I have had a passion for Shakespeare for the last five years, and invented the Bard Busking format in January of 2017. Since then I have come a long, long way: performing at the Curious Arts Festival, Romsey Festival, The Hat Fair Winchester, as well as countless performances on the street. I have performed regularly outside the City Museum in Winchester, and other cities across the country. It has been a joyful experience to bring the most beautiful words in the English language to the general public on the street.
The vast majority of people respond extremely positively to the performances, and leave with a smile on their face. For example Maureen McDonald Blencoe who contacted me on Facebook to say ‘we thoroughly enjoyed your performance today. It was the highlight of our trip to Winchester. […] You certainly have quite a unique talent’. Thomas Whitehouse and his partner, on their honeymoon in Winchester, wrote to say 'Just watched you perform, I'm no Shakespeare lover, but you captivated me. Thank you'. My busking performances do not always go to plan when I sometimes meet with a negative response. At times like these I remember Ray Davies lyrics in the song Poetry:
'The great corporations providing our every need
And those big neon signs tellin' us what to eat
In every shop window goods are designed to please
Oh, but I ask where is the poetry?'
I like to think I am bringing some poetic beauty into a world that can otherwise be very cooperate and stale. I love when people interact with my performance and enter into conversations with me and the other spectators. Seeing the smiles and thoughtful expressions on people's faces, or very young children hearing and absorbing Shakespeare for the first time, is priceless. One of my favourite moments was when I managed to engage a group of homeless men, who were initially very dismissive but in the end left with an understanding and appreciation for Shakespeare. The photograph below shows a man on the street who after watching my performance, asked if he could perform a Robert Burns' poem he knew. It was a pleasure to see him share something he loved with others through a platform I had created.
I have seen those who would never usually engage with Shakespeare fully captivated with my performances, such as young children. There is a commonly held belief that children hate Shakespeare, but from my experience they are far more interested than adults, who usually drag them off to M&S when they are desperate to watch some Othello! Still, seeing how the words effect people truly warms my heart, and tells me this is what I should be doing with my life.
The feedback I have received has been wonderful, and I am so grateful for all the kind words. Helen Grime from the University of Winchester wrote to say that 'You must keep doing this in one way or another.’ I believe I have finally found what I want to do in my life, and so I will continue, one way or another. Now the project is my full time occupation there are many exciting projects ahead. Currently I am working on an hour long show, which I hope to take to a number of festivals. I hope to continue performing on the street, all across the country. In addition to Shakespeare, I am incorporating the other great Bards into my performance, learning Donne, Yeats, Keats, Blake, Rossetti and Bronte to name a few. I also want to put together a CD of professional standard recordings.
All this performing, travelling and recording costs me a lot of money, and unfortunately I am well aware of the main problem faced by artists: getting paid for their work. I also need to be alive to create work, and to be alive I need to eat food, which also costs money. I hope you appreciate what I am doing and can support me in any way you can, to keep poetry and performance at the centre of life.