Professional clown Fraser Hooper gives the low-down on his five favourite festivals.
I'm writing this flying home to Wellington, exhausted — but happy — from weeks of glorious sun and fun performing at the ridiculously long Adelaide Fringe festival. It was another great adventure full of shows, terrific audiences, late nights, and overindulgence, shared with friends old and new.
Adelaide Fringe is the second-biggest arts festival in the world after Edinburgh and I've been lucky enough to play both many times — I've spent the past 30 years performing at thousands of festivals worldwide, making my living as a clown.
I now tour mostly outdoors and have been following the sun since 1995 after falling in love with a Kiwi and raising our family here in probably the most impractical country in the world from which to commute.
In May I will be heading off to start my Northern Hemisphere tour. My first stop couldn't be better, I will be back in Belfast for the Festival of Fools. I feel very lucky to continue my endless summer of fun.
It's an almost impossible task to choose my five favourite festivals. The people of the country, its location, the artists, the accommodation, food and your hosts all contribute to making each one unique. It's such a great privilege to experience how different cultures celebrate life in so many different countries.
CubaDupa, Wellington (March 30-31)
Living in Wellington my first and obvious choice is CubaDupa. What a pleasure to play a local gig as special as this one. If the weather gods are smiling there is no better place to be.
Cuba St is the perfect location to get swept up in a heady mix of great music, food, spectacular dance and street theatre. The brilliantly curated programme bursts on to the streets, delighting at every corner. It feels like the biggest party ever that wraps up the end of summer over one amazing glorious weekend.
My next choice is a bit of a cheat; it's two Italian festivals but they are too hard to separate. Pennabilli is the older one; FOF has its roots in this festival. Both feel like you are on the set of a Fellini film. The locations are stunning, village squares filled to the brim with beautiful people watching fabulous entertainment, consuming copious amounts of ice cream.
In Offida, I played a show at 1am in front of a huge church to 900 people of all ages; it was a magical moment for me.
This is another special festival that has influenced and shaped the careers of so many artists. It was started by Will Chamberlain, who sadly died too soon. Its ethos is all about community; it brings people together to celebrate and share laughter. It's life-affirming stuff.
Daidogei World Cup, Shizuoka, Japan (November 1-4)
This is a huge street theatre festival; more than one million come to watch clowns, jugglers puppeteers, mimes and assorted crazies from across the globe. It's highly organised mayhem and I've never played another festival like it. The festival sells cardboard periscopes to watch the shows if you can't get close enough to the action and the public bring stepladders of varying heights and line them up at the back of the crowd to get the best view. The artists get just 25 minutes to do their stuff, then it's 45 minutes of photos and autographs. It is completely bonkers and I love playing there.
World Buskers Festival: Bread & Circus, Christchurch (January 10-February 3)
This is so dear to my heart and I feel very fortunate to have been included in the line-up for probably a dozen times. Jodi Wright created an extraordinary festival that simply lets artists do what they do best. I've performed some of the most memorable shows of my career here. The love the Christchurch people have for this festival is so profound, it's an honour to take part.
Jetstar flies direct from Auckland to Wellington, with return fares from $160.
Wellington's CubaDupa festival runs from March 30-31.