Wimbledon to Nuneaton
Cheese to chalk is what came first to mind. Two one day stands, one week apart. I love Wimbledon and have blogged about it before. Last year it was wild and wet but last week at the Wimbledon Village Fair the vast blue sky from the first light of day over the Common promised a classic British summer event. And it didn’t disappoint. The shows went brilliantly and Rhys Edwards, the film maker (rhysedwards.tv) who is shooting a documentary about me, was there to capture it all. He even strapped a mini camera to the big unicycle to catch a saddle eye view of the audience as I ride with all the children running after me. Great stuff! The shows met with wild enthusiasm and the contents of the hat reflected that and matched the Wimbledon ability to donate!
I have tried to examine why my show is so popular in Wimbledon and why I have to work so hard to even gather an audience in Nuneaton. It’s exactly the same show, and the two were one week apart, but where, in Wimbledon, the audiences start to gather at least half an hour before the show time and by the designated time (ish!), you cannot move out there without me having to do anything, in Nuneaton I am lucky if there are two or three people, sheepishly hanging around at the edge of the square, wondering if they dare come forward. I have to use every call up line, every buskers trick to make an edge. Forming an ‘edge’ is so hard in Nuneaton. An edge is what the busking trade knows as the small but tight ring of people around a busker which will automatically enlarge into a crowd once the show starts. There is no point in starting the show without an edge. People will just walk on, probably thinking ‘what an idiot… I’m not going to stop for that’, but if there’s an edge, others will join. The natural human herding instinct, along with natural human curiosity, will mean that the crowd will just grow from the edge without the busker having to do that much to build it. Of course the show has to be at least half good for them to stay, but they will at least gather for a few moments to see what it is they are missing. And then I’ve got them in my magic showman's web!
Some of the difference is down to the culture of the two places of course. If you are living in Wimbledon you will know about theatre, and the Scala in Nuneaton was turned into a Bingo Hall years ago and is now vacant. It’s money too of course. When I asked a child volunteer last week what she would do with the £1 million note if she won it, she said her Mummy wanted a Lamborghini! You could tell it was Wimbledon. In Nuneaton, I’m in the Market Square and the public have that look of the poor, are scared that I am going to rob them or try to sell them something, like the fat butcher around the corner from me selling £20 meat deals from his huge lorry. So the ‘Entertainment, here, free’ line helps a lot!
But they did gather in the end, the (thin ish) edge was formed and I could start the show, they enlarged and, as happens mostly these days, they were appreciative and generous in the hat, considering it was Nuneaton and the look of the poor. I did receive a tenner from a woman who hadn’t even watched the show but said she had loved watching what was happening and loved the music. ‘It’s Chinese tonight’.
I am not making moral or political comparisons either. I don’t prefer Wimbledon to Nuneaton. They are just so different and they reflect the way things are in Britain today. In fact I had some lovely feedback after both events, but the one which made me feel humbled and pleased me most was a guy in Nuneaton, in his forties, family hanging back, the look of the poor, who said he was reminded, watching me, of Max Wall (1908-1990). Now I am not in the same league as Max Wall (if you don’t know his work, check him out on Youtube, you won’t be disappointed), but I am in the same game and it was an intelligent observation and I shall remember Nuneaton for it.
All the best from a road near you,