It starts with an email. An old collaborator wants to meet me in a swanky address just opposite Claridges. She sends me a photo of well dressed people in rabbit heads for reference. It’s something to do with an artist.
Looking at the swanky location, I notice that it’s right behind Immersive LDN, which is Brian’s venue. In an access of huge efficiency, I grab the remaining bunch of unusual things that belong to him and I throw them in the back of the car and drive to Bond Street. £15 on congestion charge is about the same as an uber XL and there are three big plastic stills for brewing to take in.
Insider knowledge has me driving the Nissan into a huge room in central London to park it. Then I wander over to find out what the artist wants.
The things I’ve done for this one crazy woman over the years… I’ve herded giraffes, and been a robot learning how to be a human. I’ve been an enthusiastic superhero sidekick in tight spandex. I’ve paraded my monster as Doctor Frankenstein, and been the voice and ringmaster of “The dodgems of your mind”. I’ve sat in a caravan on Carnaby Street and in Canary Wharf and on The South Bank, reading tarot to strangers. I even slept in the thing for protection when it was overnighting in the shadow of Liberty. There have been more things, so crazy and so fleeting that I’ve forgotten them completely…
Now, at the height of this arsehole of a pandemic, she’s found an artist who wants to make people happy through me. That’s about the extent of it.
There’s a window and a balcony. There’s an inflatable dinosaur and some helium. There’s room full of strange random stuff that she’s accumulated. There’s a load of costume including a selection of weird heads. I’ll be mostly in the window, sometimes on the balcony. To a large extent I’ll be working out where the heck to go based on what the heck we decide will be the most joyful thing to do with the stuff we have. It’s taking place next weekend. None of us are under any illusions that footfall will be high. It’s just a weird happening. But it’s familiar enough to feel a bit more like the thing I do than the antique selling hat I’ve been wearing while the world drowns. It’s a well worn hat, the weird thing in hot costume hat.
I was once projected onto Oxford Street in a sort of hologram from a boiling studio in Selfridge’s, surrounded by cameras and lights and sweating Christmas buckets in a huge furry hot green Santa costume. I had a monitor so could talk to the passers by. I saw their wonder at the jolly talking hologram as I counted down to my water break. That must have been all of fifteen years ago. Another time I almost died of heat exposure was with a well known bear head on during a hot summer on the South Bank. I nearly cooked in the head while people shouted my bear name and hugged me. The outside face kept smiling as I microwaved inside it.
My habit of saying “yes” before I say “how?” or “how much?” has led to the development of a strange skillset about encountering strangers through a frequently very awkward costume, but joyfully. I’m looking forward to doing it again.
It looks like I’ll have three days of this weird cute employment – doing something so odd that I’ll think back to it in ten years time and wonder if it was nothing but a dream I had. We will have to make what we’re doing up as we go along. And we have the added constraint of Covid looming large over everything and stopping us from leaving the house. Hopefully there’ll be time for some joy.