Durham has puts its brass festival behind it and is looking forward to its book festival... but why wait? Next up in this city of festivals is the Durham Streets Summer Festival.
A city renowned for its eccelsiastical and collegiate calm will be letting its hair down over the forthcoming bank holiday weekend as street performers are let loose.
The attractions include a mini theatre in a caravan, blindfold knife juggling and extreme hairstyling while unicycling.
Street clown Pedro will be stirring up mischief while performing a tale of immortal love with heroes, villains and balloon sculpting.
The Space Cowboy, we are reliably informed, is the only person to have won the Street Performance World Championships more than once. And then there is Maynard Flip Flap, family favourite.
We have looked on Mr Flip Flap’s website which tells us that he is “daft as a brush”.
He flips eggs high into the air and attempts to catch them on his head. Shoe balancing, a “coat hanger escape” and audience members racing biscuits are also part of the repertoire.
He is also “the world’s only living box”, scuttling along crowded streets with curious children in hot pursuit.
If he’d written a bestselling novel he could be part of Durham Book Festival but he hasn’t. He flips eggs, balances shoes and wears a box, making him a shoo in (shoe in?) for this celebration of madcap fun on the street.
Fatt Matt does eggs too. He can balance three of them on a chopstick on his nose. That’s when he’s not standing on his head while playing the ukelele or performing one-fingered handstands.
Fatt Matt (according to www.fattmattshow.com – and why would we doubt it?) has been based in Australia for 25 years, which perhaps explains why he’s always standing on his head.
He started as a comedy juggler and a unicyclist but was trained by Chinese and Russians who helped him to hone and develop his performance.
Fatt Matt will be back on Durham’s quirky city streets by popular demand. In 2012 he won the Durham Streets People’s Choice award which meant he had to come back.
He will be there at the end of the month, an inspiration to festival first-timers including pogo expert Ernest the Magnifico, daredevil acrobat Felicity Footloose, comedy double act Garaghty and Thom and J-P Koala, the Australian juggler (is there something in the air ‘down under’?).
It falls to Coun Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, to inject a bit of seriousness into the proceedings, reminding us that “Durham Streets festival brings a real buzz to our county, entertaining audiences and giving a boost to local businesses”.
He adds: “Last year we took Streets to Barnard Castle for the very first time and received a fantastic reception from audiences.
“I’m so pleased that not only are we returning to the town this year but we are also expanding further with our first ever performances in Bishop Auckland.
“I’m sure visitors to all of this year’s festival locations will have a fantastic time and that all three towns and the wider area will benefit.”
Remember that important boost to local businesses while you’re feasting your eyes on RImski’s Bicycle Piano (your guess is as good as ours), listening to buskers or enjoying a seven-minute theatrical performance in The Travelling Treasury, a mini-theatre which can accommodate one family at a time.
Festival performers will be on the pavements, bridges and squares of Durham City between 11.30am and 5pm on August 23 and 24.
The festival will be making its Bishop Auckland debut between 11am and 3pm on August 23. Then the fun moves to Scar Top, Barnard Castle, on Monday, August 25 (12 noon to 4pm) when audiences will get another chance to see Mullet Man.
He, too, is back by popular demand and, yes, he sports a mullet. The extreme hairstyling act is his and his alone – but he also lives dangerously with juggling and unicycling.
Details of all the festival attractions, times and locations can be found on www.durhamstreetsof.co.uk