Inspiring, Awesome and Fun! Performing in the Opening Ceremony of the CP Games 2015.

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Last weekend i was involved in an incredible production. The opening ceremonies of the Cerebral Palsy Games (like the Olympics for those with CP). I had a feeling from the moment I was booked that it would be an emotional gig, but I had no idea just how inspirational it would be too.

Helen Orford - Copyright: CP 2015 World Games

Helen Orford – Copyright: CP 2015 World Games

I left London early on Saturday morning to head to Nottingham where I met with the other circus performers, aerialist Karina Jones, and cyr wheeler/break dancer Nadia Lumley to head to the venue, Harvey Hadden Stadium. Working with director Jamie Beddard we had a really clear image of how the show would come together from the get go and just how each section would link. It’s not often I get to work with such a great director who has an incredibly brilliant show idea and message to share, and who is refreshingly relaxed too! – the sign of months and months of preparation I’m sure!


One of the joys of being a hula hooper is that my performances aren’t greatly affected by my surroundings. So unlike other acts, such as the aerialist, Karina who had to tech her act fully with the rigger and a unique motorized pulley, I spent the majority of Saturday sitting around. Those outside of the corporate performing world might find it surprising that this is how I spend a lot of my time when ‘working’?  During the day I had a great meeting with the head of the samba band to talk through our act together. I always get excited when I get to perform alongside live musicians, let alone a 9 piece samba band! Our chat lasted all of about 2 minutes as we were totally on the same page on how to meld our two art forms, and I couldn’t wait to work with the band the next day in rehearsals.


After a nice meal out with some of the cast on Saturday night we headed to our luxury accommodation – uni halls(!) for a good night’s rest before a long day of rehearsals and the show the next day.


Arriving at the venue on Sunday I took a step back and watched one of the community dancing groups made from people of all ages and abilities rehearsing in the space. It genuinely made me shed a little tear. Their enthusiasm and dancing abilities, and the beautiful image of a young man lifting a young female dancer (who had Downs Syndrome) high in the air mid routine really made me realise what a beautiful, inspiring and emotional event it was going to be.

Copyright: CP 2015 World Games

Copyright: CP 2015 World Games

After rehearsing the show non-stop all day, all the performers were ready and excited to start. The audience started filling in and the atmosphere behind the seating backstage was electric! Amongst the artists were all the athletes grouped in their countries getting ready to parade around the centre of the stadium to start the opening ceremonies. The nerves and excitement of everyone in that room was palpable!


In the show there were dancers, aerial skills, cyr wheel, theatre, carnival queens, umbrella dancers, live samba musicians, and of course, little me spinning my hoops. The audience were having the time of their lives and the athletes were clearly loving the show too!

Aerialist: Karina Jones

Aerialist: Karina Jones

We choreographed my first hula hoop section to be a fun little solo-off between myself doing hula hoop tricks and the odd drummer which I’d pull out to do a solo. It was fun, light-hearted and highly enjoyable to do! The audience went crazy for it, and performing alongside those incredible live musicians was just SO MUCH FUN!!

Helen Orford - Copyright: Stephan Bessant

Helen Orford – Copyright: Stephan Bessant

During the finale of the opening ceremonies I performed my unique hula hooping quick change while spinning a big slinky of hoops, all while surrounded by the samba band marching round me playing my track live, with all the dancers sat on the floor in a big circle surrounding us and dancing along. It felt incredible to perform my signature trick in front of all those incredible athletes and alongside such great performers too.


Long story short, it was a day-long feel good moment! Which none of us, athletes included, wanted to end. Alas all good things must. By now the whole games have finished and the closing ceremony has happened too (I’m gutted I was only available for the opening!). I hear all the athletes were incredible, and really made their countries proud. I say it often enough, but I really do love my job! To be able to perform for such a great company, with an incredible director, alongside wonderful performers and for world-class athletes too was a real honour.

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How to make a showstopper costume for £3.49.

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For the past few months I’ve been getting lots of requests for a 1920’s/Great Gatsby themed act, and for the most part I forwarded on the details of other performers who have such acts as I didn’t want to fork out for a new costume for just one show. Bearing in mind I normally spend anywhere between £400 and £1500 for a costume, I’m sure you can see why. Then one evening I was tidying up some unused bits and bobs of haberdashery, and realised that with a bit of imagination I could make a perfect costume for this theme, and almost for free! Winner.

Helen Orford

Admittedly I had pretty much everything I needed to make it, but that’s because I designed the costume around what I had. I think if when working on a budget you start the design stage of your costume working around what materials, and bits and bobs you already have in, it’s possible to make an incredible costume for super, super cheap!

  • I had a cheap nude leotard which I’d never worn as it’s practically see-through. Not ideal.
  • I also had a f**k-ton of 12inch white fringing from when I was developing my hula hoop quick change act (which you can see here). In that act I perform a quick change from a short black dress to a long white ball gown all while spinning a big pile of hoops. I had originally planned to cover the entire stack of hoops in solid material, but that acted like a sail when I hooped it and the hoops dropped instantly. My second plan was to attach this long white fringing along the inside of the hoops to help disguise the quick change behind, but that failed too as the centripetal force made the fringing go horizontal when spun, not hiding me at all! I since decided that it’s actually quite nice for the audience to see the transformation as it completely blows their mind!
  • I found a good amount of nude, crystal, crystal AB, and other random rhinestones left over from previous costume projects.
  • And last but not least I had a pair of old (but still nice!) nude dance nights.

I concluded that a flapper dress would be easy enough to make for a beginner seamstress like me (especially as I’d helped a friend make something similar out of my old bits and bobs in the past when she was in need), so I set to it. As the fringing wasn’t elasticated I knew I had to sew it onto the costume while the costume was stretched-else I wouldn’t be able to get it on! As my hips are the widest part of me I pinned each strip of fringing while that part of the costume was over my hips to ensure that I could put the costume on after all that work! Row by row I pinned and sewed each line of fringing with a machine, repeating the process with a 4 inch gap between each layer. At the top of the costume I decided to follow the line of the leotard (which I’d already cinched in at the centre to give a nicer shape at the cleavage.) to keep the fringing hanging over my shoulders as I was afraid it would look too block-ish otherwise.

Next I glued on (using gemtac) all my spare crystals onto all the blank bits of material of the leotard underneath. I knew that while hooping the fringing would move, so a bit of sparkle underneath would add a level of glamour and would make the costume look that little bit more expensive too!

It was here that I splashed out the £3.49 (forgive me!). I bought a metal hair accessory comb piece thingy for £2.49 and an off-cut of lace (from what I can only imagine was curtain) for £1.

I attacked the lace with a pair of nail scissors, and cut out a selection of appliqués of flowers and vines from the design. And then pinned these bits onto the aforementioned tights (while they were on me to keep the stretch correct, as the lace wasn’t stretchy), and section by section I painstakingly glued the appliqués to the tights.

I feel that all good costumes are good because they’re complete. Doesn’t matter whether they’re made from Primark bras covered in glitter, or a £1000 bespoke dress, the thing that sets good costumes apart from ‘nice’ costumes is that it all comes together and is cohesive.

hairpiece

So to finish the look I glued a selection of the cut out lace flowers onto an old bit of material (I think it used to be a bed sheet!), and then cut out the whole shape and glued onto the hairpiece. I also added a crystal to the centre of each flower to continue the sparkly effect (plus I LOVE crystals!).

Overall I’m really pleased with this costume, It’s really comfortable to wear, moves really well, looks incredible in photo shoots, it looks fantastic on the stage (if I do say so myself!), it only took a day to make, and most importantly? It cost peanuts.

Helen Orford

I hope this post inspires you before you hand over all your hard earned cash, to look in your cupboards and use your imagination to create something unique, striking and best of all, CHEAP!

HURRAH!

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That’s not really me you see onstage.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the messages we as performers give out to others about body image, confidence and beauty norms. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I just want to make it clear to all, that I am not who you see onstage.

When I’m on stage I’m squeezed into a painfully expensive costume, plastered with make-up, and I portray a whole character which is simply not synonymous with me. I think it’s easier to differentiate actors and the characters they play, but in cabarets and variety shows we’re just representing ourselves, nay, the personas we have created for ourselves. But I’m not convinced the audience is privy to that. Do they contemplate who we actually are, or do they see us onstage and take it for face value. I think the latter.

I find it uncomfortable putting on so much make-up for the stage, I know all performers ‘need’ enough to not be washed out in the spotlight…but the majority of men don’t…And that’s ok! I know that for my acts to be successful I need to embody the character that I play, which is a fun, ‘glamorous’ woman in a long ball gown(with hula hoops!). I know that if I turned up in a dress, but no hair and make-up my act would feel lacking (potentially due to years of women being told that to be glamorous you must have a full face of make up on-a rant for another day!). Unfortunately I don’t think I’m the one to try to change that. Nor am I brave enough to try (hey! I’ve got bills to pay!).

But instead I’d like to make a public disclaimer about me onstage. That is not me. That woman you see onstage is a girl who has spent over an hour doing hair and make-up. That woman you see has spent hours and hours in front of the mirror perfecting which positions make her look slimmer and more attractive. She has absolutely no interest in wearing glamorous dresses off the stage; in fact she’d much prefer to be in jeans and a shirt. She HATES make-up and the way it changes how she looks to the extent that she doesn’t recognize herself in the mirror, and in her daily life is actually somewhat shy. (Right. That’s quite enough of the 3rd person)

The images you see of me and every other performer either on the stage or online are not what we really look like day-to-day. That beautiful long curly hair? Yep, that’s a wig. Our curvaceous bottom? Padding. Those tiny waistlines? Corsets. That beautiful thin nose, striking cheekbones and deep cleavage? Contouring. Even in some of my promotional photos my teeth have been lengthened! MY TEETH!!

I think it’s absolutely brilliant that we can use the power of performance and our different art forms to empower people by maybe encouraging them to take a class in hula hooping, aerial or burlesque, or just to dress up and feel fabulous. But I just hope that they can differentiate that inner body confidence from their outside appearance.

I want to make it clear to all in the audience that what you’re seeing onstage is merely our representation of (often societal norms of) beauty, and of our characters that we play. I don’t want anybody to look at variety and circus performers and think ‘that person looks incredible, I want to look like that’, because even WE don’t look like that.

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Show of the Month-Circus Geeks:Beta Testing

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On Friday evening I excitedly made my way to the Southbank with a couple of friends, one of whom is a fellow performer, and the other my partner, who knows very little about juggling. I was interested in not only how I found the show, but also how these very different people with very varied experiences found it also.

…The long and short of it is that every single person under that upside-down purple cow tent loved it. Myself included.

I had absolutely no idea what to expect- I prefer not to research shows too much before attending as I enjoy going with a completely blank mind, no preconceptions, no pre-judgement, no expectations of what is to come. But this show really surprised me, as it wasn’t what I would call a ‘typical circus show’(there were no lions for one!), instead it was a wonderfully presented and incredibly well researched presentation, akin to a TEDTalk if you will, which was both brilliant and hilarious. And this is why I loved it.

Circus Geeks:Beta Testing

As a performer I find it incredibly difficult to wrap my head around the fact that audiences often don’t see me as a person. A person with a life story, and a home and friends to which I go home each evening, a person with feelings beyond pleasing the crowds, someone who at the very moment of performing isn’t always thinking about those watching me, and someone who doesn’t disappear when backstage after the show. But this show really broke down the fourth wall and we actually got to know the performers, Arron Sparks, Jon Udry and Matt Pang, really well. We got to see their inner geeky selves and we loved them even more for it. As an audience it was so refreshing to see how the performers’ minds worked, how they genuinely interact with each other, and to actually hear them talk freely and openly about their passion.

My favourite part of the show was where they used a projection to display a graph showing the difficulty level of the tricks for each performer throughout the act. And a moving bar swept slowly across the chart as a short but technical trio performance progressed. As they highlighted in their show, it is incredibly frustrating as a performer when the simplest tricks often seem to get the most appreciation from the audience, and those that have taken years to achieve often don’t even get noticed. In fact the finale of my act, where I do a big pile of hoops, is easily the simplest trick in my whole performance. This really gets my goat. So to watch a highly technical and wonderfully perfected piece, and to hear the audience cheer at the genuinely difficult parts for each performer was a delight to see.

The last section of the show was simply spell-binding. I don’t want to give too much away, but the mixture of live projections, a semi-see through screen, drop-less juggling and the interweaving of their bodies made for a display the likes of which I have never seen before. This is the future of juggling. And I’m very excited to see where it’ll go next.

Circus Geeks: Beta Testing is at The Udderbelly, Southbank Centre, London, until 21 June. Buy tickets here or call 0330 333 6906.

10 Things variety performers are fed up of hearing

So this started off as a light hearted compilation of things we often hear, and may have ended up as a mini personal rant fuelled by years of sexist and idiotic phrases thrown at me by strangers. You have been warned!

 1) Come to the park and hoop/juggle/do acro with me, you can teach me and my friends!!

Why don’t you come to my house and do all my accounts for me. For free…When it suits me. Ta. Why do people expect me to want to hoop in my spare time? Do you fancy filling out spreadsheets/working behind a desk on your weekend off? Same thing.

 2) It must be so awesome to have fun doing your hobby AND get paid for it!!

It is a job. A job I enjoy-a lot. But it is still a job which I have been training for 8 years to do. And I work really hard.

3) How did you get into doing it?

This is a tricky one as I appreciate it is an interesting subject, however I’ve had to answer this question, in detail, 4 times already today, and 6 times yesterday, and probably will have to many more times, every single day. For. The. Rest. Of. My. Life. If you must ask questions, random man on the tube, try to be original.

 4) You must have so many crazy stories to tell (implying filthy backstage antics)!

Actually no I don’t, sorry. Or maybe it’s because your life is so dull even the simplest of things gets you all excited?

 5) You must be SO flexible! *undresses you up and down with their eyes* *shudder*

 disgusted-face-GIF

Just no, please stop.

 6) Can I have a go with your hoops/clubs/equipment etc.?

No. My LED hoops cost more than your life is worth. And quite frankly I don’t come to your workplace and ask if I can use your laptop, and then proceed to repeatedly drop it on the floor and think that it’s funny because I don’t know how to laptop.

 7) What’s in your bag?

As a circus performer I have to carry around my equipment with me to every show I do, for me this is a bag of hula hoops, or others, it’s a handstand base and canes on a trolley. Whatever it is, it is generally pretty rude to stop me in my tracks and demand to know what I am carrying. I do not stop you in the street and force you to open your handbag to prove to me what is inside. Please respect us performers the same way.

 8) So do you work with ‘pikeys’ a lot..?

WOW. Let’s just stop right now. The term ‘pikey’ is the most offensive term you could call a traveller/gypsy. It’s on the same level as the n word. And we all know you’re not using this term innocuously so please take your racism elsewhere.

 9) It must be great to get paid cash in hand *wink wink*.

So basically you’re implying that I am dodging the tax man… cool. Just so you know, I declare all my earnings. I’m glad we’ve had this conversation, stranger on the night bus.

And last but not least…

 10) Can you perform for me for free?

stop

No. Not a chance. Unless you are a close friend of mine and it’s your wedding, please don’t ask. Ever.

Advice for new performers

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I shan’t pretend to know it all when it comes to being a full time performer, because it’s proving to be a continuous journey of learning as I go! But along the road I’ve done or been witness to all these following issues, so instead of making the same mistakes as me I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve learnt doing this career to hopefully help out other performers who are starting out on their performing career.

  • Always research the job before accepting. I remember the time when I’d blindly accept a job because it seemed fair pay, then getting there and realising I could have/should have easily charged 3x the price.

  • Always research the employer before accepting a gig. 99% of employers are awesome. Unfortunately some treat their performers poorly to the extent some acts are in tears backstage, and some simply just don’t pay. It really pays to ask around before accepting work from someone you don’t know.

  • Always carry a needle and threads in the colour of your costume to every performance. You do not want a wardrobe malfunction just before you head onstage.

  • Always carry business cards. But be careful where you hand them out. (If you’ve got the job through an agent do not hand out your own publicity.)
  • Have a plan of action/business plan and follow it through. Don’t just expect work to come in on its own accord. (The thing people don’t tend to explain to you when talking about being a performer is that 85% of the job is doing admin!)
  • Talk to other performers who are working in the kinds of venues you want to do. It’s generally accepted that asking someone what they charge is rude; however it is wise to ask around for advice on what to charge. Other performers would much rather give you honest advice in this situation than be (unknowingly on your part) undercut by a potentially low fee.

  • Research your competitors. I mean, full on stalk them online as much as is possible (and legal!). The key to being a performer is being sellable, and most importantly, unique. It sucks to find out your ‘unique act’ is not actually so unique when you do your research after creating the act. Trust me. I’ve been there. So look into other acts on the market before investing lots of time, money and energy creating your act.
  • Get some brilliant footage and images of your act. Primarily in cabarets and corporate events there are no auditions, and the person booking will not have seen you perform. The main thing that’s going to make them book you is your cracking promotional material. Invest in a good space for filming and a great videographer/editor and photographer. It will definitely pay you back 1000-fold.
  • Invest in your costume. Again, research the kind of places where you’d like to work and create your work around that. For example, if you primarily want to cut into the big corporate event market, your brand new sexy, revealing costume is not likely to be suitable.

  • Work on your social media skills. The busiest performers are usually the most connected, and this often stems from great groundwork via social networking.
  • And last but not least, when backstage, be completely professional. By this I mean, don’t stare at people getting changed, don’t gossip/say things you don’t want anyone else to hear (the walls are paper thin in the performing circles! And this is sure to come back and bite you!), don’t bring your partner/friend backstage to hang out (you’re at work. You wouldn’t expect a businessman to bring his girlfriend into the boardroom to keep him company, kind of the same thing.), and finally don’t overdo the alcohol before or after performing (most events/shows will provide wine and bubbles aplenty, however getting tipsy or drunk at work is incredibly unprofessional so be aware of your limits).

But most importantly don’t forget that being a full time professional performer is the most awesome, exciting, fulfilling career ever…Fact!! So go out, enjoy, and have the most fun you’ve ever had.

Helen Orford

Hula Hoop Artist

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7 unexpected things you learn from being a variety performer

In every job there is inevitably a learning curve where you develop skills on the job to help you along the way. However when in a moment of contemplaction the other day, I asked myself ‘what things have I learnt from my career?’, it was an unusual list of skills which I doubt anyone outside my industry would have guessed, so I thought I’d share!

So here goes. Seven things I have learnt from being a variety performer in London:

1) How to enjoy silence

I mean REALLY revel in complete, absolute solitary silence. This sounds weird. I get it. But in my career there is constant noise, constant bright lights, and (usually) lots of people. From the moment I start to travel to a gig I’m on a packed tube (normal for most I assume!), but then I arrive at a venue and to begin with you don’t notice it, but after a while it’s hard to ignore. There’s someone rehearsing onstage and their music is belting out the speakers (don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining-we all have to tech!), and there’s the necessary shouting of cues across the room. There’s the sound of tables being dragged across the floor into position for that evening’s cabaret and constant instructions to the waiters being called out. Then you go backstage, where often in some venues you’re near the kitchens, so you have all the kitchen noise of pots and pans, and the oven, and the ‘YES CHEF’ being repeatedly shouted out in response to commands from within. Most conversations backstage have to be shouted to be heard over the noise of the show music, and often there is someone’s phone playing a different track over the one on the loud speakers as they mark through their acts behind the scenes (we’ve all done it!), and then the singer(s) will be warming up their voices too. And this is before the show has even started!! My point is, is that in my job, there is a lot of noise. Most of it is AWESOME, please don’t get me wrong. But it’s just a fact. So a pastime of mine I love doing is going and having dinner, or a slice of cake and hot chocolate, out just by myself. Only an hour or so, but just being completely alone, with nothing but the quiet tinkering of the background music is absolute bliss and can really put me in a great mood for a show in the evening.

2) How to blank out stares in the street

Copyright Fred Bonatto

I appreciate that I walk about town with about 50 hula hoops hung on my shoulder like a giant tractor tyre, and I understand that with that some unwanted attention will undoubtedly come my way(the above picture was ‘papped’ by a chap I didn’t know, called Fred Bonatto, who ran up to me on the underground, stole a picture, and ran off again-I had to run after him with my business card as I wanted to see his picture! To my surprise he actually sent it to me a few months later!). To begin with I hated all the gawking on the tube and the endless comments of ‘That’s a big tyre!’ or ‘that girl’s got a funny looking instrument!’ and even had to try my hardest when rudely stopped and demanded to know ‘what you got in your bag?’, to not reply asking what they had in their rucksack and to point out the glaring ill-mannered way in which they have just stopped and questioned me. But nowadays I have become completely and utterly oblivious to it all. It’s great! The only time that I notice how weird all the staring from strangers is, is when I’ve got a non-performer with me and they point it out. This was an incredibly useful skill to learn and has saved me much annoyance!

3) How to navigate your way around impossibly complicated fire escapes

I should honestly earn the title of Mazemaster 2014. This is an ability that has taken a little while to fully develop, but now it’s here I can NEVER lose my way backstage. It should be noted that in the majority of high-end large venues, despite the audience side being incredibly simple and straightforward, behind the scenes it’s a very different story! The phase ‘rabbit warren’ has been bandied about to describe a few venues, even by the event organisers themselves. A general rule of thumb is that the bigger and more upmarket the venue is, the more complicated it is to navigate backstage. Some venues I’ve performed in, it could be a full 10 minute walk from the dressing room to the stage, navigating through a multiple number of different doors, narrow corridors, fire escapes, past the kitchens, up one set of stairs to get down the next set, past that service lift you swear you’ve seen four times now since leaving the greenroom, through endless passageways that all look the same and then finally, breathless, and stressed that you’re definitely in the wrong place, you get to the performance area. There was a time where I’d take pictures along the way while being shown to the dressing room, so that on my return journey to the stage I could look at the pictures in reverse to make sure I wouldn’t get lost (the picture above is actually from one of many backstage corridors in a venue I performed at). Nowadays, however? Not a problem. Queen of the labyrinth, me!! Show me once and I’ll remember in 12 months’ time when I do the event again for you next year.

4) How to get changed in tiny spaces

In some venues the dressing room is like the movies would lead you to believe. Complete with light bulb lined mirrors and plenty of chairs and space for all. Most of the time however, I perform in venues that unfortunately just don’t have the space for all that, or weren’t purpose built with a large room for changing. So step one in my performing journey consisted of learning and dealing with the fact that everyone has to get naked in front of each other, often while the persons bum is pressed up against you as you try to shimmy into your dance tights in the least undignified way possible, all while trying not to fall over onto the aerialist stretching on the floor next to you. Since being in the business for quite a while now, I simply don’t notice that all the other performers are going through stages of nudity around me, and I’ve got pretty adept at getting in and out of my costumes in even the smallest of cramped fire escapes, or even in the back of a taxi with 50 hula hoops on top of me while rushing between gigs.

5) Depth perception to the nth degree

As with all performers, I want to maximise the amount of work I can accept, and part of this was learning how to compact my hula hooping acts down into the smallest spaces possible so that I could accept jobs in places that other hula hoopers wouldn’t accept due to size. (The picture above is of the tiny stage I performed on at the top of the Shard on New Years Eve last year. Originally it was pushed against the wall and without the ropes round, but that REALLY was too little space, so we adapted!) This has meant that my depth perception has become incredibly accurate. I mean, it HAS to when the hoop spinning on your foot behind you has only 1.5cm breathing space on either side before it hits the wall or someone’s chair etc. I’ve learnt the EXACT space needed for every single trick that I do in my acts to the mm, so that when performing in weird and unusual shaped spaces I can adjust my position for each trick so that not only does everyone in the audience get a great view of it, but also so that my hoops don’t hit anything or anyone in the process. I have however hit a chandelier once. I didn’t sleep at all that night!! Although thankfully I found out that it was very cheap and I didn’t cause any real damage and have since been booked back there multiple times! Phew!

6) The tube map by memory

Every gig I perform at is in a different part of London, so in the four years I’ve been living here, through just general use I’ve pretty much learnt the entire tube map off by heart, and could tell you how long it takes to get from one stop to another. This has proved invaluable in my career!

7) Everyone’s names

Last but most certainly not least, I realised on my musings the other day that I know a ridiculous number of people and their names. Everyone is always saying, ‘the performing world is so small!’, but I think what they really mean by that is that ‘everyone knows everyone’, which is most definitely true! Being a self-employed variety performer, I work for LOADS of different venues and events in and around London and the UK. And in each place I work with a completely different set of people. And I’ve come to realise that I’ve developed this skill of learning literally everyone’s names that I meet at work. From the agencies to the event bookers, door staff, lighting technician, sound guys, stage managers, stage kittens, bar staff, spotlight guys, cleaners, chefs, and not to mention all the hundreds of us wonderful self-employed performers out there that pass like ships in the night. So many people, so many names. Yet weirdly we could all recite the hundreds and hundreds of each others’ names without a problem.

What I’m trying to say is that, ignoring the many years of training it has taken for me to learn my trade, my trade of being a full-time professional hula hoop performer has taught me many fun and interesting skills in return along the way!

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I’m off to Scotland! (and not to that fringe thingy!)

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So I’ve been wanting to start a blog for quite a while now as Facebook is becoming increasingly rubbish, and there have been far too many things happening behind the scenes in the cabaret and performing world which can’t continue going unheard.

But I’ll get onto that later…!

For those of you that don’t know me I’m a London based professional hula hooper that has been performing all over the world since I was eight. Having trained in the art of Hula Hoops at Greentop Circus in Sheffield for many years, I then took my passion for circus to London and achieved a first class BA(Hons) degree in Circus Arts specialising in Hula Hoops at The National Centre for Circus Arts. I currently perform my unique hula hooping acts on a regular basis in and around London.

So, Scotland you say? YES! … Fringe?? NO! I’m running away and joining the circus…again!

Normally my weeks are spent performing in one off cabaret and corporate gigs in and around London, so when I got a phone call 6 months ago offering me a job for a three week tour I was all ears. Starting tomorrow I will be leaving for an epic of a journey from SE London to Eyemouth in Scotland to perform with Festival Bigtop. The tour will take us from Scotland, to Norfolk, via Kent and finally Devon. A 1650mile round trip which I hope will be great fun!(because it’s a really long way if it’s not! HAHA)

Helen Orford - Memories Act

To be perfectly honest I’m wiggling in my seat with both excitement AND nerves. Why? Well, to begin with I just can’t wait to work with a company again like when performing in a traveling circus. The London cabaret scene is always awesome and fun, don’t get me wrong, but it can sometimes be a bit lonely. I turn up, perform and leave. Despite knowing almost everyone on the scene, I can occasionally miss the consistency of going to work and performing alongside the same people each day creating friendships along the way. Saying this I am crapping my pants as I’m performing in circumstances which I’m not normally accustomed to!

First off it’s an outdoor kids show…EEEK! I spend my time performing for posh private parties, corporate events for big firms, cabarets to hoards of drunken hen parties. But kids? outside on the grass?! That’s a new one! Secondly it’s a four hour show, yup. Four hours worth of constant entertainment. I’m used to turning up and doing 5 mins and then leaving (you mean I have to work for more than five minutes!? :P).

Within this time frame I’m performing my two non-LED hula hoop acts (as it’s a daytime show) and a 20 minute hula hoop workshop. However what I’m really excited about is the rest of the entertainment. There is a ring mistress, female clown, a chap doing miming and juggling acts, and a band playing live too. There’s going to be tonnes of fun entertainment and games including pig racing(stuffed pig teddy bears in wheel barrows), and morris dancing I believe.

Helen Orford - Miss Philippa Presents Act

But most of all I just can’t wait to get on the road again! London is brilliant for work and socialising, but I’m a country girl through and through, so any opportunity I get to travel and explore the rest of the country I grasp with both hands. Saying this I know I’ll miss my cabaret buddies and performing in the wonderful venues London has to offer.

All in all I am genuinely very excited to meet the team and to get stuck in, and hopefully I will learn a lot along the way!

Let just hope my cats forgive me for abandoning them under the care of my housemate for so long!

CAT