Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Chapter 211: Blind Date with Velvet Box Office

"Blind Date"
Photo: Connie Tsang from

You know those dreams where you are caught short wandering around naked in a public place? Writing a blog is a bit like that. I write a body of text and put myself out there, aware that in so doing I expose myself and will be judged, even if the blog is not meant to be about me, but circus and the amazing people in it that I have met on the way. The other thing about my blog is that people rarely comment on the actual writing, so it feels like I am free to dance as though no-one is watching, even if the hits tell a different tale.

Social media is another story. I am constantly amazed over the past three years how many wonderful people I've met by picking up friendly vibes and then meeting up in person. One such person is Tina from Velvet Box Office (VBO), who I met over on Twitter @velvetboxoffice drawn to the listings feed that reflects her passion for cabaret, circus, spoken word, family shows and is the go-to place for finding out the latest on what's on. I think we fell into conversation on-line after I had waxed lyrical about Puddles Pity the Clown in La Soirée and we then discovered we also shared a love for coffee and cake (always a clincher!). We chatted about meeting up, but as Tina lives in Brighton and we both have kids, it was real juggling act. Now that leaving the UK is on the horizon, with preparations underway to set sail in the Autumn, time is running out.

Packing up my life into cardboard boxes and love into bubblewrap, and looking after the kids while my husband was in France sailing back the catamaran from La Rochelle, overwhelmed by the to-do list, I reflected that I was perhaps in nofit state for making new friends, but life is not about perfect timings is it? And hanging around clowns has taught me that sometimes you can be the best entertainment when you show yourself warts and all, so Tina and I found a date, and she very kindly came over to ours with her son for lunch. 

It was funny actually, I had the kind of nerves you would imagine on a blind date, but the moment Tina walked through the door with her wonderful son, a gentle giant shooting up just like mine and just a year older, there was an instant familiarity, a natural progression from our internet banter that acted as a cue for the kids to hit it off too. Lost in conversation with Tina while the kids raced around, negotiating with nerf guns the obstacle course that is our house at the moment, I managed to overcook the sausages and undercook the chips, but the cream cakes that my five year old had chosen in the supermarket saved the day! 

We talked about what brought us here, where we'd like to go, and discovered we had much in common. Tina started her listings service because enjoyed watching comedy up at the Fringe but discovered there was no follow through about how to find out where their gigs would be when back down in London. Gigs would be word of mouth, possibly updated on a performer's website but often forgotten. Wouldn't it be a great idea to have it all in one place to spread the word? VBO is now a roaring success thanks to all Tina's hard work and passion. 

It's funny, because I've become known as a circus promoter, spreading the word, and like Tina, am a one-woman brand. So we swapped notes on what it was like juggling children and family life with these babies. Tina reckons she puts in about 30 hours a week. I would say I approach that factoring in writing blog posts, attending events and training, and the social media either side of that.  We shared and laughed about the challenges we face when our raison d'etre is misinterpreted - in Tina's case with cabaret venues assuming her "Box Office" is taking their ticket sales when in fact VBO simply provides a link direct to theirs. For me it's when "Lucy Loves Circus" is mistaken for anything other than the record of a circus journey, written in chapters, sharing a novel experience:

Mum of three starts training in circus, falls flat on her face, looks up, hooks up with a couple of clowns and gets a show together.  Comes back for an encore and then sails off into the sunset...

"You can't stop there!" said Tina. And while I was looking forward to a break, I had to admit she's right. I'm not quite ready to sever the umbilical cord quite yet. Off to circusnavigate the globe soon, this is a story still To be continued...

In the meantime, check out Velvet Box Office on Twitter and over Instagram too. I've been loving the updates - the little video snippets of Barely Methodical Troupe's Kin she shared with me the other day from up at The Fringe, and the soundbites from what she saw next. The phenomenal Head First Acrobat's Elixir, Recirquel's Paris de Nuit,  Tapeface... would all be top of my list too and I would love to see them with her. So if you are up in Edinburgh at the moment catch Tina around - she is loads of fun, great company, and have an eclair on me!

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