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The Jester of Buckingham bringing Middle Ages Silliness back to Britain.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Magic Circle

On Saturday 21st November 2009 I had the pleasure of performing at The Magic Circle in London. This building of mystery, dubbed The House of 10,000 secrets, is tucked away in a back alley near the station and save for the signs of the Zodiac (which make part of the club logo) and a limp flag fluttering gently above the narrow blue door, the place is easy to miss. It features on The Knowledge (the test that all London Taxi Drivers have to pass in order to be a cabbie) and frequently chaps ride past on little scooters with their maps out looking somewhat confused by the non-appearance of the Hogwarts-esque (Hey, Shakespeare made up words, I thought I would give it a bash) meeting place.

It is always a pleasure to be at The Magic Circle, the Centre for The Magic Arts and one of the oldest magic clubs in the world. I was performing as part of the Saturday show. These take place once a month after the Young Magicians Club workshops and are open to young magicians, magic circle members, friends and family. They are not advertised and always sold out (we turned people away again this time around through lack of space for them) The best aspect of performing in these shows is the fact that every person sitting there WANTS to see magic. You are not an intruder on their day our or evening celebrations as is frequently the case in other jobs. You are the attraction. People have come to watch you and see what you have to offer.

The sessions normally consist of four close up performers presenting their routines in The Club Room and The Devant Room and then a theatre show in, you guessed it, The Magic Circle Theatre. (The best custom built theatre for magic to be presented in, the angles, lights and space are perfect) I was part of the stage show and, due to the annual awards ceremony being held on the same night for The Magic Circle elite, the theatre had no crew, so I was doing my stage spot in a cabaret setting in the Devant room (named after the first president)

I was on first. I feel that the crowd had been really well warmed up by the close up magic and I did not have a hard job working with them. They were receptive, laughed at the right points, offered freely to join in and responded warmly to my magic routines. I loved it. I also got to perform on the same bill as two fantastic performers. The first, David Weeks, entertained in the close up portion of the evening. A consummate professional and genuinely nice man. I am privileged to call him my friend and we often spend time chatting with him freely offering his advice on my routines and such like (He also performs as a Jester - so all the more reason to like him)

The second was a new face to me. A chap called Hugh Nightingale. I had heard the name and from friends of mine I had been told he was very good. They were correct. His act was gentle and engaging (he was performing on stage to close the evening) and the audience really enjoyed him.

It was lovely to perform at The Magic Circle again after so long and to share the bill with Hugh and David. When we all went out for dinner after the table beside ours happened to be a young crowd of teens who had been to the show. They got a glass of wine sent over for the performers (myself and Hugh were the ones left at that point) which was a really nice surprise and showed how well the evening went. Please do check out www.themagiccircle.co.uk and get yourself along to one of the events. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Foolish Teacher

I used to attend Milton Keynes college as a student on the Performing Arts Programme and I enjoyed my time there, honing my existing skills and working hard on developing new skills. It was at MK College that I found my voice and developed it to the level where I could sing to a decent standard. I had the pleasure of playing Joseph in the musical of the same name, Kenickie in Grease and also Orin in Little Shop of Horrors. It was a very creative and important time in the development of my performance style and I am really grateful to the staff for all their support and encouragement. It was, on the whole, a very happy two years of my life and when I left I suddenly found that I missed the structure and the routine that had kept me focused and active within the arts.

I have had the pleasure of returning to the college this term, not as a student, but as a guest tutor for the Variety aspect of the Performing Arts programme. So far I have assisted the students with basic circus skills, teaching them to juggle and spin plates and also we have focused on the art of the clown, the spirit of play and the creation of clown gags. It has been very enjoyable to share my professional experiences with young people who are just learning about the industry. They have all taken to the challanges very well and I think they have been suprised at how hard variety performance can be. I love the fact that some of them had never even picked up a plate and stick before and by the end of the session were capable of tricks and balances with the props.

Next week I am going to be talking to them about puppetry. It is not one of my main performance skills but something that I encorporate into my childrens shows. They are also going to have a go at the basic skills of ventriloquism. After that short session I will be teaching balloon modelling. So, by the end of next tuesday I can only hope there will be many balloon poodles floating (pun 100% intended) Milton Keynes college.

The point of this blog? I would suggest that if you have a skill and have the chance to use it in a teaching capacity, do it! It is very rewarding and it is lovely to see the results.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


July has been a very busy month for this Jester.

Some highlights have included:

Performing my new street act at the Granborough Charter Fayre. I was rather nervous about this as it is circus and juggling based rather than magic (which I think is my strong point) - However, all went really well and I really enjoyed myself. By the time my show finished with the balance/juggling finale I had gathered a good crowd. It is always really nice to perform on my home turf amongst the people that have watched me grow up and develop into the performer that I am today. Most of them knew me from when I was younger and truly awful. They were patient and put up with me doing rubbish shows at youth club etc. Hopefully this show was a demonstration of how far I have come and that their time and patience was appreciated.

Opening the Tingewick Beer Festival with John Bercow MP. Shortly after Mr Bercow was elected Speaker of the House of Commons I met up with him at Tingewick Fete and Beer Festival and together we opened the event. He did an introduction and encouraged people to spend money at the stalls to support the village and the local causes. He then handed over to me and I declared the event open. It was really enjoyable to be part of the process and John is a nice chap, despite what members of his own political party may say about him.

Sponge Bob Day at Paradise Wildlife Park. This event has been one of my favourite so far this year. It is always a pleasure to work for Jay Fortune (magician and top chap!) and at The Paradise Wildlife Park, which is one of my favourite places to see animals. This event was raising money for three different charities and I spend the day wandering around the park making balloon animals I also worked with some other really good and really friendly entertainers. It was a fun event to work and I believe we raised quite a lot for three very worthwhile causes.

Later in the month I will be appearing at the Buckingham Festival Fortnight Fun Day doing various shows, workshops and jesting in the town centre. That is on Sunday 19th July, if you are in the area, please do stop by. There will be a lot going on and lot's of different performances by lot's of different performers too.

Also, I will be appearing over in Woburn doing strolling entertainment and various shows for them. Hopefully all will go well and the weather will stay nice for us. Hope some of you can make it there too!

To top it all off I am finding time to put together the show for August. Everything is starting to take shape and it won't be long until I am in the theatre in Barons Court for 12 shows in August. Please, please, please do come and show some support. A lot of the material is brand new and your comments would be appreciated. It is the only way I can improve, to get the honest comments of those that will give them. It starts on 12th August and you can find tickets at www.lastminute.com - do a search for Barons Court Jester and you should find some cheap as chips tickets for you.

Updates soon!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Festival of Fools

Well, it has been a while since I have posted anything. When I first started this blog I was determined to make sure that I had something worthwhile and interesting to post before actually doing one. I didn't want it to just be there for the sake of it. Now I have some interesting news and something that, hopefully, will be of interest to you (I assume if you are reading this then that is the case)

I have been asked to perform in the International Jester Tournament at Muncaster Castle's Festival of Fools over the Half Term holiday. That means that tomorrow morning I pack up my car and trundle across the country to Ravenglass in the Lake District, stay in the Castle for 2 nights and perform in the show on Thursday.

I am rather excited about the prospect of performing in the show in the former home of Tom Skelton, AKA Tom Foolery the Jester. It should be a very interesting event with lots of colourful characters from all over the place. I am also going to finally meet my magician friend Joel Dickinson who will be there doing a magic workshop. From the Jester's that are taking part, that I have managed to speak to so far, it should be a good time.

I decided that I was going to document my trip up to the North of England. It is over 5 hours away as the crow flies. Ill be making a video diary of my time and posting it on my new BuckinghamFool YouTube account so that people can see it and find out what I have been up to. I may even try and interview some of the other Jesters and performers and see what they feel about the whole event.

I am getting slightly more nervous as I finish this message as it means I have just wasted some more time that I could be using to practice and double check my performance gear. Still, I think everything will go alright. Let's hope the weather stays fine and ill see you on YouTube.

Also, you can follow me on twitter by looking me up @BuckinghamFool. Hope to see some of you there too!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Market Jester

The picture above was taken in Buckingham Market on Saturday 11th April at about 11:15am. I had been employed by the Town Council to entertain the people passing through the market. It is part of the council plan to attract more people to the town (and support the traders) by offer free entertainment each week. They have a selection of bands, dancers and novelty acts (me!)

It was different from the events that I have done for the Town Council before. Normally I am working at a specific occasion like St George's Day, Christmas or Bonfire Night. This was just your average market day (all be it Easter Bank Holiday Weekend) - the weather was miserable (no change there then! - It seems every time I don my Cap'n'bells for the Town it rains or remains gloomy and overcast for the duration) Sometimes it feels like Mother Nature does not have much of a sense of humour and appears to like making me work even harder in order to try and put a smile on peoples faces.

My day in Buckingham started at 10:30am. I had left plenty of time to arrive and park. It is one downside of good ol' Buckingham. The parking is a long standing issue and not one that can be solved with ease. However, today was going to be a good day, I got a parking space immediately. I did not have to play the game where you slowly stalk pedestrians as they leave the shopping arcade and head toward their car, creeping up behind them with your engine ticking over quietly in the hope you don't alert other potential parkers to the fact that a space may become available. It is the wholly selfish (and wholly British) act of - I spotted them - their space is mine! Sometimes it backfires horribly and you follow someone all the way back to their car only to realise they are not leaving but just dropping shopping off before they continue their wander of the market. So, despite the weatherman being against me, it seemed the Parking God was on my side.

I wandered up to the town centre attracting the usual looks that Gold and Claret silk and jingling bells only can. (Although, there is another chap in Buckingham with bright orange trousers, a top hat, dyed hair and equally yellow shoes that does attract some attention too! - I have heard one young girl remark "Is that man the other Jester" upon seeing this resident) - I started the morning by having a chat with some of the local market traders. It was the first time I had spoken to many of them. What a lovely crowd they turned out to be. Laughing and Joking about the weather (mainly because if they did not, it would be tears every Saturday) and how more people are bound to come along soon. (Which they did, thankfully) - It was really nice to see the community spirit amongst the people that were shopping and the people that were trading. Everything from Fruit and Veg (the old market classic) to DIY and bulk buying of home stuff (Like Costco in a tent)

They really appreciated the efforts of the Town Council to set up the entertainment to draw people in and thus I got a warm welcome from them all. When the Town Council camera packed up before a shot of me in the market could be captured, one of the traders took the photo on his phone and promptly text it across to me. Only too happy to help. (It is the picture at the start of the post, by the way) - I started to wander and make balloons for the passing children, presented them with mini Easter eggs and generally attempted to provoke mirth. On the whole I feel it was pretty successful.

The Buckingham and Winslow Advertiser came along and got some shots of some children spinning plates with me, it seems that the local media are keen to promote the market in Buckingham too. Quite right too! It is a lovely little market and it is very useful to the community, especially the older ladies and gents that don't want to trek out of the middle of town to go to Tesco or don't have the ability to do so. Flowers, Honey, Jam, Fruit, Veg, Cleaning stuff, Bread, DIY. Pretty much everything you could ask for is there, all under one long row of canvas.

So please, do come along to Buckingham Market, support your local traders - they have so much competition with the large shops like Tesco and the like swallowing their trade, Milton Keynes shopping centre dragging people away from the town itself and the miserable weather keeping people indoors. If you don't use it - you will lose it. Simple as that. You might even see a Town Jester wandering the streets. Come and say hello.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Jester in France

I have just returned from a weekend trip to France. I am fortunate that my lovely little town of Buckingham is twinned with the equally lovely Mouvaux in the North of France, right next to the Belgium border. Mayor Howard (or Norbert as Adele seems to mistake him for!) asked me if I would like to go over on the twinning visit with him and the other council members to meet the French council, partake in the usual twinning activities and generally entertain in a foolish way. I jumped at the chance and promptly invited Adele to accompany me (which she was very happy to do so)

We left Buckingham at 9am on Friday morning - the Local press arrived to take a photograph of the 60 strong English contingent as we embarked on the 7th and largest twinning trip to Mouvaux. The Cap'n'bells made an appearance for the photograph before it was carefully backed into my bag with the rest of my costume. I dreaded being pulled up by customers officers at the French border control - not because I was smuggling masses of illegal contraband into Calais but simply because explaining to them what the red and gold silk costume covered in bells actually was. Luckily my bag was not chosen for the random spot check and we were on our way. The ferry crossing was peaceful (although the constant concern of Adele being potentially sea sick was a worry - a worry that managed to break my concentration and not even clear stage one of the Time Crisis shooting game in the arcade!)

We arrived fairly promptly in France and pulled up at Mouvaux town hall (or Hotel De Ville) at a little after 6pm French Time. (By the way, the French do run on a totally different time scale, not just an hour ahead but late for EVERYTHING - more later) We met our host families. It was the first time I had communicated with Famille Toulemonde since the trip was arranged. It seemed a virus stopped our email from reaching the depths of Northern France. However, they were a lovely family. Bruno the father, Fabienne the mother and two sons Gautier and Robin (eight and six) - Then we had the formal welcome from the Mayor of Mouvaux and the deputy mayor acting as translator. Our mayor spoke and announced he had bought the Town Jester with him, however, we found there is no literal French translation for Jester and so I was just known as The Magician (or later as La Foole - pointed out by their Mayor)

We spent the evening with the host family. After dinner (it finished at about 10:30pm French Time) we were taken to Lille. A bar in an old erotic cinema and beer in a local brewery/pub for more drinking. Alcohol, Cheese and Bread played a very big part in all of the weekend activities.

Saturday morning comprised of wine tasting at the local merchant Monsieur Vin. Although I have never been a massive fan of Red or White wine (the latter always tastes like vinegar to my foolish palette) I have to say that the selection we sampled were lovely. Especially with the bread and cheese they provided for us (told you!) Following the wine morning it was back to a local school for a Civic Lunch. Howard put on his full fur robes and regalia, I jingled my way into the room and accompanied him and the Lady Mayor during the talks. I have to say (with some pride) that the robes and garments for our civic party were much nicer and, dare I day, more ostentatious than the French sashes that the Mayor and Deputy wore. It was a lovely moment to be standing before French and English folk in a civic line-up at the time of the presentations and exchanging of gifts. It was my first time abroad as The Fool and Ambassador of Buckingham (that is not an official title by the way!) and it was great to be able to do magic across language barrier.

I wandered the table and presented some tricks to the locals and also the Buckingham team. Despite my inability to patter in French, most of the tricks I do can be done with minimal wordage and lots of mime and action. It seemed to be well received by all. The costume certainly got a lot of attention. Especially from the boys of my host family, who, suffice to say, were rather interested in the Swan Sceptre and it's "ability" to steal cutlery. The Mayor of Mouvaux's table was my last stop before I changed backed to my "civvies" - I presented some card magic to him which he seemed to appreciate. He was complimentary about the skill used and also my costume. They don't have anything like it in their town so to represent Buckingham abroad in my full regalia was a fantastic moment.

The rest of the trip was spend sampling local culture, visiting Ypres and St Omar. More food, more cheese, more wine. It was a lovely weekend and I think Adele and myself have made some good friends in the shape of Famille Toulemonde. They were very welcoming and their hospitality knew no bounds. I will miss them and I do hope that they will be able to visit Buckingham on the next twinning visit in October(ish) time. However, with their young boys and the nature of Bruno's work, they may find it impossibly difficult.

I learned a lot this weekend, I learned about the importance of the moments of magic within my performance. When language is a barrier (as cliche as it may sound) the moment of wonder is far stronger when ample time is given to allow the results to be seen and absorbed. I learnt that the French are normally late for most events. If you want something to start at 9:30am and you start sitting down for breakfast at 9am, chances are you will probably be late! (Although I do think Adele doing her hair was partly to blame!) - I also learned that France is not a good place to go if you don't like cheese - luckily I love it - but they do have it with every meal.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April Fool's Day Pranks

Well, April Fool's Day is over. The most interesting (although I am bias), funny and generally awesome day of the year has now disappeared for another 12 months. Bit of a shame really.
I am rather pleased though. I was working a lot on April 1st. I performed for some sick children in two hospitals (A job that I have blogged about previously and LOVE!) and then I performed my show in the evening. (More about that shortly)

However, I thought I could not do all of this work on April Fool's Day and not play a prank myself. So, Facebook seemed like the logical option. Quick, easy and exposed to hundreds of people at once. It was the perfect scene to set up my prank and hope for the best. I had already seen a few people with status' that mentioned moving abroad, having babies, winning the lottery and generally extraordinary things. I wanted something that was believable but amazing. Something that would take people by suprise and not allow them to think about what day it was.

One thing that I have mentioned over the years is a desire to work in Vegas. To have my own show in the magic capital of the world would be, simply put, a dream come true. It is something I can aspire to and it gives me a long term goal (who knows, I may make it one day) - many people know this about me and so it seemed like the perfect choice for the subject of the prank.

I set about updating my status to the very simple "Agent just called, Vegas deal went through, off for 12 months as of September" - I figured it is somewhat believable. People know I want to work in Vegas so it is logical I would get an agent to push for that. I had not mentioned any particular deal in the works so people's interest would be spiked and lastly I put a date some way in the future to make people less likely to remember about April 1st. I got some fantastic responses. People replying asking me if it was true, asking if they could stay in the apartment I get, saying they were pleased but would miss me. People even text me to wish me good luck with the shows out there. Some of the messages were so nice I almost felt guilty for it not being true (not the inclusion of almost)

My Dad played a blinder by going along with it. He put a message on my Facebook asking if he could rent out my room and if I could send him food parcels and such. Seeing his name going along with my prank probably helped to seal the deal in the eyes of many of the other Facebook users that saw it.

Finally, at about 11.50 (Even the Jester of Buckingham does not want to be an April Fool!) I replied to my status saying April Fools! to give the game away. Or so I thought. People replied to the message AFTER my comment and still believed it was going ahead. It was not until they read the other comments, after they posted, they realised it was all a hoax. I am flattered that people took such an interest and gave me good wishes and such, but I have to say......