Monday, August 16, 2010

Halifax International Buskers Festival: August 5-15, 2010

The Halifax International Buskers Festival is the largest and oldest street performers festival in Canada. It has an annual attendance averaging more than 500 000 people over 5 Downtown "stages," and brings in an estimated $20 million dollars in additional revenue to the Downtown Halifax area each summer. Yet despite these obvious upsides, the festival has received zero Provincial dollars in funding for the last three years. Organizers announced a few days ago that this year's festival - the 24th year of Busker Fest - will most likely be the last ever.

Over the course of the 11 days of the festival, I managed to stroll past the Waterfront or Victoria Park stages on three of them. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see the highly acclaimed FlameOz - winners of the 2009 and 2010 Metro People's Choice Award - and I only caught the tail end of the fantastic contortionist routine of Bendy Em. However, my new resolution is to enjoy festivals and performances not on their individual merits, but simply because they're festivals and they're there (see motto under the title of my blog). I find life stops being fun when you're constantly worrying about whether or not you're getting your money's worth, and so I chose to laugh and cheer and clap at whatever performer was up on the stage regardless of the quality of his/her/their performance. Consequently, I had a great time.

The highlight of the Festival for me was when I was called upon to "volunteer" for one of the shows. Actually, I was the third pick, but the other two wussed out and since I was the only one left with any courage I was chosen by default. My job was merely to waste time and fill out the show, I think, by joining with three other volunteers to make a human table in which every person's back was parallel to the ground, yet only the feet of each person was actually in contact with it. This was probably the fifteenth busker "performance" I've attended across the country at various festivals, yet it was the first time I've ever been involved in the show other than being a member of the audience. Since I've been trying to get into the show at every performance I've seen, it was quite satisfying to finally get to be the centre of attention.

(World-class mime, Kate Mior, as Marie Antoinette, hams it up on her "stage" at The Waterfront. I didn't even know that she was doing this until I got my camera back.)

(I'm not sure what's going on here, since I just came in at this moment, but I'm pretty sure it is not what British Health and Safety would deem safe.)

(Australian contortionist, Bendy Em, prepares to shoehorn herself into a 16 inch x 16 inch x 16 inch glass box.)

(Success! I suppose...)

(Captain Finhead, one-half of the "violin stunt team", Strings On Fire, kills some time by juggling flaming torches whilst balancing an axe on his chin.)

("Death defying violin stunts" - four words you don't often hear mentioned in the same sentence. Look closely, the tips of their bows are on fire.)

(Does the above set of photos really need a description? I'll give one anyway. Burnaby Q. Orbax, of the Monsters of Schlock, drives a 5 3/4" nail into his skull, and then a "lucky" member of the audience gets to pull it back out again.

(Just for good measure, Mr. Orbax then decides to hammer a dinner fork into his skull.)

(Burnaby's "step-brother", Sweet Pepper Klopek, dives face first into the world's largest mouse trap, "useful for catching wild Sweet Peppers in the woods.")

(And the result...)

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