by Nancy Bestor
Having been to my fair share of live entertainment, I think I can safely say that show business is tough. A few instances of public speaking in college, which led to sweaty palms and even sweatier armpits, proved that I am not cut out for the stage. Because the truth is, whether you’re singing or dancing in front of a crowd, or even reciting the Gettysburg Address, you have got to have cojones, and I (both literally and figuratively) have none. Bob and I were fortunate enough to be in Christchurch, New Zealand last year during the annual World Buskers Festival. In its 24th year, the 10 day festival draws more than 200,000 attendees and boasts more than 60 acts from 13 nations that perform in tents, on outdoor stages, in downtown Christchurch venues, and on the streets. The acts range from acrobats to magic shows, and from slapstick comedy to burlesque. There are shows on just for kids (or kids at heart), as well as 21 and older shows at night inside tents. Many shows with official seating inside of tents sell out before hand.
While some of the shows we saw missed the mark, the majority were pretty darn amusing, even laugh out loud funny. One of my favorites was Victor Rubilar, Argentinian football performer and comedian. Rubilar combines soccer ball juggling and tricks with a fun comedy show. Another great act was Moira’s Wheel of Fortune, where Scottish fortune-teller Moira Mackenzie predicts your future or at least, her idea of it. Theatreview NZ calls Moira a cross between Mrs. Doubtfire and Professor Trelawney. She was a hoot.
After seeing six different acts at the Festival, I’ve decided that every one of these buskers has cojones. For what I’m guessing is fairly little money, they all work incredibly hard. Sometimes they get big laughs, and sometimes they get no laughs, but they have found a way to keep on going. I couldn’t tell if their armpits were sweaty.
The majority of Buskers Festival events took place in North Hagley Park, a lovely spot on the outskirts of downtown Christchurch. Since the devastating 6.4 magnitude earthquake of 2011, Christchurch has struggled to rebuild. We were stunned to find so much of the city still in rubble, condemned, or only in the very early stages of reconstruction.
I was glad that the Buskers Festival was in town, as otherwise two full days in Christchurch would have been one day too many. We strolled through the lovely Christchurch Botanic Gardens, and visited Cathedral Junction, where restored heritage trams start their journey.
We also stopped in at the Re:Start Mall, an outdoor shopping area made from shipping containers, which were brought in as a temporary solution for retailers after the earthquake, but became so popular that they have become an internationally famous icon and Christchurch destination spot.
The main sites of Christchurch are easily walkable, and although our accommodations – Pomeroy’s on Kilmore — were on the outskirts of town, we enjoyed walking to and from downtown and seeing what the city had to offer. Pomeroy’s is mainly a pub and restaurant, housed in a beautifully restored historic building. But they also have charming “boutique accommodations” right next door to the pub: five different rooms in a guest house, with breakfast included at a nearby restaurant. Our room, the Canterbury Room, was about $120 a night.