If I’m in Queen’s Park I know it must be autumn. Kilburn is now my only annual sojourn into the smoke of the metropolis, but it is always a pleasurable one. It is quite easy to access from the end of the M1 so I don’t spend hours snailing through the slow streets, and the park itself is a delight as are many such in London. Very well maintained by park keepers with ‘Good Morning’s and whistles and a terraced café where the big house used to be. They have an ambitious programme of events including theatre and open air cinema and of course the lovely Queen’s Park Day which is where I have my September Sunday spot.
This year I arrived a few days early as I had been tempted to a gig in Bournemouth on the day before with the offer of transport, a hotel and a fee into the bargain. I am very grateful to Helen who kindly agreed to babysit my lorry overnight. I had met Chris of the superb ‘Just Shutters’ Company at Shrewsbury Flower Show and he invited me to perform at the company’s 10th Anniversary in Southbourne, the posh end of Bournemouth. Bournemouth has changed unrecognisably since I was there in the 1970s (but then probably everywhere has). No longer the playground of the retired, the town is vibrant, young and colourful. My wonderful Libyan driver gave me a whistestop tour of the town before leaving me at a great hotel. Very nice with bath ensuite so I could wallow in a hot tub which I had not had the joy of experiencing for some while. Hamick (or I hope that was his name) was Libyan and we had some great conversations about the life and times of being in and seeing this country from his perspective. It made for a fascinating journey. as we travelled south through the autumn countryside. As was the next day meeting and performing for Just Shutters staff and friends. Chris is one of those rare businessmen whose warmth and generosity of spirit makes everyone adore him and consequently his business is thriving.
The hoverboard and steam punk costume was probably overused that day but it made the day much less tiring for me drifting up and down, performing close up magic in the High Street, entertaining and advertising free cake at Chris’ shop. I slept most of the way back to Kilburn.
Next day’s shows at Queen’s Park were well attended and the hats were generous. (I am aware that new readers of this blog might find that sentence peculiar as if the residents of Kilburn had a penchant for magnificent millinery). In fact one striking audience member did have and she and her boyfriend came over as I was packing up. They had missed the shows but were fascinated by the lorry and trailer set up. Laura looked amazing – her costume (though her boyfriend Oscar was quick to let me know she always dressed like that) is best described as 1920’s meets steampunk, complete with headdress, jacket and waistcoat of many colours. It probably could only happen in London. They wanted to see inside the lorry so had the grand tour. Laura is a costume designer so I was quick to take her contact details and yes of course she is to design and make me a new costume for next year. Farewell the austere black and white…. Well, watch out, the new Mr Alexander shall be sartorially sensational in 2017. I can’t wait. It’s been coming for a while, with the third show and the street work, including Verity, moving in that direction.
It was also wonderful to meet up with Tim Francis again. Tim was my first apprentice. I met him when he was 6, his mum bringing him to my every show at his insistence. He learned to juggle and unicycle almost without trying and soon accompanied me in the 1980s up onto the chairs as well as in a number of great routines I have only in memory. Tim is now a commercial film producer in London and is expecting his first baby (a girl) with his lovely partner Jen. How life paces on…
All the best from a road near you,