The Flying Seagull Project: What ya Ghana do when they come for you?
by Vicky Lane
We first met the Flying Seagulls at Wilderness Festival in 2012. One of the first areas we tend to head for is the children’s area at any festival. Within minutes we noticed the Seagulls, and who could miss them? In every children’s area they tend to attract the largest crowds, never an empty seat when they perform unless they have you dancing, jumping around and becoming part of the show. They become the backbone of every kids’ area they perform in.
My son of 3 years of age watched open mouthed and was immediately captivated by the show; he adores Bash (the leader of the seagulls) and what better a role model could I wish for? They enthral and captivate children and adults, they really are a joy to watch. I heard someone say at Green Man Festival that they had taken their friend’s children to watch them as they had heard such wonderful things and had to borrow the children to go and see them!
For the majority of the year you will find the Seagulls in Romania. They run workshops, shows, and training sessions for groups of disabled people and (just as importantly) with their carer’s. They offer support and guidance on the effective use of creativity in communication-building and education as well as in recreation and play for those with disabilities. They provide rural communities the opportunity to access the arts. Working in schools and with community groups, they engage local children in creative programmes with the aim that through self-expression and play, they will be able to explore their individuality and grow their self-esteem. In addition they try to help to strengthen relations between community members.
The Seagulls spend time with children in hospital or suffering from long-term or terminal illnesses. They offer a revolutionary and well-regarded source of complementary treatment: clown therapy, also known as giggle surgery, clown doctoring and laughter medics!
In a world where music festivals can be expensive, trendy and (dare we say it) on occasion pretentious, the Seagulls provide a breath of fresh air. A beat up old horse box called Betsy, an old trunk full of dented trumpets, a tuba, trombones, tambourines, rattles, juggling balls, stilts, a parachute; the Seagulls turn a tent and the back of Betsy into a Big Top and Stage.
Bash, Bosh, Penny and the other ragtag band of gentleman and lady traveller clowns put their game faces on (some red paint on the end of their noses) and don’t stop until sundown.
They are totally committed to their work, never taking their eye off the main prize of entertaining children and adults for the greater good of their projects in Romania, Africa and (to my shaking head unbelievable admiration), an attempt to get to Syria. Why? To bring a smile to the face of a child who otherwise has nothing. Bash (Ash Perrin, he won’t thank me for unmasking him) has a total and utter dedication to his aim. He’s one of the finest people I have had the pleasure of meeting and I am proud to call him a friend. I couldn’t do what he does, so I write about him instead.
I want the world to know what he and his Seagulls do because frankly, he is far too modest to blow his own dented trumpet. What is wonderful about him is he just thinks that what he does is normal and ordinary, when in fact it is extraordinary.
They fund themselves by donation and earn every single solitary penny, and everything goes to the kids and projects they help. Ash lives in Betsy, he hands around an old tin at the end of each performance, tells his audience what they do and asks them to dig deep. The money that they earn from the festivals goes straight into the pot.
I’m going to publish this plea because I know that Ash is too modest to ask, but to any festival organiser reading this PLEASE include a couple of food vouchers for them in the booking, give them a drink at the end of the day, they deserve it and it keeps their expenses down. In return, the Seagulls offer smiles, they offer wonderment and take you away from the world you know into the world of the Seagulls.
So here’s to the Seagulls, and especially Ash who is currently sat at home recovering from Malaria after a Seagulls trip to Ghana. Get well soon you prince amongst men. A clown, circus master, pirate, musician, charity worker, beard-wearer and all round gentleman traveller, the rarest of men, a truly free one.