In a nutshell
Collector of Friends
How it all began
For years I’ve been telling people that I started doing circus when I was about 9 but recently I realised that it started much earlier. My mum would say that I was turning somersaults while she was pregnant and that I was pretty much the most hyperactive little boy you can imagine. My uncle gave me the nickname “The Proton”.
My Grandpa (my dad’s dad) was a keen sportsman. He played did athletics and played cricket for the county as a young man, and also liked playing table tennis – a trait that has been passed down to me. He started teaching me to throw and catch when I was about 2. (If you don’t know about kids, two is very early for catching, and still a little early for accurate throws.) If my dad were here now he’d start telling you the story of Grandpa telling me to “keep my eye on the ball” to catch and me – taking him at his word – putting the ball against my eye socket. (Two is also a little early for understanding metaphors!)
My mum would take me swimming and to gymnastics and by the time I was five I was climbing up door frames dressed as Spider-man. (There’s a photo somewhere. If I can find it and digitise it, I’ll put it here!) When I was about six I realised I could walk on my dad’s old wooden skittles if I lay them down on their side and remember being fascinated by having to walk backwards to travel forwards.
Anything that could be climbed was climbed; anything that could be jumped from was jumped from. Anything that could be thrown or kicked was thrown and kicked.
Trial and Error
I first tried to juggle when I was about 7. My dad had the classic juggling book “Juggling for the Complete Klutz”. I was still a bit young to get it and after a while of trying I got frustrated and gave up.
When I was about 9 my parents took me to Dorset to visit some friends of theirs who lived on a huge shared estate. We spent a week down there but there was no one my age. My choices were 1) milk the cows, or 2) teach myself to walk on the stilts I’d found lying around. I milked the cows. And after I’d milked a cow once or twice I realised I’d rather be in the garden learning to walk on the stilts. By the end of the week I was a stilt walker. When we got home, my dad had a carpenter friend of his knock together a pair of hand-held stilts for me.
A year or two later, I finally learned to juggle while spending a week at home ill and promptly started teaching the other kids in my class at school as soon as I was back. The juggling bug caught me. Any juggler I saw, I’d talk to. Any opportunity to learn a trick, I’d learn a trick and within a year I’d started to learn to ride a unicycle.
Collecting and Keeping Friends
Between 12 – 13 I pretty much stopped juggling. I was preparing for my Bar Mitzvah and even though my family had moved to near Totnes in Devon, I was determined to have my Bar Mitzvah in London with the Hebrew School class I’d been with since I was 5. I’d travel up and down to London by car or on the train every week or two on Friday to study for my Bar Mitzvah at Finchley Reform Synagogue. If I was travelling by train I’d take juggling balls with me and I’d juggle in the space between carriages on the journey. It’s not easy to juggle on a moving train.
Throughout my teens I juggled – three balls, four balls, five, six, seven – and I tried various Martial Arts, finally settling on Wing Chun. I carried juggling balls and clubs with me everywhere I’d go and every week I’d go to Up For Grabs, the juggling club in Totnes. If you were a friend of mine you were either a juggler yourself (or you were happy to learn!), or at the very least you didn’t mind me juggling everywhere and anywhere.
At 18 I decided to do Camp America and set out to find a summer camp where I could teach juggling. I ended up at Timber Lake Camp in up state New York. I ended up spending the year in the USA, working in NY, travelling all over. I came back from the States in April ’99, promptly moved to London and that September I started studying at Circus Space on the first ever degree in circus, the “BA (Hons) Theatre Practice – Circus”. The very same day as I started at Circus Space I also started on the Introduction Leaders Programme with Landmark Education (and I also moved into a new flat with two of my best friends. It was a hectic day).
I spent two years doing full-on, full-time training at Circus Space, UK’s de-facto national circus school and re-found my passion for acrobatics. All my time as a child spent climbling, jumping, throwing, catching, playing sports and doing martial arts paid off. I specialised in Flying Trapeze and Acrobatics and at the same time as I was training in circus I was doing a lot of leadership training and personal coaching.
After graduating from Circus Space I qualified as a British Gymnastics Coach in Tumbling and Sports Acrobatics and established my first company, Liquidimage Productions, with two friends, Lesley Gardener, who now runs Wookey Hole Circus, and Amy Welbourn, who is now a teacher at Circus Space. We performed German Wheel, Acrobatics and Banquine, and the girls did a trampoline Can-Can routine (which was awesome by the way!), and we taught circus workshops all over the world. Outside of Liquidimage, I worked and trained with Cirque du Soleil’s Cirque du Monde social education program, and taught circus and acrobatics and drama and dance schools as well as teaching at Circus Space. After four years of working together we decided to go different directions and Liquidimage was no more.
Over the years I’ve done various things but the most significant has been teaching. It took me a long time to realise – or perhaps just a long time to tell the truth both to others and to myself – that performing isn’t for me. For years training, rehearsing, performing, as well as all the things that go with it (creating costumes, dealing with agents, etc) was a struggle and effort and I never felt like I got the satisfaction from the performance that other performers get. Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy performing – but I enjoy teaching far more. As I said above, from the moment I started juggling I started teaching others how to juggle. My story isn’t a story of becoming a performer. It’s a story of becoming a teacher.
When I finally started telling the truth about being passionate about teaching and not about performing, life became much easier. Work started to flow and the struggle and effort that I’d been living with for years started to disappear. I haven’t performed since 2008. All my work is now teaching – and I love it! I’ve taught at some of the top drama and dance schools, until the end of 2010 I’ve been coaching gymnastics, and I teach at Circus Space on their Adult Programme, Youth Programme (including teaching flying trapeze and acrobatics for the London Youth Circus) and on the Corporate Programme.
Although the majority of my time is spent teaching at Circus Space, I have also recently started a new youth circus company, Airborne Circus, which is just getting off the ground.
That pretty much brings you up to speed. There’s obviously more to know and if you’re interested you can drop me a line.
Keep in touch though. I like new friends.