again, the party went well and even the adults looked surprised when, with a sudden flash of light, the large brightly coloured birthday cake appeared from a container way too small to hold it. I would tell you how I do it, but then I’d have to kill you! (I said that to a man once and he replied “great, tell my wife”).
When not performing I’ve been busy working on various projects, including getting sponsorship for a whole new routine that will be showcased next festival season (April time). I’ve spent a long time designing and redesigning some of the equipment I need for this, but that was the easy bit. The hard part was affording the props needed to perform it (nothing in my trade is cheap).
But being forever resourceful I decided to look for sponsorship. First thing I did was make a list of possible sponsors. The trick involves several bottles, 20 to be precise, so a company that sells it’s products in bottles seemed the most obvious choice. I divided a list of likely sponsors into two sections, those most likely to sponsor a trick and those I’d be proud to endorse.
I emailed the first company on the “proud to endorse” list. I’ll be honest here and tell you all that I didn’t hold out much luck. It’s only a small company, but their product is awesome and in my humble opinion, the best around. I thought I’d give them a week to reply, then move on to the second best. So imagine my surprise when they replied within a couple of hours. Not with a “thank you but no thank you”, but with an email stating that they’d love to sponsor me to the full amount!
For the next few days I must of been pure he’ll to live with. Everything I said ended with the words “I’ve got a sponsor”. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, a Christmas eve that lasted 4 or 5 days.
So the props are being made as we speak and should be ready next month. Then I’ve got to make the necessary changes to some of my stuff. Then practice, practice and practice, so that it’s all ready for next season.
What is this new trick? That’s a closely guarded secret, but if you subscribe to this blog (don’t worry, we wont give or sell your details to any 3rd party) then you’ll be one of the first to know.
Who are my new found sponsors. They’re a company who I’ve mentioned in several of my past blogs. Even before they became my official sponsor I was praising their skills, which shows how good I think they are. It’s a company called
As their name suggests, they make and sell mead, but not just traditional mead, also lovely and excitingly flavoured meads, including new flavours such as their rhubarb and liquorice and my personal favourite, the world famous magic mead chilli mead (the perfect winter warmer and Christmas present for your favourite fool). Please check out their website and if you ever see them at an event or market, ask for a free sample and mention my name. I tell you now, you really wont be disappointed with their products. Your only problem will be deciding which flavour to buy (my suggestion it buy one of every flavour, that way you wont be disappointed).
Up coming events;
Well that’s all for now folks. Other than to say that if you’re down in the west country in December, then you can see me at the “Dunster By Candlelight”. Held on the evenings of the 1st and 2nd of December, this promises to be a lovely event celebrating everything that’s great and magical about Christmas. After talking to the event organisers and looking at the website, I’m actually quite excited about this gig. It looks like loads of fun, fun and fun. A truly great way to get into the spirit of Christmas.
Once again I’m going to be standing in for my old friend Santa at several local events and of cause, I’ll be fooling and harping at The Cambridge Living History Fair in February. If you’re local, or in the area, it really is well worth attending, even if you’re not into history or re-enactment, you’ll find something you like (maybe even a bottle of mead from magic mead).
We’ve also got several“birthday parties” coming up, both local and further afield that also include our world famous “circus skills workshops”. Always a favourites with both children and adults alike. So to avoid disappointment, best you book me for yours now.
And lastly, I’ve just received a text message from the mother of the queen of hearts birthday girl asking if I can attend her sons birthday party. Apparently he is adamant that it’s got to be me. So I must be doing something right.
So if I don’t see you beforehand, I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas from all of us here at the fools house and hope to see you all next year (or at a birthday party somewhere).
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”
The first of the biggest and best in medieval events is one that’s already happened, but don’t worry, for I shall also tell you all about some that are yet to come.
The Loxwood Joust
The other week we were at “The Loxwood Joust“, where we were proud to be performing with our now famous “Total Immersion Show“. Held over the first two weekends in august, this festival has fast become one of the best medieval highlights of the year.
The publics point of view
From the publics point of view it quite simply has everything you need and a lot more. Sunny meadows and shady woodland glens. Medieval music for the musical connoisseurs, battles for the bloodthirsty and children’s entertainers for kids of all ages. Add to this authentic living history encampments, birds of prey and of cause, the Loxwood jousting team and you have one of the best value for money days out ever. You name it, this festival has it. Not only that, but every year it gets bigger with new zones opening every year. This year saw the inclusion of “The Torture Zone”. With its rack and hangman this new area was a great hit with the kids and next year they’re hopping to open up another area called……… Well I’ll let Loxwood Joust tell you about that when they’re ready too.
For more on why I personally think its such a great event for the public, please check out last years review.
The re-enactors point of view
From a re-enactors point of view, its fast becoming the most sort after event of the year. The layout of the living history camps is arranged not by the organisers, but by re-enactors. I.E. people who know which households get on camped next to each other and which ones don’t. Likewise the battle is also arranged by re-enactors, I.E. people who, over the years, have learned what works for both, the public and the re-enactors. From a non-combatants point of view, it looks like a jolly good bash (in more ways than one).
Also, it’s all expertly compared by a wonderful lady who once told me off for describing her as a goddess (ok, so it was “the Morrigan”, an Irish goddess of war, but hey a goddess is a goddess, right?) .
Then, once the public have gone home, there’s the evening entertainment in the beer tent. Loxwood Joust has tried various different beer tents over the years and this years beer tent was by far the best one yet. They supplied a wide range of beers, ciders and girly drinks that could cater for a wide range of tastes. All at a very good price. Add to this the lively music and people friendly staff and you have the perfect place to celebrate surviving both, the battle and the publics questions (is that real fire).
Also, as its on for not one, but two consecutive weekends, so the organisers allow participants to stay on site in between shows, free of charge! This makes it the perfect base for daytrips with the kids, or simply somewhere to chill with like minded souls as you practice your archery or sword skills.
The only down sides are
A) It’s only on for two weekends (although I am trying to convince them to take the whole show on tour, all summer long. Please join me in badgering them into this)
B) It’s now so popular with re-enactors that they are having to turn people away due to lack of space.
So if you want to be part of Britain’s best bash, then I have not just one, but two bits of advice.
1) Contact them now, while there’s still spaces left for the 2018 shows.
2) Make sure that you can supply everything that you offer. From an organizers point of view, there’s nothing worse than leaving a big space for 15 tents, only to have a mere 3 turn up (you know who you are).
My point of view
As for myself and why I not only like, but love the Loxwood joust? There’s a multitude of reasons. The main ones of which are as follows;
The organiser is not only very good at his job, but also a really nice guy, someone I class as a friend. Which makes working with him almost as pleasurable as taking his money. Everyone, public or otherwise are genuinely pleased and excited to be there. This gives the whole event a buzz that is often missing at other gigs. The public that attend are a great happy crowd that are up for a laugh. Many of them have been coming every year since the event began (and still laugh at my jokes). Often they will comment on our children and how much they’ve grown since last year. A true sign that it’s not just a family event, but a family event where everyone, performer, re-enactor and public, feel part of that family.
Then there’s the evenings. Once the public have wandered their weary yet happy way home and my family are safely tucked in for the night, there’s a dozen or more camp fires that I’m welcomed at. Some are known as party fires (not for the faint hearted). Others are frequented by families with young children, or are known as quiet gathering where one can chillax and discuss the battle and the interesting people that you slaughtered on the field of honour, whilst supping on an ale or mead like the civilised killers that you are.
In short this event is truly unique in the sense that it really does have something for everyone, be you public or re-enactors, party animals or families. The Loxwood Joust 2018 is the place to be. So be there, or be an equilateral rectangle.
“That’s all well and good” I hear you say, “but what about events yet to come”?
Patience oh reader, patience. For all is about to be revealed. Starting with the largest medieval event in the whole kingdom (shouldn’t that read queendom, or am I just being picky)? An event known as
England’s Medieval Festival
Held over the 3 days of the late August bank holiday at Herstmonceux castle, deep in the East Sussex countryside, “England’s Medieval Festival” is a medieval pageant par excellence. With multiple stages, a wet weather contingency plan (which, according to the forecast, we wont need) and a large, village square type medieval market, this is a festival the likes of which can not be found anywhere else. As well as battles, jousting, music and entertainment to suit everyone, it also has camping, glamping and a medieval banquet (held in the castles banqueting hall).
This year is the festivals 25th year, and to celebrate that fact they’re pulling out all the stops, with even more fun than ever before. But don’t worry, there will still be all your old favourites, like the battles, jousting and of cause, the worlds best ever jester, the one and only Stormageddon (aided by his two sidekicks, DevilStick Peat and Jester Dragonfly).
Then in late September (the 23rd and 24th there of) we’re performing at a brand spanking new medieval event.
The Ancient Oak Medieval Fayre
Held in the beautiful grounds of Quy park in Stow-cum-quy, Cambridgeshire, “The Ancient Oak Medieval Fayre” may be the newest event on the calendar, but the organisers have a long history of putting on great medieval events, including the Snailwell medieval fayre, which used to be held near the village of Snailwell.
If this event is anything like those ones were, then I’m going to have sooooo much fun and if you come along and join us, then so will you.
Well that’s all for now folks. As its late on the Thursday evening and tomorrow I have to perform in a local event before heading down to and setting up at England’s medieval festival. Hope to see you all there.
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 Circusbig top the older children train hard in skills such as trapeze, juggling, clowning and magic. In the 2 slightly smallerpanic 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 theTemplecombe 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.
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 pagecurrently 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
A slightly belated “happy aprils fools day” to all our readers. And what a great Aprils fools day we had. But before I tell you all about it, let me start by telling you that we’ve recently made some changes to our website and would love to hear your views on them.
It only seems like yesterday that we put all of our festival kit away for the winter. Yet already we’ve had to clean the kit, take the dust cover off Stormageddon and change his batteries. “Why”?. Because it’s festival season again. Indeed we’ve already got a few under our belts.
Only last weekend we were performing at the “East of England food festival”. This is a well established show with a great reputation and despite the wind, it was well attended by both the public and traders.
I was in oral heaven as various stalls took it upon themselves to keep the cool fool fed. A wonderful lady selling succulent Indian food would accost me several times daily with bags of freshly cooked pakora and spicy samosas.
Those wonderful folk from “A moment in time” were doing a display of medieval cookery and, on discovering that we’re vegetarians promptly decided to make their display medieval vegetarian cookery, and very yummy it was.
The “Farr brew” brewery thought it would be good to have a photo taken of me holding one of their bottles of Porter. Obviously I couldn’t be seen to endorse a product I haven’t tried, but I can now tell you that their Porter is a true work of art. As are both their dark and light bitters. I’ve heard a rumour that they will soon be releasing a new “joker ale”. I so hope that they want me to endorse that as well. Maybe I can do a deal with them where they use my logo on the bottles and I get a lifetime supply of joker ale.
But it wasn’t just fine food and drink that was on offer that weekend. There was also several marquees of craft stalls, including the lovely lads from “Lord and lama“.
These two gentlemen specialise in wooden, handmade works from far off exotic lands. Here you can pick up anything from a bespoke flower vase to a large teak table, or maybe you’d like a set of hand carved garden chairs with 7 foot high backs, all carved like giant oak leaves?
Stormageddon and jester Dragonfly weren’t at this event, so we didn’t have the full set up, but the fool was set up and running over the two days, performing his own brand of zany humour and magic. If you missed it then dont worry, as at the end of this blog I’ll tell you where we’re performing next (cause I’m nice like that).
Festival of fools:
This weekend, being April’s fools day, we headed up north to “Alnwick castle” in Northumberland.
We traveled up there via nottingham so as to pick up Stormageddon’s new motley from those wonderful wizards of costumes and creations, “Brighid designs“. Who just happens to be one of the best creative costumers in the business. If you want anything from a handmade, unique wedding dress to a 17th century pirate coat (or even an amalgamation of the two), then these really are the folk to see. Please, dont confuse them with “bridget designs“. Although they are both outstanding in their fields, the latter is an amazing website designer. Funnily enough, I knew a scarecrow who was also called bridget, and he was outstanding in his field as well (think about it).
“But why” I hear you ask “did we choose to spend Aprils fools day at Alnwick castle”? Well I shall tell you. Alnwick castle is not just the ancestral home of the Duke of Northumberland (who still lives there) and where several of the quidditch and broom flying parts of Harry Potter were filmed, but also one of the last castles to have a residential fool! So where else could be more symbolic than the lawns of Alnwick castle.
Oh, and the other reason is that they paid us to be there. Indeed this weekend they hired in a total of 4 fools (5 if you include our zany, the infamous Stormageddon) to partake in their festival of fools. An event that they hope to put on around this time every year!
On one part of the lawn was 2 fools known collectively as “Zooted”. I’ve known them for a good number of years and can say in all honesty that they are nearly as good as myself. On the other side was ourselves, with 3 of our medieval tents, the jesters school of…….well……….jestering and my magic and juggling shows.
The highlight of the shows for me was getting the chance to gatecrash a really posh wedding banquet that was happening in another part of the castle and perform a couple of quick impromptu routines for the bride and groom. But the highlight of the whole weekend must have been the B&B we stayed at.
We arrived at “The Alndyke farm ” B&B friday evening and were greeted by its owner, Laura. She’s the type of woman that you instantly feel at ease with and, upon learning that we’d be leaving before breakfast time, said she’d leave milk and cereal out for us. The room was lovely, with a single bed for storm, a massive double bed for so many pillows, we could of used a different one every day.
The next day was Saturday, the first of April. Now this date isn’t just special to us because it’s April fools day. It’s also special because it just happens to be the day I got married! And funny enough, it also just happens to be the day that my wife also got married. Well, when else could a fool do something so foolish? Besides, it’s a date I can remember.
Work went well with large crowds for both, our shows and our workshops. So when we got back to Alndyke farm we were well and truly tiered (except for stormageddon who runs on duracell batteries). Unbeknown to me, my wife had told Laura that it was our wedding anniversary and given her some banners and balloons to put up in the room. To get back to that was a wonderful surprise for me. Then we noticed the bottle.
Laura, upon discovering that it was our wedding anniversary had gone out and brought us a bottle of champagne! It was a lovely gesture and something that I’ll remember for years to come. It’s little things like that which make special days magical and one of the many reasons why I really can’t recommend this lovely, family run business highly enough. If you’re ever looking for a relaxing break in some wonderful english countryside, at a B&B that looks and feels a lot more expensive than it is, then check out Alndyke farm. You really won’t be disappointed.
Sundays weather was a lot warmer than Saturdays, so the crowds were even larger. James, the castles events manager came to watch my show and was impressed, not only by my linking rings (of doom) routine (of which I am immensely proud), but also by some of our bespoke, custom made magic props, designed to look medieval and professionally made just for us. After all, you can’t have plastic props in a medieval show, that would just be wrong.
Eventually the day came to an end, the crowds went home and we were left to break camp, pack the trailer, then head back to the B&B where Stormageddon and Jester Dragonfly fell asleep in front of the telly, leaving me to relax, practising my latest trick. I don’t want to say to much about it yet, but if all goes well then this summer I’m going to be performing a close up magic routine that really will blow your minds. All I’ve got to do now is practice, practice and practice.
Monday morning came along and, after checking out of the B&B, we headed back to the castle to play at being members of the public. The state rooms are truly stunning and give a big insight into the “upstairs downstairs” life of times gone by. I was particularly moved by their display about employees who joined the forces to fight in the 2 world wars.
Then Stormageddon and I took part in the Alnwick castle “broomstick flying lessons“. These are great fun and very well taught. They also include some great tips for photos of the students flying. Both Stormageddon and I loved it. Infact, Stormageddon loved it so much that he took part in it not once, but twice!
The morning quickly turned into the early afternoon. So, with a long way to go, we decided to head homeward, back to Manea and the fools house. Once home it was time to unpack and clean the equipment before reloading, ready for our next event.
“But what is your next event”? I hear you cry. Well we’ve got an action packed summer full of events, including some old favourites, such as “The loxwood joust“. This is surely the best medieval event in the country. Infact it’s so good that it happens not once but twice! Always on the first two weekends of August. There’s also some new ones like “The Berkshire easter craft and country fair” near reading. Held on easter Sunday and monday, this is an action packed show with entertainment all day every day. Then, on 22nd and 23rd of April we’re performing at the Calne ST Georges day medieval reenactment in, well, Calne. This is a wonderful event. It’s put on by our dear friends from “The white hart coaching hotel” and is guaranteed to bring you all a taste of life in medieval times. Not just the excitement of Knights fighting for honor on the field of valour, but also living history where you can see and chat to all sorts of folk from days gone by.
Well that’s all for now folks. Please take a look at the new improved “Birthdays page” and make any comments via the comments link below. Also, my facebook page “DevilStick Peat” now has 949 likes. That’s so close to the magic 1,000. So if you haven’t liked it yet, please do so and in return we at the fools house promise to love you for ever
As spring is in the air and Christmas is now nothing more than a distant memory, empty biscuit tins and sellotape marks on the ceiling, so I thought that it’s about time I enthralled you with yet another riveting blog describing the life, times and tribulations of a modern day medieval fool.
Here at the fool house we’ve had a great winter season. Some of the highlights of which were as follows:
Melford Old Christmas Fair.
This was a wonderful event put on by the local people of long Melford. I must say that they really know how to push the boat out. There was a Santa’s grotto, reindeer, stalls galore, wondering magicians and of cause, yours truly was there. Performing shows and walkabout routines. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, at the end of the day they had a lantern parade through the town. This was a particularly nice touch as it gave the local children (including the grown up ones) a chance to show off their home made lanterns and really put everyone in a christmassy mood.
You can see photo’s and find out details about this year’s fun packed event via this red coloured link to their facebook page.
This year I had the privilege of being allowed to play santa, not once, but twice! (and only one child was heard to say “hey, Santa sounds just like storms daddy”). O.K. so I didn’t get paid for it. Well, not in money anyway. But this job isn’t just about the money. It isn’t just about the look on their faces when Santa does some magic (although that is one of the best parts). It’s about playing with and feeding a child’s imagination. And with that comes both, great satisfaction and great responsibility.
Do it right. Feed his imagination in the correct way, and he’ll grow up to be an imaginative adult. Just like the ones who had the imagination to dream of a world where telephone lines could link computers, or of incubators to help keep newborn babies alive. O.K. that might sound extreme to you but, as some of you may know, in my role of a humanitarian, I have done around a dozen tours of conflict and war zones. Here I’ve met children whose imagination has been fed the wrong way. Children who quite literally havent even smiled in over a year. How many of them are now members of Islamic state is anyone’s guess. Look at it that way and you realize just how important our job is.
And that brings me to yet another of my winter highlights. I was approached by BBC radio cambridgeshire and asked if I’d be willing to talk about my work in war zones live on radio! It was broadcasted at 9A.M. on the 22nd of January on a program called “Nic Conrad on sunday”.
This is like a local radio version of desert Island disks. Nic played a selection of my favorite tunes (ranging from “Puff the magic dragon” to “The time warp”) and in between we chatted about my life. I openly admit to being very nervous at the start. Not least because the last time the BBC interviewed me about my work in war zones they asked the sort of questions that you really shouldn’t (E.G. what’s the worst thing you’ve seen!). However I have to say that Nic was brilliant. Not only was he sensitive to the subject matter, but he really made me feel relaxed. It felt more like a natter with a mate than an interview.
You can hear the whole thinghere. But hurry as it’s only available for another 11 days
We’ve been doing a fair fewworkshopsover the winter. Including brownie and rainbows circus badge workshops. When not jestering, Jester Dragonfly volunteers as the local girl guiding district commissioner. So we do a special, discounted rate workshop aimed at getting whole brownie packs through their circus badge (including the art section) in one night. I love doing these as the ladies who run the packs always seem to get more joy out of the sessions than their brownies do. More than once we’ve had a brownie leader squeal with delight as they get a plate spinning or a flowerstick up and flying. In Fact they’re so much fun that we now have a new page on the website, especially for the Brownies circus performers badge workshops
We also ran a workshop for a special needs group of young adults in the town of March. We’d been paid to run a workshop for them earlier in the year and it was just so much fun, that we offered to come back again for free around christmas time.
Again, it’s not just about the money in this trade, it’s also about enjoying the work and this group are a real pleasure to work with. Both Jester Dragonfly and I were surprised by just how much they’d remembered from our last visit. A sure sign that they’d had fun.
Up and coming events.
But enough of this nostalgic reminiscing. For winter is past, and spring, with its daffodils and snowdrops is once again upon us (Hence the reason their threatening snow). So it’s time to look forwards and let you know not only a little about what we’ve got planned for this coming year, but also how to get those all important discounted tickets!
Once again we will be performing at all our regular events, including, but limited to;
Battle Medieval Fayre. A lovely little event that’s held outside Battle Abbey in east sussex every year on the late may bank holiday. There’s no discounted tickets avalible for this event, but that’s because it’s totally free to enter.
The loxwood Joust. Held at loxwood near Guildford over the first two weekends in August. This event ranks as one of the best medieval events in the country. It has everything you’d expect to see and a lot more besides. A great day out for the whole family. Discounted tickets can be found on their website (Follow the red link above).
England’s Medieval Festival. This year the event, which is held at Herstmonceux castle in east sussex, is celebrating it’s 25th year. This has always been a big, spectacular event, but this year they’re really pushing the boat out to make it the best ever. It even has camping, glamping and bed and breakfast as well as a wonderful nightly medieval banquet. Discounted tickets can be found on their website (Follow the red link above).
But the very next event we’re performing at is “The Cambridge Living History Fair” on the 18th and 19th of February. I’m not going to go into too much detail about this event as there’s already a review of it in one of my earlier blogs. If you missed it, then you can view ithere. For more info about those attending, or to book yourself a stall, please check out their facebook page. Surfast to say that there’s not just stalls galore selling goods from all historic periods, but there’s also some wonderful entertainment guaranteed to amaze and amuse the whole family. So if you’re looking for an unusual valentines present for your partner, why not treat them to a day at the fair.
Then, on the 25th and 26th of March, we’re performing our “Total Immersion Show” at “The east Of England Food Festival”. This is a wonderful event that’s held at The herst county showground, AL3 7TP.
This is a fantastic, fun filled festival of food, crafts and good wholesome family entertainment. There’s even going to be various personalities from masterchief attending.
So if you’re looking for a cheap, fun filled day out for all the family, then come along and join in the fun.You can even buy discounted tickets simply by followingthis link.
After that we pack up and head up north toAlnwick castle. here we’ll be spending April the 1st and 2nd celebrating Aprils fools day with various other fools. More info on that festival to follow latter.
As for all the other events we’re performing at. Well, I’ll tell you about them nearer the date. For now we’ll going to keep you in suspense.
“But What if I miss the next blog” I hear you cry. “Then I wont know where to see you”!
Fear not my friend. For all you need do is join that merry band of faithful followers who have subscribed to my blog. It’s really easy to do. Just enter your email address into the link at the top right hand side of theblog home pagethen click on the bit that says “sign up”, easy-peasy. That way you’ll get an email every time I post a blog and don’t worry. We at the fool’s house take privacy very seriously and promise not to sell or give your details to anyone else.
Well that’s all for now folks. I’m going to bid you all “hail and farewell”, switch off the computer, then stare out of the window at the snow clouds over head and think about how lucky I am to spend the winter in england with a wife and kids, as opposed to those horrible long gone winter days of freedom spent traveling around the beaches of India.
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.
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