It’s easy to forget in the daily grind that we live in a beautiful part of the world. Our city is a tourist destination. The city guards the mouth of one of the largest harbours in the world. History is at every turn as so much of Canada began through this port. Our very own Ellis Island sits next to the modern-day cruise ship terminal. Pier 21 was the landing point of thousands of immigrants, eager for a new life in the unspoilt wilderness of Canada. All this in one of the most densely populated provinces in Canada – all 920,000 of us squeezed so tight you have to share every square kilometre with 16 other people (by way of comparison, there are 411 per square kilometre in England). The unspoilt vastness is incomprehensible by European standards.
With the harshness of winter a distant memory the city comes alive with tourists and events. The Halifax boardwalk plays host to festivals and events all summer long. A quick review lists a total of 22 festivals throughout the season – truly something to cater for all tastes.
This weekend we have enjoyed some of the best street entertainers in the world, as part of the 28th International Buskers Festival. This five-day festival brings the famous boardwalk to life with fire-eaters, acrobats, contortionists and comedians, to name but a few. It is certainly a lively weekend, and being this close to some truly amazing artists does dispel some of the apathy we gain through watching shows like America’s Got Talent where extraordinary feats are ruled mundane by the comments of Howie Mandell and Howard Stern. To watch a grown man squeeze his entire body through a squash racquet is incredible – or to see a woman squeeze herself into a 16” square box – with a basketball – wow! Death-defying feats abound, along with stage-worthy comedy and magic. There is certainly something of the freak show to some of the acts, and many of the artists embrace the lifestyle with body piercings, and extensive tattoos.
These artists are all consummate performers. They must be cynical of their audiences – too many people watch the whole show and then walk away without paying a cent, for example, yet every show they give is as professional and entertaining as the last. They continue to ply their trade, year after year. Many of these performers have been working this trade for 10 years or more. I’ve always been amazed how any professional entertainer can make every show enthralling for their audience even though they may have delivered the same lines a thousand times before.
Part of me is in awe at their dedication to a calling, part of me is in fear for their long-term future. How much can you really make through street theatre? How long is your body going to allow you the abuses forced upon it for your craft? These are truly people who live life for today – genuine advocates of YOLO rather than the dumbass excuse for stupidity exhibited daily on Facebook and Twitter. In many ways, these performers are holding up a mirror to each of us. They are living their lives, doing what they love. How often have you longed for the freedom these guys and girls exhibit? Yet the pressures of success are the ties that bind. We work our Monday to Friday to attain the freedom of the weekend, we work our 40 years to attain the freedom of retirement. Something is screwed up there. Work at what you love and retirement becomes something to fear, not long for. Watching these performers, I’m reminded of the wonderful quote from Walt Disney that I’ve shared previously:
All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them
So the next time you see a street performer, by all means admire their skill and dexterity, their wit and repartee. But admire also their dedication to their craft, the countless hours of training and practice, the sacrifices made in the name of their art. Recognise that they have made a life decision to perform and entertain others. Please enjoy the show, but take away a deeper message to do what you love with your life.
It’s not the days in our life that count, but the life in our days.
Oh, and please remember to pay these performers; not just for bringing some light into your mundane work-a-day, but also for giving you a nudge to live life; to try each day to do a little more of what you love.
The list of summer festivals in and around Halifax is truly impressive. Full details of the 22 summer festivals can be found at http://halifax.worldweb.com/Events/Festivals/