Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 2001


I woke up to see everything covered in a beautiful blanket of white snow; to me a white Winter Festival is more important than a white Christmas. Tunbridge Wells didn't have quite as much snow as my village did though. Here's a bit of what went on..

In the Street

The street acts are what the festival is all about. Unfortunately I was only able to make one day of the festival this year, but I was pleased to see a high quality selection of performers. It was also nice to see that Tunbridge Wells is loosening up a bit. Acts were drawing larger crowds than in previous years & more people were clapping & cheering as well. I think the festival is also drawing its own audience, there are now people other than TWJC members who visit just to see the street entertainers. The street was better organised this year too, you could watch an act from start to finish, then spend some time with a walkabout act & then catch the start of another show. Because there was always something going on it didn't seem quite so cold.

Bernie Bennett traveled 5000 lightyears to perform for a cold Tunbridge Wells crowd. As the Superman theme tune played Bernie Bennett entered a silly phone box costume then emerged as the lycra clad Super Bernie (wonder if he knows Kevin?) Amongst some serious tight rope walking tricks such as sitting on a chair & walking across blindfolded with buckets of plastic & steel we were treated to silly visual gags along the Superman theme. The best of which was his low level flying demonstration.

Pete & myself were recruited to help on the end of a slack rope while Dr Philistine wandered along the top & did a bit of knife juggling. All over the top of two toy double decker buses to give the audience a sense of perspective!

Wheeler dealers Ron & Don of Fair Play drove around the precinct in nifty little electric cars trying to make a sale. One tried to sell Tasj one of his cars for a mere £7000, by the time they pitched the same thing to my Mum the price had risen to £8500, hmm. These guys tried to shift every possible piece of merchandise imaginable, their cars, gold watches & bracelets, even their own moustaches. I said I'd have to go & draw out some cash & made my getaway.

Brian & Maisy, the creatures from Loskaos spent some time grazing in the town centre. It's always fun to watch people's reactions, most people like to go up & pat them on the head & stroke their noses, yet one woman walked behind me exclaiming how, "absolutely repulsive" they were! I've always thought they are rather cute myself. Brian's herder Dom made me laugh with his West Country accent, "That's a nice coat madam, did you kill that yourself?"

Probably the best idea I've seen in ages was Slabsquare. A team of six irresistibly watchable 'Slabbers' from What a Palaver, marched into town carrying 9 square paving slabs which when placed together made the Slabsquare. Then members of the public were at first invited to step onto the square & have their photo taken. It wasn't long before everyone wanted to have a go. A total of 125 photos from the day were put online at www.slabsquare.com (now defunkt). You can see me here & you can see Brian (Kim) here & here. A prime example of simplistic brilliance.

All in all money well spent I think, more of the same next year please.

The Parade

Titled 'Midwinter Madness' this year's event consisted of two separate parades, one portraying fire & one ice that met in the middle of Mount Pleasant. TWJC, The Tunbridge Wells Samba Band & a collection of dancing dragons made up the fire parade, while the ice parade consisted of Women in Harmony, Tub Thumping Youth Theatre, big blue sea creature puppets & Andrew the unicycling traitor!

All of the TWJC members were dressed in red boiler suits decorated with a white oriental dragon symbol on the back & an orange flame symbol down the right thigh (so versatile those suits!) We also had our faces painted with various black patterns (I asked for a butterfly) & those with long enough hair (hard luck Bob) were styled into wild shapes by Kim. Kevin rode his Unicycle with his strips of LEDs flapping around above his head. Unfortunately though, all the streetlamps & Christmas lights were left on, added to that the spotlights & our own flares (doh!) meant that all of us with glowing props didn't really show up. Never mind we got to juggle & dance to some fine Samba sounds which is always a lot of fun.

When the two parades met up we dashed out & grabbed our fire torches then squeezed our way back onto the road & performed our fireswinging set piece which was very well received. We had to be very careful of the highly flammable dragon puppets. Then we made our way back to Dom's car which was our refueling depot (or a getaway vehicle depending on how things went) & redipped before marching to the bottom of the hill & doing it all again just above the ice choir who looked really good in shimmering white costumes. At the end of it all we marched back out for a bit of freestyle fire juggling & such like before watching fireworks exploding over the old cinema & echoing between the lines of shops. Good stuff.

After all that it was back to Dave's house for a bit of a party. They really do have far too many wigs in that household. Bob looked fantastic in the blonde one & Bryn still looked like Danny from Hear'Say no matter what he wore. Bob passed round more of his chili vodka, quickly followed by a glass of cool milk. He also brought out his black pepper vodka as well. Look out for Domestos multi surface cleaner vodka coming soon.

Also see:
Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 1999
Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 2000
Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 2002
Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 2003