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…


Performer wanted for a new show

Performer wanted for a new show.
So & So are looking for an acrobatic performer for their new show, Backgammon for Beginners. Applicants would preferably have a strong acrobatic background, although we may consider working with a performer from another discipline (dance/theatre/other circus background) with the potential to increase their acrobatic vocabulary.
Most of all, we are looking for someone with a strong stage presence and an interest in creating a new circus theatre piece, who is prepared to work with text.
Backgammon for Beginners follows the stories of Javad, a man who became trapped in London, following the Iranian revolution in 1979. His attempts to comprehend the cultural differences between his past and his present lead to jumping out of hotel windows, introducing backgammon to London bars, facing the terror of the National Front and stopping trains with his bare hands.
The show will be directed by Mish Weaver. We will work with a script, and use live music. There will be 4 performers in the show- Roshi (musician), Lauren & Kaveh (acrobatic pair) plus another performer.
Rehearsal dates are 12th Sept – 23rd Sept, 14th Nov-16th Dec, and 2nd – 11th January. The show will then tour the UK from approximately 15th April- 2nd June (TBC). Applicants must be able to commit to all of these periods.
The fee for rehearsals will be £400/week for 8 weeks. Rehearsals will be held in London (6 weeks) and Yorkshire (2 weeks). Accommodation can be provided if necessary. 
Please send a CV, covering letter and any photos and links to website or videos to info@soandsocircus.com by August 14th.
For more information on the company, see http://www.soandsocircus.com or richardsonprm.com/artists_soandso2.html

The dreaded question….

First my throat slightly contracts, then I can’t help but breath out a sigh and my eyes sink towards the floor. “I’m a circus artist” I reply.

I know my body language and tone could easily be misinterpreted as embarrassment, but unfortunately the emotion I’m trying to hide is not embarrassment, not even modesty. If it were, I could hope that the questioner would see my distress and move on to something else. Instead my interrogator jumps at the thread and pulls as hard as they can forcing me to unravel the conversation which is almost as rehearsed and practiced as my act. It’s not their fault, it’s mine. I shouldn’t have a job that sparks off so much interest, seems so wacky and unlikely from the outside and yet so normal to me. Perhaps these encounters are a fresh chance to remind myself how lucky I am to have a job I love.

Instead they just depress me a little. I’m good at opinions, I’m not good at anecdotes or jokes. That’s a hang up I have and one I’m constantly trying to change, but for now this is where I am. It’s hard to get opinion in a conversation about a topic which one half is almost entirely ignorant. That’s not a criticism on them, why on earth should they know about the differences in what I do and what Ronald McDonald or Cirque du Soleil does? It just makes it difficult for someone as socially unskilled as I to connect to someone in this particular conversation in any meaningful way. I know this because I have had this conversation 100’s of times; it either results in an uncomfortable parting or my other tactic – change the subject as soon as possible. I know some artists thrive at the chance to engage in this type of interaction, driving the conversation about themselves and enthralling onlookers, as if the conversation is a performance and a chance for the performer to shine.

I can’t criticize too much, I’m a performer by trade and writing a blog about my experiences and thoughts. However I like to think my ego is slightly different from this type of need for attention. But then everyone always thinks their particular brand of ego is unique. I suspect I just have a bad attitude towards the whole thing, perhaps I should say I’m a chartered accountant when asked, “What do you do for a living?”.

Note: I wrote this in 2009. I recently came across Derren Browns stunning read “Confessions of a Conjuror” in which he also comments on the dilemma of the question (far more eloquently than I). It’s a great read, particularly for any performing artists.

Barcelona to Chatham

Barcelona!! Such a beautiful horizon. Or so sang the beloved Freddie. Not wrong. What a beautiful city. The sad fact being that we only got to spend a day there. Rubbish. We were working for a company called the New London Consort performing as part of their production, The Fairy Queen. Originally they wanted us to travel out on the Sunday but we had teaching all day and it was the last day of term for our youth circus so we agreed to a ridiculously early flight on the Monday instead.

Up at 4am and on the plane at Heathrow at 7.10. Neither Lauren nor I are morning people and this was no exception. I insisted on getting the biggest cup of coffee in the universe before we went through security. No liquids. Lauren grumbled. A lot. The only think to appease her morning grumble was a Krispy Kreme donut.

I hate airports. I’ve hardly ever been in one and felt awake. I’m always there either at stupid O’clock in the morning, hungover or both. And they are so white. And the whiskey is not actually cheaper at all in the duty free.  Upsetting. And I’m always a bit later than I should be and Lauren is inevitably always with me and panicking about missing our flight – which is right to do, as we almost always nearly do. Anyway, we were the last ones through the gates.  Had a bit of banter with the two trumpeters who were also ‘deviants’ – meaning they objected to missing a day’s work for a badly paid job in Spain and so had also requested 7am flights.

Barcelona itself is a lovely place and the venue was like some crazy building dreamt up by a member of royalty. All murals and stained glass and statues. Amazing. It was called the Palau de la Musica. I’ve popped in a couple of pictures to give an idea of the space. It was truly breathtaking. Funny, the show is about the journey to ‘Arcadia’ and at a few points in the show we’re supposed to look up as if we are in some magical place. Up until last night our magical place hadn’t usually been that magical. Last night I almost forgot to stop looking around the magical place. Danger danger!

After the show went for a few beers in a bar called the Cat Bar. We managed, on our only night in Barcelona, to stumble in to a bloody English bar! We met with a couple of friends who hadn’t been to see the show as it was too expensive. Sandro and Maria. Hadn’t seen Maria for ages so that was really lovely. Had pretty heated – and by now somewhat classic – Cirque du Soleil debate. Would you or wouldn’t you. I wouldn’t. I’ll rant about it another time. Pretty cool though as two randoms on another table got involved. International bonding. Good to see Cirque are good for something. Sorry if that offends anyone reading this. Happy to argue my case, although I’m aware cirque fans will argue I’m wrong. I’m not. They are.

Went for one last beer after seeing them off and Lauren to bed. Was in another bar via another bar. Jose (Trigero, new found buddy and beautiful juggler) and Boldo (or ‘The Great Boldo’ as he’s known in the show!) were pretty ‘merry’. Was all a bit much for me after the epic 24 hours I’d had awake. Far too tired to deal with being extra nice to important people either so I left after one. Made a refreshing change.

Had to be out of the hotel at 8.40 this morning. Ggggrrrr. Considering the flight wasn’t for another two hours I did feel this was unnecessary torture. Such is life.

Got back at about half two this afternoon before having a brief cup of tea and heading out to Chatham for a rehearsal. Wonder how many other people have experienced the culture shock of a beautiful venue in Barcelona with a standing ovation to an empty plasterboard fake theatre in Chatham in the same day. Not many I bet. Crazy life.

Finishing now before yet another early start tomorrow for a cancer charity publicity stunt in South Bank and Manchester. Another long day but for a good cause and the other people doing it are lovely. And I get to have an endless stream of people standing on my shoulders. Pimp base.  Although I do have to wear a lycra ‘wall’ costume. Mmmmmm. May not be posting pictures of that.

Going to grab a bit of grub, have a glass of vino and then shoot off to bed for a very well earned kip.

Kaveh. So & So.