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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......


Monday, March 23, 2009

April Fool!!

Well, March has just over a week left to run before I reach what has become the most important day of my year. April 1st. Normally it is a day that passes without recognition, without any stress, without any problem. This year however it will be very different indeed. April 1st AKA April Fools Day - The most important day for this Jester.

It is the day that I unleash my full Jester style show on the world. (Well, the people of Buckingham anyway) - I decided that for my first Fool's day in the role of Buckingham Town Jester I needed something special to mark the occasion. So, I spoke to the staff at the Old Gaol and secured their covered courtyard room. There I shall perform my show for a strictly limited audience of up to 45 people. (I still have some tickets left)

Why? Well, it seems appropriate that those who wish to can actually spend their April Fool's Day with a genuine fool. An official fool none the less! (Proud moment) Also, I am going to be donating all of the money from tickets to the The Buckingham Heritage Trust and the Old Gaol. They are having a lot of work done in May to preserve the Gaol for years to come. I want to be a part of that process and help in any way that I can. Hopefully the money we raise will help the continued running of one of the most interesting and unique buildings in Buckinghamshire.

I love the Old Gaol. I think it is a fantastic building. Over the coming months it is my intention to appear within its walls more often and perform for various events. John, the Curator, has been very helpful to me and very supportive since I first became the Jester. He has freely offered his toilets for changing costume and general relief, opened his doors to shelter me from the rain when my market appearances become too soggy to continue and most importantly he has offered his tea making facilities to me. It is about time I give something back and thank him and his staff for their kindness and work in the community.

I have a three week season coming up in London where I shall be performing my Jester show daily. So this opportunity is for me to get a lot of the material tested. Fear not! It won't be shoddy, half complete, badly routined rubbish. I have worked hard in my studio over the last month to ensure that it is as good as it can be. It is now at the point where it cannot get better without input, reactions and real world timing.

For those of you that have booked tickets to see me already, thank you very much for supporting me and for supporting Buckingham Heritage at The Old Gaol. Hopefully the Mayor and his good lady wife will be in attendance too. I am working on getting various press from the local paper there too. It should be a good evening of magic and mirth, press coverage, refreshments and fund raising.

If you are in the area on April 1st (it's a Wednesday) please do come along. Let me know in advance so I can book your ticket in for you. It starts at around 6:30pm. There is free parking too! What more could you ask for?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Healing Laughter

For those of you who do not know, my weeks consist of doing shows in hospitals for sick children. I have been working for POD for a long time now and POD as a charity provide entertainment in hospital play rooms and wards for children at all levels of illness, from minor injury and illness right up to terminal cancer, They do about2000 shows a year in 141 different hospitals across the country. (Obviously I don't do all of those myself!)

When I tell people what I do as my 'day job' I am generally met by two stock responses. Firstly (and most frequently) people think that it is a fantastic idea and something worthwhile. (I am inclined to agree, although I am somewhat bias) There is however a small number of people that are a bit more sceptical and more 'purists' when it comes to medical treatment. I was talking to one lady about what I did and she replied "Don't you just get in the way?" to which I replied "No, I am a professional, I come in, I go to my designated area and I do my show and leave, if they need me to move I move, if they need me to set up somewhere different, that is what I do. No fuss, no hassle, just compliance on every level" or words to that effect (I don't think I was actually that direct) - anyway I quickly removed her naive ignorance and she actually came around to thinking that the idea was a good one.

I did meet another lady (why is it the middle aged female population seem to have an issue with fun?) and she was certain that although "nice" (I do hate that word) my role within the hospital did not actually serve any real purpose and the time could be much better spent actually doing therapy and treatment on the children instead. This took a lot more persuasion and I don't think I did a very good job. However, I have been thinking about it a lot today as I travelled home from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Firstly, you cannot treat children every minute of every hour of every day. Sometimes it is not appropriate as drugs and medication need time to work, sometimes they need relief from the discomfort of the healing process and also they need to generally eat, sleep, go to the hospital school and allow the staff to treat the other sick children. So, in hospital, a lot of their day is actually spent waiting. There is only so much time can be occupied by watching TV or doing colouring in and painting and playing with the toys and jigsaws that people have donated to the hospital. I come in during the day, usually just after or just before lunch (when naturally no new treatments would be started so as not to interrupt the nourishment or so that the food has been processed before new medication is given) and perform for them. I spent 1 hour in each hospital, I do some magic, I make some balloons and I generally try and distract them from the pain they are in or the boredom they are experiencing.

Does it help? Yes, I am utterly convinced that laughter is good for you. It is so good to see the children smiling and laughing when I know they are (some of them) so ill. It is a good feeling that I am making their day a little more diverse and a little brighter. I remember once I was at Oxford JR Hospital and I performed for one little girl at her bedside. She was too ill to come down to the playroom and so I spent some time with her and her parents in the comfort of her own room. To start with she was very quiet and reluctant to join in with the magic (it was obvious that she was not at all well) but I carried on. I made my balloon animals and did my tricks and left. By the end of the routine she was joining in, smiling and at one point she even managed a little laugh. One of the nurses came over to me and said "Thank you so much, she has not said a word since she came into hospital two days ago" - it was an amazing feeling. Here was a little girl that was so ill and scared that she had not spoken for 2 days, not even to her own parents. Here was me, a complete stranger doing a silly job wearing a silly costume, coming in and breaking up the day and giving her something to smile about. As I was walking out of the door I heard her chattering away to her parents. Laughter had broken the cycle and she was obviously more upbeat than when I had arrived.

I suppose it is true within my own life too. If I am feeling ill or utterly exhausted but know I need to be somewhere or do something and need to get my energy level back up - I always turn to my collection of comedy DVDs and get cheered up by the likes of Michael McIntyre and Bill Bailey. I am lucky that I can do that in the comfort of my own bed and not away from my family in a hospital bed.

Laughter is very important. It can make us feel good, it can distract us from any pain we are suffering, it can connect us with others on a new level and it can make us feel relaxed and at ease. Laughter is a good thing. I am very pleased to be an exporter of it.

Please spare a thought for POD - they are a charity run totally off of the donations of the public. You can find out more about them and the work that they do at www.podcharity.org.uk - and if you feel the call you can donate online too. Make some children happy at your local hospital.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Modern Day Jesters

Who are the modern day Jesters?

Mr Lloyd is coming in with the questions at the moment. I really appreciate it as it gives me something to ponder and suggests that someone is interested in what I am scrawling onto these pages. Mr Lloyd actually asked this question a few days ago and I did not update my blog immediately as I was trying to actually formulate some sort of answer that both did the job of answering the question but one that I was also very happy with. So, what was that question posing the most elusive of answers? Who would be the Jesters of today? Hmm, whom could I Jester with, whom would wear the old cap'n'bells well. Has stand-up comedy taken over from where Jesters faded out.

It is a tricky question and one that I have been giving a lot of thought to. So, I need someone alive, in the public eye and amusing that would make a good Jester. I suppose we really have to look at the skills of the Jester before we decide whom is the modern embodiment of them. As a Jester I look for various aspects to appear in my act. 

I want it to be funny first and foremost. What is the point of a Jester if they do not make people laugh. I want it to be versatile, I don't just want to be doing magic in a costume. I want to incorporate other skills such as acting, music, mime and juggling.  I want the act to be accessible to all ages and cultures. Even if they don't understand what I say all the time for whatever reason, I want them to be able to visually follow what I am doing and be happy because of it. So, Funny, Versatile and Universal. 

My first thoughts obviously went to the greats such as Tommy Cooper and Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy. Those modern day clowns without the red nose. However it is sad that they have all since passed on and could no longer take their rightful place as Modern Jester. 

I think I have come up with a few that I find suitable. Let's see if you agree.

Rowan Atkinson
The man that bought Mr Bean and Blackadder to life. From excellent cameos as bumbling priests in Four Weddings and a Funeral to the camp perfectionist sales assistant in Love Actually. Atkinson is a modern day genius. (A word that is used far too often to describe the talents of any Tom, Dick or Harry but one that is fully suitable here) - Some of his early stand up material featured a lot of mime work. His invisible drums, his piano performance. Both fantastically crafted pieces of stage work that could be enjoyed by anyone. His mastery of accents, his facial expressions, his range of characters. Just when I thought I had seen the full range of his abilities (he mimed in Bean, he acted in Blackadder, he used accents and characters galore in his stand-up and sang for Comic Relief) he goes and suprises me by appearing in the West End in the demanding role of Fagin, more characterisation, more singing and a lot of dancing too. Reviews have been amazing and people have flocked to see him. Hardly suprising really. He is a performer but shy and retiring when he is out of costume. 

John Cleese
Another performer that has influenced me over the years has to be the lanky python, Mr Cleese. He definitely has funny bones, I believe he is a man you can just look at and find funny. His face does it. (That sounds a little cruel?)but he does have a funny features. He is very expressive with his eyes, his mouth and even the way his nose moves. Those long legs have amused us in various forms, from insane walking in The Ministry of Silly Walks to mock goose-stepping in Fawlty Towers. John Cleese is a natural comic, he is intelligent enough to make good use of his speech but also not reserved so that he cannot use his body as a (very funny) tool. It is a deadly combination of comedy class. Not only that be I believe he is a genuine English eccentric. There are not as many of those around as we believe but I think he is one of them. Also, he is not afraid to be occasionally shocking - his eulogy for Graham Chapman is a fine example of bad taste in good taste. The faces of the congregation as he swore profusely and said "Good Riddence" was classic.

Boris Johnson
Yes, I have included the Mayor of London on my list of modern day Jesters. Boris is often described in the media as a clown or a buffoon. If you look at the dictionary definition of Jester. buffoon and clown appear there too. I think there is a certain innocence about Boris which masks a razor sharp political mind and I think that is the closest we have to Jesters of olde. Often the olde Jesters were keen courtiers as well as Jesters and gained a huge amount of influence and power despite their appearance as foolish. Boris may appear foolish at times but he has indeed won a seat of extreme influence and power (And good on him I say) - When asked about the recent snow he came out with such naturally witty lines as "No one can deny it is the right quality just in the wrong quantity" and when challenged by Jeremy Clarkson about being a buffoon in public but clever below he replied with "You cannot ignore the distinct possibility that under the carefully constructed veneer of a buffoon there actually is a buffoon" (or words to that effect)  - Boris has a natural charm and charisma that means that people adore him and trust him with their city. No one could believe it when he became Mayor. Just like The Duke of Buckingham could not believe it when Archy the Jester became the most important foreign man in the Spanish court. The similarities are too numerous to ignore. (Also it seems very Jester-like to be reprimanded for riding a bicycle in City Hall!)

So there we are, three modern day Jesters in my mind. Atkinson for his high class of skill and many different abilities, Cleese for his attitude and his general eccentric nature and Johnson for striking similarities to the political games played by the Jesters of olde.

I hope that will suffice as an apt answer. If you have someone you think I should have included (or indeed you feel one of my trinity should be change or removed) please do let me know. I like a good discussion. If you cannot have totally free speech on a blog of a Jester, where can you, eh?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Out of the mouth of babes

Some time ago I used to work for a local party company. The way the company worked was to send two people to each party. One person would lead the games and generally run the party; the second would be there to support and also to face paint. They were a prolific party company and they were exceptionally busy. I was working at least six different shows most weekends of my young life. It really helped me get my feet in the water of a busy entertainment business.

Best of all, it took me all around the local counties, performing for a whole range of children from those of working class backgrounds to those of a more privileged existence. One party sticks in my mind in particular. I believe we were in High Wycombe performing at the party of a young six year old girl. It was the standard sort of party, many hyper children, lots of silly games and face painting galore.

One little boy was having his face painted. What he was going to be, monster, skeleton etc escapes me. But he gave me the best laugh I have ever had in my career to date. The table for the face painting was set up to my right, I always made sure that it was within my vision should any problems occur, that way I could step in or announce something over the PA system and generally act as support for the other entertainer – she in turn would do the same for me. Positioned so that she could keep an eye on the party from her position at the table.

A girl was happily dancing around quite close to the table and being the inquisitive young thing that she was she danced over to the boy getting his face painted to ask what he was going to be. The boy looked at her from foot to face before turning to Amanda (my support entertainer at the time) and saying – “Tell her to go away she is fat” – gesturing to the somewhat plump dancing girl.

Amanda stifled a laugh and promptly said “That isn’t very nice – don’t say that” in a genuinely warm but light reprimand.

The boy did not even miss a beat before coming back with the reply “My mummy told me to always tell the truth and that girl is VERY fat!” – You can’t fault that logic.

It is very hard to run a game of Musical Chairs when you are trying not to laugh through your microphone.

Ali Bongo - A man much missed

Ali Bongo

Magician and Magic Circle President

I would like to take the time to be a little bit more serious and talk about the wonderful Ali Bongo. It is with great sadness that I have to say that Ali Bongo passed away on Sunday morning at 9am. Paul Daniels broke the news to the magic world via Twitter.

Ali was a one off, he was a really remarkable man. When I was 12 years old and a member of the young magicians club I remember fondly meeting him at The Magic Circle HQ. He was very friendly, knew more about magic than anyone I had met and was so free and easy with his time and his advice.

Since he has died so many little stories about him have popped up online from magicians all over the country and all over the world. It just shows that he touched the lives of many magicians. Not only that, since I posted my status on Facebook on Sunday morning I received messages from people who were not in the magic fraternity - just regular people - and they loved him too. Watching him on TV in their childhood.

I will always remember the advice that Ali Bongo gave me about my presence on stage, I worked hard on it following that advice and it is because of him that I am a professional magician and entertainer now. He gave me many positive comments after my entrance exam to The Magic Circle and also offered me my first chance to perform at a Saturday Show at The Magic Circle. For all of his time, help and support I am very grateful. I will miss him and The Magic Circle will be a strange place to walk into tonight.

Yesterday I performed at The Magic Cavern in Barons Court. I broke the news to Richard when I arrived and he reacted in the same way as me. Ali had been an inspiration to him as well. I went out there yesterday to perform for Ali. Richard was kind enough to dedicate the show to him and I hope we did him proud. Ali loved magic and the magic world loved him in turn.

It's all for you Ali. All for you.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Practical Jester?

I have never been a very practical fellow. I am the first to admit that operating a washing machine escapes my knowledge, programming my DVD player so that it turns the film and the TV off after I have fallen asleep is only barely within my capability (I know, I know, it's one button pressed a series of times), I can change a tyre on my car - but that is it. Ask me to do other practical tasks like sewing buttons, ironing shirts or any form of D.I.Y and the answer will probably be a simple blank look.

However, I did not realise the depths of my practical ineptitude until this week. I was working at Adele's house, doing show promotion, writing and generally updating my web designer with images and such when I received an email. Adele. She wondered if I could pop to the shop and get some bits for the house - Bread, milk, loo rolls. The usual household items.

Then she dropped the bombshell. Could I get her some light bulbs for the kitchen. Light bulbs? But there are literally hundreds of combinations - push sockets, screw brackets, energy saving, big ones, small ones, different wattage, different colours, different shapes - long ones, thin ones, perfectly round ones. To someone like me that does not appreciate the complex nature of electric lights I was not aware just how difficult this task would be. I responded to the email saying that I would go. Bread? No problem, milk? Not an issue. Loo Rolls? Bring it on! But bulbs? What size do you need? Adele replied (promptly) saying I should take one with me. Take a bulb with me? To the shop? Carry it down the road and match it up like a pre-school puzzle? I am afraid I cannot do that. Even a fool has limits to how stupid he would look when not wearing his cap'n'bells.

So Adele came up with another plan. Write down the details. That seemed much more sensible. I got the pen, got the paper and began to search for the box the bulbs came in to make a note of their size, shape, colour etc etc etc. No box. I emailed Adele again. (At this point I am sure she was becoming even more annoyed with my foolish incompetence in light of the simplicity of the task - pun intended!) Adele told me to take the bulb out and read the writing. Is it just me that was blindly unaware that the manufacturers of bulbs write the details on the side of them? I had no idea. Writing on a bulb to me seemed madness! I know most of you reading this will wonder how I am able to even manage to log into my blog to update it if I cannot buy a bulb.

I have actually only purchased bulbs once in my life. I got a desk lamp to sit in the studio and purchased a nice bright bulb to go with it. Since it has been in the lamp - two things have happened.

1) The bulb has melted a hole in the plastic case of the lamp and destroyed the rigid integrity of the plastic meaning it crumbles and flakes in a yellow mess whenever the lamp is moved.

2) The bulb, while pointed downward, has managed to melt the cases of three Cd's so that they cannot even be opened.

I explained this to Adele, told her I was happy to guess at a bulb size and put it back in the light, but she may well return to a hole in the ground where her kitchen used to be.

Suffice to say - the kitchen light remains without bulb.

Tea for Jesters

Have you ever invited a jester, around for afternoon tea?
If you do, please remember they like biscuits, cakes and buns.
After you have fed them (they can't work on an empty tum!)
They will entertain you with tricks and japes and puns.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Greetings all,

My esteemed friend, Mr Steve Lloyd, has asked a very interesting question. Where did the phrase tomfoolery come from and what is it actually all about? I have done a little bit of research and I think I may have found the answer.

In England, Tom, has always been a name used to describe people generally. For example in WWI and WWII the men in the trenches and on the front line were known as Tommys. We also have the phrase "Tom, Dick and Harry" which were used to describe anyone and everyone. (as well as the tunnels in Colditz) and other such phrases as "Tom Thumb" for small persons. Well, it is no surprise that Tomfoolery has similar origins.

Jesters were generally referred to as Tom Fool and over the years that has been changed to tomfoolery meaning someone that is foolish or something that causes mischief. So there we are Mr Lloyd, the origins of Tomfoolery for you. I have also discovered how other certain phrases and traditions have come from the time of the Jesters. I shall update again in the near future, but in the meantime if you have any questions about Jesting or anything of the like, let me know and I will do my best to answer for you.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Following ye olde red nose.

I don't have one of those typical stories where I left a high powered city career to take up entertainment, nor did I entertain at my own kids parties and listen to the advice of a neighbour who suggested to "go professional" - mainly because I have never had a real job or children of my own. I have always been an entertainer, if I am honest, I firmly believe that it is something that you are born to do. That phrase is banded around a lot - "A born entertainer" - I don't think it is anything that can be taught or learned. Improved through study and training, yes, but not learned, not from scratch. I consider myself to be exceptionally lucky that I have been born into one of the best professions in the world.

So, why did I decide to do the Jester gig? Well, one of my slightly geeky tendancies is toward history, especially when I can link it to my passion for magic and entertainment generally. I have always really enjoyed the middle ages and the medieval periods of English history and Jesters obviously played a massive part in that. It was a natural process to go from an interest in history to the history of the entertainment industry to Jesters. Some research led me to the links to The First Duke of Buckingham and Archy Armstrong, the King's Jester. A proposal to the Town Council and they agreed it would be a good idea. So the Jester of Buckingham was born.

I have found it a very natural character to slip into. I guess that there was perhaps a part of my personality that wanted to be one, I have always admired those that can clown and those that can amuse with silly antics, slapstick humour and wit, The Jester is the father of those traditions. To be one, an officially appointed Jester for the town of Buckingham, is a great honour and it is something that I am very proud of. I hope that in my time, serving the community in both charity work and public shows that I can raise some money, spread some joy and create some happiness along the way.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Salutations one and all

Good Evening everyone. Jester of Buckingham here.

I thought that it was about time I leapt out of the Middle Ages and into the new century by starting one of these blogs. I will be keeping you updated with all that is going on in the Jestering world, the shows I am doing, the places I am appearing and generally whatever thoughts cross my juggling-addled brain.

So, what is happening at the moment?

In about a week the brand spanking (oooerr!) new Jester website will be launched. It is all being kept top secret at the moment but I have high hopes! I hope that you like it too.

April Fool's day is fast approaching and to mark the passing of the best day in the English Calander (although as a professional fool I am slightly bias) I will be performing an intimate (ooooeerr again!) show in The Old Gaol in Buckingham. It is a strictly limited event and all for charity. So, if you fancy spending April Fool's Day with a genuine fool (and they don't get much more foolish I assure you!) then please make it known very soon indeed!

That is all for now. Back to the studio. A Jesters work is never done (but always fun!)