t is with great pleasure that I am now collaborating professionally with Jonathan the Jester.
Jonathan was European Jester of the Year 1999, Children's Entertainer of the Year 2001, and is proud to be The Official Jester to the City of Salisbury. Described as "winning acclaim all over Europe for his innovative style using traditional props, his show normally features topical jokes thrown in between astonishing feats, using a 7ft unicycle, balancing on a freestanding ladder, juggling with knives or fire and globe walking. While doing this he talks to the audience with a routine which turns modern stereotypes completely on their head and attacks contemporary prejudices (we all have them)." As well as performing, he is heavily involved with youth work. He started Salisbury Community Circus (which performed in the Olympic Park at the Paralympic Games), runs a youth cafe and has recently initiated the Buzz Action Roadshow - a series of events taking place in suburbs or villages enabling and encouraging kids to have a go with various toys (unicycles, diabolos, devil sticks etc) and find that circus magic.
One huge observation i've made over my years working with children around the world is the importance of working with individuals who are at a disadvantage, be it geographically, socio-economically, mentally or physically.
And that is exactly what Jonathan the Jester's newest project the Buzz Action Roadshow is all about - of which I proud to say I am involved with. This project that brings circus skills to isolated areas, villages where there is little to do (much like the one I grew up in) and where children might not have the opportunity to be taken to a town / city, where there are more fun opportunities and activities. It is fully inclusive, meaning no kid is excluded from participating for any reason (unlike a lot of creative activities and events in bigger areas which come along with a hefty price tag).
Now whilst I am grateful that I grew up in a village and spent my childhood outside, playing in cow fields, making rope swings, rolling down hills and jumping in rivers and I hope the growth of technology hasn't stopped this among today's village kids, I still believe in the power of bringing external inspiring figures to these places, to stimulate their minds in new ways, to teach them new skills that can be adapted to different aspects of life and to give them confidence they may be lacking. Sometimes I wonder how my life would be if I had had the opportunity to do all these things I love as a child (I started playing with devil sticks at 19, hula hooping at 25, and juggling at 26). Obviously I don't dwell on this - everything happens for a reason and at the right time in life. I am perfectly happy with the fact that I have finally found my passion and can share it and inspire others through it. But maybe, just maybe, if I had had support from an inspiring figure at a young age who gave me the confidence that I could do a lot more than I thought, then instead of cowering in the background watching on as the 'pretty, popular and sporty girls' were hula hooping and doing the splits, I would have been in the middle of it all with a smile on my face, turning those negative thoughts into positive life-changing affirmations.
I love the warmth I get in seeing kids enjoying themselves whilst bouncing around on stilts, learning a new hoop trick, balancing a ball on their head, and most of all, realising they CAN. They CAN do that thing they didn't think they could, that thing that other people at school can do but they'd never had the chance to try, that thing they see people doing on TV or at the circus. They CAN do something that they didn't know they could do this morning when they woke up. The power of CAN connects to my work in the USA with Starfish Circus - a youth circus education project aptly named so after the famous story of the Starfish-
A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean. “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks. “Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.” “But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.” The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”
When kids know they can do something and they feel like Superman or woman, even if it only lasts a few minutes, it makes a difference.