I took the kids to the goodbye celebration for Reg Bolton this afternoon. To describe him as a circus educator would be underselling him. He was teacher, clown, scholar, stage manager, director, committee member, writer, friend, bulls**it detector, raconteur, father, husband, innovator, leader and transformer of young lives.
Fig2. Life enhancement aid
I’d seen him perform a couple of times. Both kids had done workshops and performances with him, (I’d been lured into doing my first handspring in 15 years at one of them). He’d asked me a couple of questions when I was on the ref. desk while he was doing his PhD at MyUniversity. I wouldn’t have said we were mates, or even that he would have known who I was particularly. But, I’m sure that if I had asked him if it was OK to attend, he would have said “Yeah, of course, come along, join in”. And he would have meant it. I wanted the kids to understand the difference one person could make, and to see how to make life a circus.
It was a colourful group of people packed into the Camelot Theatre …most wearing bright clothes and with hair that would certainly stand out in the boardroom. Lots of little kids. Average age of everyone was about 30. Reg was almost 61 when he died a fortnight ago.
Simon ,an internationally acclaimed unicyclist performed and told us how he started unicycling in a workshop with Reg at the Woodford folk festival. Mike Finch, the artistic director of Circus Oz told us how he emailed everyone in his contact list on learning of Reg’s death and a large proportion emailed back saying how they’d just recently had this conversation with Reg, seen that performance of his, received this email etc from Reg. Mike noted that if Reg had given so much of himself in the last two weeks, then how much he must have given over his lifetime.
He also mentioned that celebrations of Reg’s life are taking place in several places in Australia and one in New York. Circus Monoxide planned a celebration where memories of Reg were written down, placed into a suitcase that was then set alight and floated away on water.
Two young jugglers showed us their tricks. Two older jugglers demonstrated a belt that Reg had designed, allowing a juggler with a bad back to clip juggling clubs in a “hula skirt” around his waist and not bend down to get them . People told of starting careers teaching circus skills after reading his book, Circus in a Suitcase. Several other performers involved us all in their enthusiasm and joy, balancing children, singing, performing “the Hunter” routine with large sticks, showing a video of a kids’ performance.
There were many, many stories of Reg encouraging people to be better than their best. The story of the one legged stiltwalker over at the Theatre Australia forum demonstrates how Reg constantly showed people how they could improve, even when they hadn’t considered the possibility.
Reg’s son, Jo, showed a series of slides of Reg’s life and his family. Daughter Sophie gathered us around in a circle and danced a comedy Charleston, complete with crowd “oohing” and “aahing” on cue. Reg hadn’t seen her do this before, so she dedicated it to him.
At the end of the performances and open mic, we all grabbed our circus props – diabolos, juggling balls, clubs, rings, hoops, spinning plates, stilts, unicycles, a couple of fitballs and made our way across the road to a local reserve. Everyone juggled, balanced and threw until there was a countdown 10…9…8…7..6..5…(energy rising)..4…3…2…1..and Up! all the balls and hoops and diabolos and other equipment were thrown into the air. Show over? No..we all stayed on the reserve, playing for another hour and a half. Kids and adults , seasoned performers doing amazing tricks and beginners learning simple tricks for the first time.
For me, the spirit of Reg was there when Mr3, who was too reluctant to come forward when a circus mum encouraged parents and kids to join her in a balancing act, spent the next 30 minutes that we sat in the audience practising standing balances on my lap.