Joel Fenton, street performer
The difference in street performing is that your audience didn’t know they were going to be watching you that day. You have to go out into the street and stop a crowd that wasn’t there to see you … and hope they stop and watch you ...
For Joel Fenton, juggling knives is all in a day’s work. The New Zealand-born 31-year-old is a familiar face in Surfers Paradise, and you’ll often find him scurrying up a 10-foot unicycle to play Russian Roulette with broken bottles (as you do) for the pure joy and entertainment of passers by. From April 14–17, Surfers Paradise will come alive with impressive humans like Joel Fenton – they’re all in town for the Australian Street Entertainment Championships. For locals, this mind-boggling array of performances is an absolute must-see. To give you an insight of what to expect, we had a chat to Joel Fenton about juggling chainsaws, self-preservation and, um, lie-detecting chickens … say what?
You’re one of a number of performers invited to the Australian Street Entertainment Championships in Surfers Paradise from April 14–17. What can we expect from you? Without giving too much away!
I’ll be doing all my biggest tricks and then at the night shows I’ll be doing a new routine that involves a giant balloon! I’ll be kind of transforming myself. I’ll also be doing a routine with a lie-detecting chicken. Yes, it’s a little unusual isn’t it? You’ll have to wait and see!
How long have you been a street performer for?
I did my first street show when I was 11 years old. So, I’ve been doing this forever, it’s all I’ve ever done, I’ve never had another job. I don’t think I really can do anything else … this is kind of it for me!
So, tell us, how does one get into this industry at such a young age?
When I was younger, I learnt a few magic tricks from a friend of mine. I read every magic book I could find at the library, then I tried to meet other performers and clowns, then I learnt how to juggle, how to make ballon animals, then how to unicycle. So it kind of started from learning a few magic tricks and now I am juggling chainsaws. There were a few stepping stones along the way though!
What would you say is the most daring trick or performance you’ve done?
I’ve done tricks on a ten-foot unicycle … and Russian roulette with broken bottles. I love the danger. I’ve done fire breathing and plenty of fire stunts. But don’t worry, I’m really well practised and all the precautions are in place!
What you get up to in a performance is pretty full-on. At what point does self-preservation kick in for you?
Well, I am a bit older now, so I am not as carefree as I used to be! But look – every job has it’s risks. The stuff I do looks dangerous, but at the same time, the amount of shows I’ve done compared to the amount of near mishaps is a pretty big ratio. I guess it looks like I am taking big risks, but I’m not really! They are controlled risks. I’ve only had one mishap in 15 years of professional performing, so that’s pretty good!
As a full-time street performer, what do you think is the most challenging part of your job?
The difference in street performing is that your audience didn’t know they were going to be watching you that day. You have to go out into the street and stop a crowd that wasn’t there to see you … and hope they stop and watch you. For the first couple of minutes, I am there talking to no one and I look like a raving lunatic. So, it’s totally different to being in a circus, or a cruise ship or a private function. You have to be good for the crowds to pay you and to make a living. It’s an infinite circle.
Tell us, what does an adrenaline-junkie like you do on their day off?
I like to do as little as possible. I live in Surfers Paradise, so I aways take advantage of the beach and explore the rest of the Gold Coast. When you’re performing big shows in front of a lot of people, it’s kind of nice to NOT be around people when I’m winding down!
Joel is one of a number of stand-out performers who have been invited to take place in the Australian Street Entertainment Championships, which is being held in Surfers Paradise from Friday April 14 to Monday April 17. Check out the detailed event program online.