Friday 10 August 2012: Street Performer
"Frequently when I am playing the fool in the streets, I feel very sad at heart. I can't help thinking of the bare cupboards at home; but what's that to the world? I've often and often been at home all day when it has been wet, with no food at all, either to give my children or take myself, and have gone out at night to the public-houses to sing a comic song or play the funnyman for a meal--you may imagine with what feelings for the part--and when I've come home I've call'd my children up from their beds to share the loaf I had brought back with me. I know three or more clowns as miserable and bad off as myself."
--19th Century Street Performer, as quoted in Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (first published in 1854, republished by Oxford U Press, 2010), pp. 263-264.
Thanks to Ceridwen, I'm now reading this priceless collection of oral history, orature, or dramatic monologues Mayhew crafted by talking with working people of the mid-1800s and writing down their stories. These people's stories, their voices, their living conditions would all be lost without Mayhew. I'm so glad to have this.
I had just read that bit this morning when I went off with Bella and her mother to attend a festival by the river on this glorious summer day, and there, outside the festival grounds, was this fellow. I remember some conversation on Blip about street performers--how wounded I felt because someone said in a comment that they find street performers "annoying."
I never find performers annoying, no matter how bad their performances may be. It is a hard way to get by, and most performers are shy people who hide behind their roles, who experience performance anxiety, who both love performing and are terrified by it. It's a way to be your own boss, to circumvent authority, to set your own hours and create your own show. But it's a hard way to make a living, and all street performers have my respect. This fellow had only one dollar in his jar, and sadly, I didn't have any money on me to leave in exchange for the picture. I feel I stole this.
Technical note: I forgot to change the ISO. I had it high because I was shooting indoors just before this. I'm surprised the shot worked out OK despite my absent mindedness.