somewhereto_ showoff (and a small amount of networking)

A little while back I had an email from an outfit called “somewhereto_” informing me of an online video competition for 16-25 year olds tied in with the Cultural Olympiad. I wrote back telling them that I hadn’t been 16-25 since the Atlanta Olympics of 1996 but apparently they only wanted me to Tweet about it.

Well, Tweet about it I did and it came to the attention of Unicyclist and Juggler Sam Goodburn who is now in the final 10!

This run-down of the finalists also features juggler Lee Tinnion. Here are the entry videos of both Sam and Lee…

…and somewhereto_’s website…

http://somewhereto.com/showoff

A Worthwhile Project

Juggler, magician, actor, film maker and renaissance man Allin Kempthorne is a man on a mission. He is searching for the very earliest footage of variety acts from a century ago. This video provides a tantalising glimpse at what he’s found already. The link below explains more about the project and how you may be able to help.

http://www.wibbell.co.uk/vaudeville.html

A TED Talk by a World Class Performer

I realise that it’s normally Arron Sparks’ job to post TED Talks to this blog, but I thought I’d get in ahead of him this time.

Before I became a juggler I was into skateboarding. I was never very good at it but it still fascinates me as an activity and a subculture. Every subculture has it’s own history, legends and heroes, unheard of in the mainstream but of great importance to a select few. Rodney Mullen is (in my opinion at least) the greatest skateboarder of all time.

I don’t really want to get into broader definitions of what is and isn’t circus, juggling, acrobatics or manipulation. This talk is a fascinating look at the thought process of a skilful practitioner. More importantly, a skilful practitioner of something he loves doing.

Fully Committed – A brief rant about Online Diaries.

The online diary should be a very handy thing. I fill in my available dates on an agency’s website and the agency knows when I’m available for work. The idea is that they can save time by telling a potential client which acts are free on a particular day without having to phone around. This apparently simple bit of streamlining has many problems when put into practice and is in fact a complete waste of time and effort.

So many diaries – So little time.

I’m on the books of many different agencies (possibly as many as 50). If they all start insisting that I keep their diary up to date then my entire professional life will be spent updating diaries. Of course, the only thing I will ever fill in is “busy filling in diaries” over and over again. This is assuming I can remember 50 different user names and passwords that are often allocated by the agency system and can’t be changed to “username” and “password” like I did with my bank account. Keeping your own diary up to date can be a struggle at times. Adding even a couple more does nobody any favours.

What, where, when???

The whole point of an online diary is so that an agency knows whether or not I’m available. In reality, this depends on what I’m being asked to do and where & when I’m being asked to do it. Most of the website diary systems I’ve seen are fairly black and white. On any given day you are either “Booked” or “Available”. Some let you distinguish between AM and PM but even when you can include this level of detail, problems can easily arise. If my diary says that I’m booked on March 19th, PM, then I might miss out on another booking in that time slot. That should be fine but the new booking may be just down the road or begin 4 hours later in plenty of time to travel from one to the other. ‘PM’ is 12 hours long after all.

I am not the sort of act that drops out of a gig as soon as a better one comes along. Despite my belief in the first come first served ethic, I was once offered a job that paid (without exaggeration) twenty times more than the one I had in the diary. It was over several days and the pre-existing gig was just one afternoon. As it turned out, I managed to pass the one-day gig on to another performer with no harm to agent, client or myself. I took the new gig but had I been using the new agency’s diary system I wonder if I would have been offered it at all.

You can always leave a date un-booked if you think there is a chance of working elsewhere in the same timeslot or if it’s a gig you can easily pass on, but this can make you look like you’re not working at all or not updating the diary properly. Either of these can make you look bad to the agency (as does writing nasty articles about their diary systems – sorry).

Last Minute Larry

Diaries change very fast. Even with the best of intentions, they go out of date very suddenly. You might hear of a gig cancellation and be ruled out of a possible replacement gig five minutes later as you simply haven’t had a chance to update all of your diaries.

I’ve presented arguments like these to various agents and they usually say the same thing, “Don’t worry Sam, we’ll always call you if we get a potential booking”. If this is the case, then what is the point of the diary? If the agent still has to make the call, no time or money has been saved. Sometimes I’ve been told, “We just want a general idea of when you’re around.” This seems pointless too but is probably the best argument in favour of online diaries. If you are working on a cruise ship for several months then perhaps you can save everyone some time by mentioning the fact but it gets a lot more fiddly with one-day bookings. It could also help when you are away on holiday but there are even gigs worth cancelling a holiday for.

I have a theory that agencies only insist on diaries because they’ve forked out a lot of money for the software that manages them. Software that sends out 20 identical text messages from your PC is probably cheaper and certainly more effective. In the age of the smart phone, people are not difficult to get hold of.

Happily, most of the agencies that trial a diary system seem to abandon it after a few months leading me to believe that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

There are some companies though, that seem to persist with their diaries and I’d very much like to discuss it with them.

If only there was some way of knowing when they’d be around?

Sam Veale – March 2012

A Juggler’s Guide to Parental Responsibility

Me and the Girls
Me and the Girls

Study the picture. That’s me and my two children aged 3 and 5 in a pretty standard domestic scene. Daddy gets home from work and is greeted by two adoring daughters flying at him with cuddles and cries of “Dadeeeeeeeee!”

When the photo was taken, I was getting back from an opera rehearsal. This job afforded me the luxury of working office hours for several weeks so I was able to return to the scene in the photo nearly every day. Normally my working hours are either anti-social or non-existent so this was a novelty for all three of us.

I’ve been a dad for five years and a performer for much longer. Most self-employed people go through a moment of doubt when they become parents. Self-employment can be unreliable and this is especially true in performing arts. Stability and regularity can become very attractive when you start a family but I stuck with the juggling and so far I’m getting away with it.

There are advantages to this. I’m often around during the day to run domestic errands and I’m usually the only dad on the school run, but it’s difficult for me to guarantee this time as a lot of my work comes in at short notice. Booking a holiday is always a gamble for the same reason. At time of writing, my family are on a holiday that I was unavailable for due to work commitments. This is the curse of the leisure industry generally. When most are at play, I’m at work.

Upon finding out what I do for a living people often say “Your children must love you!” This well meaning but absurd statement (Do accountants’ children not love their parents just as much?) reflects the fact that juggling is often associated with children. To be honest, my kids are so young they probably think everyone’s daddy can balance things on his nose and do yo-yo tricks.

My five year old might just be getting the idea that my job is a novelty. Her fifth birthday party was earlier in the summer and I generously agreed to entertain the guests free of charge. Most of her classmates were there and they kept coming up to me saying “Are you really Millie’s daddy?” When I said yes they would cackle and run away. One of these friends came for a play date a few days later. When I arrived home, she looked at me through the garden gate and said “Oh! He really is your daddy then!”

I could hope that my daughters will be proud of their old dad but pride would inevitably give way to crushing embarrassment when they reach ten or so. I think this would be equally true if I was a lawyer or something so I’ll just have to accept the inevitable and keep a low profile.

It is scary relying on such a bizarre thing to feed, clothe and house my offspring but it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the grass is greener elsewhere. Everyone I speak to worries about some threat to their livelihood whether they work on a stage or in an office.
Nobody is bullet proof so I’m just grateful for having a job I enjoy and two beautiful children who lavish affection without wanting to borrow the car straight afterwards (yet).

Sam Veale
August 2011

Despite all this, Sam does do children’s parties. For more information, go to…

http://www.circusparty.co.uk/