Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 2003


Dot Comedy provided news coverage on an extremely local scale as they wheeled their portable news desk around the precinct. At one point they waited until a camera operator had just finished setting up their tripod & camera gear before announcing: "We are now going to move on just to inconvenience the fixed point camera woman." I was 'lucky' enough to be one of the first people to be interviewed, little did I know it but I was the lead protester in a violent demonstration. Simon from TWJC was out with his dog & was interviewed about what was going to happen to his dog after attacking the Queen's corgi this week. Great stuff, although not an act you can safely watch for any period of time without becoming the subject of a breaking news story.

Three young 50s style house wives from Zilch carried their washing baskets into town. They hung up a load of washing lines between lamp posts, trees, phone boxes & through parked bikes so that the web span 20 or so metres of the precinct. Then they hung out some washing to dry & then they just left. Throughout the day every shopper that walked past looked twice at the multicoloured display of laundry. Why spend thousands on commissioning street art, when these girls can achieve almost the same effect. Very surreal. Also wandering round town were the Banjo Bunnies, a couple of hillbillies riding atop giant rabbits & playing banjos. Great costumes & I never knew that rabbits growled.

The last act I caught was Martinez & Fabrega's Incredible Bull Circus. Martinez was on his own as Fabrega hadn't shown up. So in his place was the wonderfully 'working class' John who had been talking to Fabrega in Starbucks. A series of bovine related acts were presented to us, featuring a range of silly toys & puppets. Because of the rain the ring of fire wouldn't light properly, the car couldn't make it up the ramp. & the cannon misfired too. It got to the point where Martinez had to simply explain what would've happened! Both performers did exceptionally well to keep everything together & hold an audience in the rain. Had everything worked it probably wouldn't have been so entertaining!

Top performers of the day were of course Bongo Bolero, who were the main reason why so many of TWJC turned up to stand in the rain. Conditions were bad so the pair were a bit late starting. Pete & I applauded Richard as he came out to check the weather. He stopped to chat for us a bit - such a nice guy, he even gave us a reference in the build up, "Tricks you will have never seen before! Unless you are a juggler." - I get smug about such little things. The show featured loads of acrobalance, juggling & a total clash of personalities. Their spot was very slick, very professional & very funny.


Firstly where was the pig? I was really looking forward to seeing that.

Dancing around in red & white costumes were The Freds. 'Artistic' was one word used to describe them. They danced to the soundtracks of various 80's computer games. Er... Odd.

Speakeasy Theatre performed a comedy 60's style radio play, dashing between microphones & making all their own sound effects to tell a Sherlock Holmes-esque murder mystery story. The show featured lots of good ideas & well executed gags, mostly revolving around the sound effects. But it seemed a little too chaotic & rough around the edges at times. There were a few too many moments when the characters were talking over each other or over sound effects which made things difficult to follow. A potentially very good act, just needs a little more fine tuning.

Also showing potential was the Bureau of Silly Ideas. Firstly - great name. The Bosi consisted of three workmen in overalls, hi-viz jackets & hard hats, they brought with them a couple of wheel barrows, a load of traffic cones, some shovels & a very long plank of wood. I loved the catapulting of the cones across the precinct using a shovel. I will be trying that myself at some point! They did some nice passing patterns throwing & stacking the cones in various interesting patterns. The act featured some very nice hat juggling with the hard hats (which are not easy to manipulate - especially when compared to the Nils Poll or Dube hats that most performers use). The main problem I had with the act was the timing of it. It wasn't controlled enough to convince me that they were real masters of the cones, & it wasn't wild enough to convince me that they were winging it & they were out of control. Again I'd like to see how this act develops.

Winter Festival veteran Mike Martins performed his now classic escapology routine (meaning I've seen it more than 3 times), he still hasn't got any better with 5 balls! :P Still very endearing to a crowd & very entertaining to watch even when you know exactly what comes next.

The best performers of the festival for me though were Bloco Fogo. Since their humble beginnings as a community project in 2000 (as part of the Tunbridge Wells Winter Festival 2000) the troupe have really grown both in numbers & in performance ability. The band's Mestre looked fantastic in a suit with painted face, ears & horns looking remarkably like Lorne from Angel. The band certainly proved that all Samba does not sound the same. Superb stuff.

Take a look at the Bloco Fogo website.

The acts seemed a bit thin on the ground this year. There wasn't that much going on, I remember a 1 & a half hour break in the action at one point on Saturday. I only caught two walkabout acts (The News Desk & Banjo Bunnies), the precinct is a great place for walkabouts it is a shame not to capitalise on it. Also while I am all for showcasing new acts for development purposes (look at Bloco Fogo for reasons why), showing too many work in progresses is not going to capture your average shopper & turn them into an audience member.

Also see:
Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 1999
Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 2000
Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 2001
Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 2002