haircuts, hersty and the ancient oak

haircuts, hersty and the ancient oak

 

Welcome welcome one and all, to yet another long awaited thrilling entry in the continuing saga on the times, trials and tribulations of life as a modern day medieval fool. Or as I prefer to call it “my blog”.

It’s been a busy summer, busier than normal, but that’s the way I want it. After all, to quote from the great prophet, “an unemployed jester is nobodies fool”. I could write 4 or 5 entries about the fun we’ve had this summer, but instead I’m going to concentrate on a couple of the best. I.E. “England’s Medieval Festival” (A.K.A. hersty) and “The Ancient Oak Medieval Fayre” (A.K.A. the ancient oak medieval fayre).

England’s Medieval Festival

England’s Medieval Festival is a great event held over the August bank holiday at Herstmonceux castle near Hastings in east sussex. This was it’s 26th consecutive year, of which I think I’ve performed at the last 24. During that time it’s seen many changes and has grown from strengh to strengh. The most notable changes from my point of view is the inclusion of camping for the public (including some groovy glamping tents). This is a wonderful and unique chance to fully immerse oneself in 3 whole days (and nights) of medieval life. And lets face is, what child (aged 9-90) doesn’t want to spend the evening siting at a table, listening to some world class, kicking music, whilst chatting to knights, princess’s and of cause, the worlds sexeyist (and most humble) fool.

Best mead ever!

And if that’s not your thing, then there’s the outside cinema with an array of medieval themed films. Or maybe you want to really push the boat out and enjoy a medieval banquet held in the castles great banqueting hall. If you’re really lucky, then some knights might even invite you to join them in their camp as they sit around a fire, supping on ale or a bottle or two of mead from the greatest of all mead producers, The “Magic Mead” company. In my humble opinion they are purveyors of the some of the best meads I’ve ever tried (and over 30 years of medievaling means that, in my time, I have tried a mead or two).

The other main change from my point of view, is the inclusion of a wet weather contingency plan. This ensures that the fun continues regardless of the traditional bank holiday weather, but more on that latter, for I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me start at the beginning, which for us was turning up on the Friday afternoon and, in a break from our normal hersty setting up routine, setting up in daylight. It’s so much easier (and a lot less painful) to hammer in 83 heavy duty metal tent pegs when you can see what your doing. And a lot easier to juggle in my shows when my thumbs aren’t swollen from misaimed mallet swings.

setting up

Over the years we and the adjacent shows and stalls have always set up in the same places and know exactly where to place ourselves. In our case we are between the 3rd and 7th posts of the fencing around kids kingdom. Unfortunately the site owners have removed the fence, meaning that I and my neighbours spent a good ten minutes standing there, scratching our heads, trying to work out who goes where. Luckily for us, although we only meet up once a year, we all class each other as good friends, so it was all sorted out without fistycuffs or lances at dawn.

Day 1

Saturday morning greeted us with brilliant sunshine and the promise of a fun filled, action packed day, and so it was with a spring in our steps that Jester Dragonfly and I headed up to the front gate, eager to meet and welcome that mighty hord known as “the public”. Now it’s a long walk from our medieval encampment in kids kingdom all the way up to front of house, but one of the unique things about England’s Medieval Festival is the “gatters”. These are a fleet of golf carts that travel around the site. They are not just there to transport mega stars like my own humble self, but also members of the public. Simply wait until a gatter comes along, stick out your thumb, jump aboard (making sure its stopped first) and tell them where you wish to go. This free service is perfect for the elderly, parents with tiered out kids or those who simply fancy a ride.

As expected, it was a busy day and I was soon enjoying performing my “welcome routines”. These are a variety of short routines designed to get people in the mood for a fun day whilst also giving them some info on whats happening where. It also gives me the chance to interact 1 to 1 with people, thereby giving them the personal touch that this festival is well known for. Then, after a couple of hours of “welcome to england’s medieval festival. The best festival in the whole field” and other witty intros, it was time to head back to camp and get ready for my first show.

After checking all my kit was ready, I wandered out onto the footpath to talk to passers by. Telling kids, adult, dogs and anything else that ventured by that it was nearly show time and asking them to come and watch (well it’s really embarrassing if I’m the only one there). I need not of feared, for I had a great crowd and as I gazed out at them I recognised many faces of fans who come to see my kids show year after year. Some of them even had children with them!

Children's entertainer ely
Performing at Hersty

After my show and a quick bit of lunch, it was time to do some walk about. I love doing walk about as you never know who you’re going to meet or what the kids are going to say. As such you have to be ready for any and everything. From kids who want to see magic, adults who want to hear a joke and people who need info or have a problem. As the face of the festival you need to be ready for it all. But walk about is also my chance to meet up with old friends, re-enactors, traders and members of the public who, over the years, have become true friends. Then, after my second show and yet more walk about, it was time to head back up to the gates and do the good byes.

Another thing I like about this festival is the fact that, even though it’s one of the largest of it’s kind, the orginisors still take the time to listen to ideas from us mere mortals. One idea I had was to build a platform for me inside the castle tower a the entrance/exit. Here I sit chatting to the public as they leave. Asking them if they’d had a good day (in all my years there no one has ever said no). Laughing and joking with them and performing various short good bye routines, including one where I portray rapunzel’s brother, repugnant.

Eventually the last of the daytrippers, pushing prams full of tiered out babes leave and its time to have a couple of hours down time before my final show of the day. For although the kids kingdom has closed, we still have all the glampers and campers to entertain. This includes a fire possession from the camp site to the beer tent, where many bands perform through out the night. But that’s not something I take part in. My job is to perform for the grand banquet in the castles grand banqueting hall.

The Grand Banquet

Here the room is filled with 3 long tables. The two longest tables are

king and queen
England’s Medieval Festivals king and queen

surrounded by banqueters (if that’s not a real word, then it dammed well should be). The 3rd table is reserved for the nobles of the house, including the festivals very own king and queen. A lovely couple who, when not kinging, queening and presiding over banquets, spend their spare time running “The Crossed Keys“. A lovely old fashioned pub in chatteris. If you’re ever in the area and want the very best in food and ales, all served in a old world setting, then you wont do better than visiting the crossed keys pub (tell them I sent you, I might make a free beer out of it). Then, at around 10pm, and only then, is my days work done and I can finally stop playing the part of the happy, care free fool and go back to being a misible, child hating what name. (That’s a joke by the way. The truth is I love my job. It’s a true passion and oh so much better than working for a living). And so it is that, work finished, it’s time for a quick drink and dance to some great live music in the tavern, then off to bed, for tomorrows another busy day.

Day 2

Sunday morning brought with it dark, heavy clouds and the promise of rain. But unlike other, lesser events, this doesn’t mean we remain shut, for here at england’s medieval festival the moto is “The show must go on”. For not only are there the campers and glampers to entertain, but over the years the daytrippers have also come to learn that we remain not only open, but also up and running.

The promised rain began to fall just as I started my first show of the day, but one of the percurlyatites that I’m known for, is my love of a challenge and the challenge was this. Do I stop my show and move it under cover (stopping part way through is never a good idea) or do I prove to myself that I’m good enough to be able to keep people standing in the rain for the next 20 minutes just to watch me? I’m proud to say that I raised to the challenge.

Now whenever I’m performing, at the back of my mind, there’s always the fear that, mid performance, I’ll mess up and my balls will drop. Add to this the slippery nature of my now wet balls and you can understand just how uncomfortable I felt. (should I pause awhile here whilst those of you with a childish mind stop sniggering). but that wasn’t the only problem. The stuffing in my horny hat isn’t waterproof and the added weight of the water in the stuffing meant that, as I jumped about, so I was constantly being slapped in the face by a soggy horn (oh please, stop laughing and just grow up).

Like I say, I love a challenge, so my 30 minute show lasted about 40 minutes, simply because it was so much fun to keep them there. But eventually I drew my show to a close, took a well deserved squelchy bow and quickly moved my equipment into the dry before venturing out once again into the rain, this time to perform walk about routines.

I’m lucky in the sense that I have a full length, woolen medieval coat which keeps all save my head not only dry, but also warm. So I was quite happy to wander around in the rain. As the rain got heavier and heavier, so I headed down towards the massive medieval market. Here I knew I’d find lots of traders who, due to the weather, weren’t going to do a lot of trade. So I amused myself by strolling around singing “summertime”, “oh what a beautiful morning” and other similar themed songs in such a happy manner that it was almost guaranteed to get on their nerves (hey, its one of the perks of the trade). and it was whilst strolling around that I saw a show the likes of which I’ve never seen before.

The world famous hersty mud stage wasn’t affected by the rain

The jousting field was deemed too slippery for the horses to perform safely on, but our motto here is, as stated earlier, “the show must go on”. And so it was that I gazed upon the sight of crowds of people thoroughly enjoying getting soaking wet as they watched the jousters jousting without the horses!

Grown men in full armour running at each other with great big, long wooden poles, often slipping and fulling in the mud long before they reached their target, as they done a truly brilliant job of entertaining the crowds. It was one of the funnest thing I’ve seen in a long time and proof of just how hard everyone at england’s medieval festival works to make it one of the best shows around. regardless of the weather.

Day 3

Monday was, thankfully another dry day and warm enough to cause steam to raise from soggy knights and damp damsels. The crowds were larger than normal and a great time was had by all as knights battled, jousters jousted (with horses this time) and I, your humble narrator, donned his spare, dry hat and spent the day fooling, juggling, magicing and all the other “ings” that one would expect from Britain’s premier humble fool. Then, after the last show was completed  and the last goodbye said, it was time to pack up our tents, wring out our soggy bits and finally head home from what must be one of the best and most enjoyable herstys we had in a very long time.

But our time at home was somewhat short lived. For we arrived home late tuesday night. Unpacked and washed kit Wednesday, then repacked Thursday ready to venture forth once more bright and early on the Friday. This time to a smaller, yet no less entertaining show known as The ancient Oak Medieval Fayre.

The Ancient Oak Medieval Fayre

Based just outside of Cambridge, this is a wonderful medieval show put on by a friend of mine. In fact the show is so good that Jester Dragonfly and I are always more than happy to not only perform at it, but also help by crewing free of charge. I also supplied free advertising for them on both, TV and radio. You can watch and listen to them by clicking on the red links, but I wont as I hate watching myself

Out on a wing falconry

Like all good shows it had all the basic elements of a fun filled medieval re-enactment. I.E. knights in armour hitting each other on the head in a historical manner, jousting from the world famous “Horsemen of the knight“. living history camps with vikings, saxons and of cause medieval encampments from over 10 different reenactment groups! It had a medieval market where one could buy anything from mead to armour, wooden swords to full on, double-handed war axes forged by master blacksmiths and oh so much more.

There was a wonderful birds of prey display by tim and tina from “ Out on a Wing Falconry “. This lovely couple perform one of the best falconry displays I’ve seen in a very long time and are also really nice people who have a true love for their birds. So if you’re looking for a display for a show or birthday treat, or maybe you want to give someone special a one to one day flying birds. Then give them a call. You really wont be disappointed.

there was even a chance to tryout your skills as an archer care of the “Phoenix Warlords Medieval Reenactment“. The rather good and nicely priced beer tent was supplied by “The Trolls Bottom” and came complete with an array of fine ales and ciders as well as mead and a selection of their own flavoured spirits.

Our dear friends “The Pentacle Drummers” were there performing with ear splitting enthusiasm as they beat dried animal skins with lumps of wood and I, your poor humble narrator, performed comic skills of mystery and dysterity. All this and more was happening at east Anglia’s biggest and bestest medieval reenactment, all contained in a field just a few miles from the centre of Cambridge city.

Now every gig is different. They all have their strong points and their weak points. and the strong point about this event, the one thing that sticks out in my mind even more than the awesome entertainment, is it’s feel. It’s like being on your local village green with family and mates.

It was a sunny weekend and families set up house on the green surrounding the main arena. Spreading out blankets and picnics as they settled down for a fun filled day. Once settled they could let their kids run free, safe in the knowledge that they could watch them from a distance as, vorpal swords in hand, they challenged other kids to do battle. As the kids from one family made friends with kids from another family, so their parents would chat and new friendships were made.

Then the 5 kids fighting each other would decide to team up and fight the kids from a couple of other families At one point I sat at my tents, watching as this happened and thinking that it was like watching 11 year olds acting out “Game of thrones” (but with less blood and more clothing).

There was an array of food outlets, including one of my personal favorites “Dragonjaks“. A wonderful bunch of chefs who not only knock out great food at great prices whilst smiling and chatting with folk, but also kept me in a constant supply of coffee. Even the medieval market had a big family feel, for it was chock-a-block full of the “cream de la cream” of traders. All of them being the old school type of people who would always go that extra mile to help someone out, be they fellow traders or members of the public.

Next to our colourful, medieval encampment was a “have a go archery” stall, run by The phoenix war band. These are a wonderful bunch of reenactors who banded together to raise money for charity. Their have a go encampment has a range of bows of different size and strength to cater for all ages and the money they raise goes towards good causes. They also had a large, square medieval tent with the sides taken down so that they had some shade. And here it was that the true star of this blog, the stupendous Stormageddon, had his Stupendous haircut.

“But what” I here you cry “Is so stupendous about a haircut”? Well read on dear reader, for all shall be revealed.

Storms Sponsored Haircut

Our son, the fazmagorical Storm (A.K.A Stormageddon) is very nearly 7 (14th of September) in all those long years, he has never had, what my parents would call “a real haircut”! and he is very well known for his long, flowing blond locks. However, earlier this year he told us that he wanted, as he put it, “A boys haircut”.

Neither his mother, Jester Dragonfly, or myself wanted him to lose his rupunzalish look, but at the same time, he is now old enough to make the decision, and so it was that we begrudgingly agreed. After a talk with him about it he decided to do several things. The first was that he wanted to donate his hair to “The Princess Trust“. A wonderful charity that make wigs for children who, due to cancer and other illness’s, have lost their hair. Something that I personally feel is a wonderful idea made even more beautiful by it’s pure simplicity.

He also decided to see if people would sponsor his hair cut to raise money for 3 other good causes.

  1. Muscular Dystrophy UK are a wonderful charity who work in a number of ways with and for those who, like Storms cousin, suffer from this genetic condition. As we have the condition in our family it is, understandably, a subject close to our hearts.
  2. The Anne Harris Children’s fund are a small charity who raise funds for child related good causes. They were also the main funders for my work with children in conflict zones and, when we told them that we needed £2000 for a hoist to lift my nephews wheelchair into the car, offered to fund the whole lot!
  3.  Last but by no means lest, he wanted to raise money for his beaver pack (like cubs but for younger kids) as he wanted to give something back for all the fun.

We decided to set a goal of £1,000 to be shared equally between the 3 . I’ll be honest here and tell you that I was really worried that we had set the goal too high and he would be disappointed when we failed to reach it. I’m immensely proud to say that I need not of worried. For not only has he reached his goal, but he has passed it! I cant tell you how much yet, as the money is still coming in and people are still donating. Some in person with hard cash, others via his fund raising page https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/stormshaircut

To all our friends, in-laws, nephews and total strangers who donated and/or shared his page on social media, we here at the fools house would like to send you our sincere thanks. Indeed “Thank you”  falls far short of the gratitude we feel for your amazing response. There are way too many of you to mention here, but what I will say is that “the phoenix warband” made the largest, single donation. Something that literally brought tears to Jester Dragonfly’s eyes (where as I, being a manly type of man, merely had smoke in my eyes).

The cutting of the hair was performed, free of charge by the lovely Sue from “Short Back And Sides” in March and was happening at the same time as one of my shows, so I didn’t see the work in progress, just the end result, and what a result! Truth is I hardly recognized him as he looked so…….well……..normal! And I’ll never forget the look on his face when I took a photo and showed him what he now looks like. I admit to having a fear that he wouldn’t like it and would ask for it to be put back on, followed by the tears when we say that we cant. However he was totally amazed by his new look and also (I’m relieved to say) impressed with it, and still is.

can you tell the difference

sadly sold out

Eventually this event had to do what all events do, I.E. come to an end. And so it was that, with heavy heart, I waved goodbye to happy parents and tired children. However, my sadness at their departure was short lived, as the event owner not only paid us cash, but even gave it to me rather than the better half! And so it was that, with a skip in my step, I headed at full speed towards a stall going by the name of “The king of Cups“.

I’d strolled by their stall earlier in the day and just happened to notice that they were selling their own brand of chilli mead. Now as anyone who knows me will tell you, I love chilli’s, so I sampled a wee taster. It is one of the best chilli meads I’ve had in a long time. Not only is it a lot hotter than most commercially available chilli meads, but (and this is what all chilli lovers look for) it had a real depth of flavor.

The king at the king of cups stall

I stood there as way after wave of flavor washed against the inside of my cheeks like a finely mixed napam and paintstripper cocktail, before swallowing and enjoying its warming feel slide down my throat, kicking my tonsils on route with all the subtleness of a welsh rugby team on a stag night. “Yes” I thought “I want a bottle of this”. So you can imagine my disappointment when my eagerly held out hand of hard cash was met with the news that they’d sold out! And so it was that, with a crushed heart I returned to our encampment, handed our wages over to Jester Dragonfly and broke camp, ready to head homeward.

I can’t say how good this festival is and also how much bigger than last years. If it keeps on growing at this rate then some of the more established local events had better watch out and up their game. As this has all the promise of becoming one of East Anglia’s major attractions.

Future events

But enough of times past and onto up and coming events

Cambridge Living History Fair

October 20th and 21st

I’ve been performing at “The Cambridge Living History Fair” since it first started, many moons ago. Since then it has simply gone from strengh to strengh. “But what it a living history fair” I hear you ask “And would I, a mere member of the public enjoy it”? Again you can check out the link above or read My review of The Cambridge living history fair in my blog entry entitled “My review of The Cambridge living history fair“.

King Henry’s Christmas Court

This year King Henry the 8th will be holding a christmas court at the mary rose museum in Portsmouth. The quite sensibly named “King Henry’s Christmas Court” will be held over several weekend in the build up to and over the christmas period. And what king would dare to hold court without his trusty fool, yours truly the one and only DevilStick Peat. I’ve never performed here before, but a couple of years ago we took the kids to the museum and everyone, adults and kids alike, had a great time.

 

And on the subject of christmas. Booking are coming in fast. So if you’re charged this year with finding great entertainment for your works christmas bash, medieval banquet, or christmas market, then why not hire the best. The one and only DevilStick Peat.

Well that’s all for now folks, but before I go I’d just like to wish our son and the trus star of our show, the one and only Stormageddon a very happy birthday.

Birthday parties with award winning fenland children’s entertainer DevilStick Peat

Birthday parties with award winning fenland children’s entertainer DevilStick Peat

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;

ely childrens entertainer magician and juggler devilstick pear
A young volunteer for my mysterious Egyptian rings of mystery routine at a birthday party for 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.

Cambridgeshire children's entertainer, devil's tick peat on a cake
Me, still smiling even with a plank of wood stuck up me!

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.

some of the stalls at the Cambridge living history fair

 

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”).

Sponsorship;

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

MAGIC MEAD

Not just the best mead at the festival, but the best mead anywhere, ever. (Check out their chilli mead. It’s so yummy).

 

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;

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

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).

Your favourite fool

Peat

winter past and spring to come

winter past and spring to come

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

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

Melford Old Christmas Fair.

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

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

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

Santa Claus.

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

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

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

BBC INTERVIEW

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

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

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

 

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

Other highlights.

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

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

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

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

Up and coming events.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Yours foolishly

DevilStick Peat

Birthday entertainment and special needs circus workshop

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

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

The booking;

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

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

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

Meet and greet;

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

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

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

The new magic cake (of doom) routine;

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

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

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

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

Adults joined in;

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

Circus skills workshops
Stormageddon teaching spinning plates

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

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

Why I can’t say no;

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

The workshop;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next;

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

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

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

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

Now, before I go, I’d like to remind you all that it’s now possible to subscribe to my blog. There by insuring that you never miss another thrilling instalment. Simply scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your email address. Then, every time I get the time to blog, you’ll get a cute little email letting you know. so go on, you know you want too.

Lastly, it for you haven’t liked my Facebook page yet, don’t worry, there’s still time just go to Facebook.com/d.s.peat and  click on like.