Prize of Gent
the 1994 Gentse Feesten in Europe, a rather large gathering of the tribe occurred.
The Gentse Feesten holds one of Europe's largest street theatre festivals.
It is a festival dedicated to spectacle and so it does not invite variety oriented
street performers. There are so many people on the street during this ten day
event that some twenty odd jugglers, acrobats and comedians show up anyway
because there is always a show to be had. Over the years, the main festival
organisation has observed this phenomenon and in 1994 they officially named
the variety artist invasion the "Off Festival." All of the performers
in the Off Festival stayed at a campground very near to the centre of town.
Almost every performer had a bike and we would ride to and from the campground
in large groups. The social scene was extremely invigorating and bonds between
performers developed quickly.
After one particularly decadent evening, which somehow turned into morning
without us paying much attention, about ten of us decided to bike home. We
had spent most of the night in a beer tent and needless to say we were all
tanked. Riding a bike drunk doesn't seem to be a bad thing when you're with
a huge group of people all doing it with you. The ride out of the centre of
town was always full of laughter as we precariously balanced our shows on our
bikes and made our way home. The final wide stretch of road to the camp ground
was always deserted at four o'clock in the morning so we would take the opportunity
to race each other home. On this particular night Drew Franklin from Texas,
U.S.A. and Carrie Bag from Melbourne, Australia were at the head of the pack.
All of a sudden Drew's rear tire rubbed Carrie's front tire and she flew over
the handle bars and landed on her face, damaging her arms and legs at the same
Everybody sobered up pretty fast. David "Fish" Holder from Brighton U.K. immediately
became the doctor and Drew his nurse. The rest of us stood around somewhat
stunned, wanting to help but not knowing what we could possibly do. Carrie
was a strong woman, an acrobat, and she wasn't about to let this daunt her.
Still in shock, she got back on her bike and completed the ride to the campground.
Once there, every one of us stayed with her. Those that weren't present at
the time of the accident showed up and stayed for moral support. It was amazing
that she completed the ride because once she was at the campsite, she couldn't
Then she started to panic. Carrie had only been working the streets for about
a year and was still not earning that much money. She had borrowed money to
come to Gent and now it looked as though she wouldn't be working for a few
weeks. Almost simultaneously, everyone agreed that the next night we would
do a benefit show. We told her not to worry and that we would make certain
she was safe. The next night, after everybody had finished working, we got
together and did the two and a half hour benefit, telling the audience of Carrie's
accident and raising about AUS$700; more than enough to see her through the
doctor's bill and meet her needs for the next few weeks. A reporter from the
local newspaper happened to attend the performance and the next day there was
an article in which the publishers of the paper had decided to award the performers
of the Off Festival with the "Prize of Gent". The publishers pointed out that
the award was being given to us because we, as uninvited participants in the
festival, embodied the very spirit of the festival, a spirit which, the publishers
say, was lacking until we came along.
The prize was twenty six cents, the cost of a newspaper.
These and other observations
about the street can be found in The
Pavement Stage (©1995, but still looking for a publisher.) by David
Cassel, a performer who has been traveling the globe for 18 years doing shows
and putting donuts in his pants.