Some of you may have seen a while back me sharing this instance of a vampire street performer having his pants pulled down by a kid rat up in Liverpool. It pissed me off.
1. The Problem of the Pants
I knew that as menial little human actions go this was not the worst of them. But something about it really got my goat.
Your goats were got too, it seemed. Seeing someone doing what they do to earn a living, especially when it’s something creative and therefore inherently deeply personal, getting shamed in public – it just felt altogether wrong. This as a feeling was a collective one.
2. The Plan
I wondered if that sense of injustice you and I felt could do something positive for this man we otherwise knew nothing about. So I set up an Indiegogo fundraising page with a simple month long aim to raise £500 as a way for us to show this man that what happened to him that day wasn’t cool. Or, in the words of Amanda Palmer (who helped share the this story at the time), “We see you and we want to help“.
It took about 12 hours for the £500 to be raised. Next job? Finding him.
3. The Search – Introducing Howardo
Where do you go to find a man dressed as a vampire? This was a question that bugged me for weeks. I hit every forum and facebook page with any tenuous links to street performing. Nothing.
Then. A clue.
Howardo had produced our first clear lead. Better still, he’d seen him in Nottingham and reckoned he’d see him again. If he did, he said, he’d give our illusive vampire friend my email address. I liked Howardo but could I trust him to pull through? He was all the hope I had.
4. The Drop
Damn right I could trust Howardo. As I cursed myself for ever doubting a man with such a name, I fired the vampire an email and eventually learnt that he’d be in Leicester Square for a evening or two in a couple of weeks time.
Those weeks passed and on a dark, rainy night I had my opportunity (and £500) to show him how we all really felt about what he did, does and hopefully will continue to do, despite his Liverpudlian kid rat nemesis.
5. The Reflective Bit
During those 12 hours of people donating their money to the Indiegogo page I only then stressed about the fact that I didn’t know anything about this man. Was he worthy? Urgh. Worthy. Such a subjective, tricky and often misleading word. The point, I realised, was that no one knew anything about this man and that they were donating regardless of whether he sheltered abandoned puppies or ran a commission driven traffic warden syndicate. In ‘giving’, whether it was £1 or more, they were making a statement against humiliation and our tendency to inflict it on others.
Then I met the man behind the mask. We went for a beer which turned into a few and eventually some food too. He was so genuinely overwhelmed by the money (he said he was behind on his rent) but mainly I could see how touched he was by this collective reaction for someone no one knew. We spoke about his ‘character’ and costume and in explaining the facade it creates and how comforting it is to him, to the real him, I realised that me an my anonymity felt the same. Our hiding, which outwardly is for neither good nor bad, is a personal quirk and one we both appreciate the value of. I liked him.
So thank you. Thank you to everyone who helped. To Amanda and to Howardo especially. Qudos also to the sanguivoriphobic barman at the Leicester Sq wetherspoons – you held it together brother.