Wednesday, 15 August 2012

I learned about stilting from that - A true story that I witnessed

The true story.

Back in 1995 I was a coach driver and for 3 days was contracted to take elderly groups to watch an outdoor stilt/mime performance in a local park performed by 2 men and a lady from France. I was parked outside the park entance next to the performers' transport which was about 300 yards from the low stage where they performed.
The idea was that the performers got ready in their large van, used the bonnet to get on their peg stilts ( about 4 ft high) then walk along the tarmac footpath to the performance area. The stilts were wooden with large smooth rubber stoppers for feet. The path went under many trees and went down very steeply at one point (about a 30% incline). It was late september and the leaves were falling. One performance was mid-afternoon and one under floodlights in the evening. The idea was that the 2 men went off to the stage followed by the lady about 10 minutes later. The first day was fine and dry and both performances went well and were well attended.
On the second day the afternoon performance was cancelled due to heavy rain but the evening went ahead. The heavy rain had brought many leaves off the trees and had made the steep hill rather slippery. The men went off in the sunset but got into severe difficulty on the steep hill due to the conditions. They only managed to survive a catastrophy by hanging onto each other.
About 10minutes later the lady appeared from the van and while she put on her stilts she was verbally taunted by several local kids on BMX bikes who she scolded and chased off.. She set off in the gathering gloom but got into great difficulty on the steep slippery hill. The kids saw their chance to get their own back and started hounding her on their bikes. One kid charged up to her from behind and screamed at her and collided with her while trying to get between her stilts on his bike. Already in difficulty with the slime she fell sideways into bushes and the kids disappeared into the darkness. She then re-appeared from the bushes and went back to the van to put her stilts on again. A few minutes later she set off a second time, nearly coming to grief several times on the slime and only by good luck and a lot of staggering managed to get to the performance. I was outside the fence and unable to help being that there was an entrance fee for the park that day.
On the 3rd day the footpath had been cleaned and gritted and I attended the afternoon performance. As usual the men set off first but when the lady appeared the kids were ready for her at the top of the steep hill. As she stilted towards the hill she scolded them again but was visibly un-nerved by their presence, showing her nervousness by her unsteady walking. Again with no spotter, she started descending the hill and the kids surrounded her, bumping into her and shaking her stilts but she gamely kept on walking as best she could looking very worried and uncomfortable. Suddenly one kid came in from one side on his bike and as she swung her free leg forward, he caught that stilt and took it out sideways, catching her by surprise and causing her to take a very nasty fall headlong down the tarred path, much to the kid's delight who promptly vanished into the bushes. She needed hospital treatment and the show had to be cancelled.

Lessons to be learned - Always prepare for your performance.
Check your route BEFORE EACH performance
When in public ALWAYS have spotters on the ground for your safety
Always be prepared for the unlikely and the unusual
Keep eyes in the back of your head (Know what is going on behind you)
If in doubt ask for assistance on the ground. Never be worried at the reaction of the public. The thought of helping you rather than hindering you is foremost in 99% of peoples minds.
One of my friends in Edinburgh recently had a gig where the tiled floor was wet and very slippery and he could not move on his 36inch pegs without assistance. He spent his whole appearance leaning on various customers. If in doubt ASK!!!

Stilts & stiltwalking FAQs


For some years I have been in contact with various stilters around the world and have got them to answer a list of questions for me that could be considered FAQs on stilts and stiltwalking.  Here are some of the replies I have obtained

A set of answers from Adrienne Willis a stiltwalker with Entertain Florida (website www.entertainfla.com now cannot be found) in June 2001

Q: Tell me about yourself
A: I am 20 yrs old and I have been walking with James Ashton (Entertain Florida) for about 18 months.

Q1: Why stilts in particular? What gave you the urge to defy gravity in this way?
A: I don't have any idea, but I just thought it would be the coolest thing to be centre of attraction, everyone looks up to someone who is taller than them and I thought I would give them something to look up to.

Q2: How many different heights do you have and use and what are their individual uses?
A: I learned on a pair of 2ft stilts that belonged to a 13 yr old kid. I now walk on 3ft pegs and have used them to do Halloween Shows, and parades and I am about to do a fashion show. I think that 3ft is the best because it puts me at a great height which is quite high enough to be seen.

Q3: What is the maximum height you have mastered and which height do you prefer?
A: I weigh about 130lbs and am 5ft7ins tall. I think that 3ft is the perfect height for me. I have a friend that walks, and being the CRAZY person he is, on 6ft pegs. I have not seen him on these but he kind of scares me.

Q4: Is your act done indoors of out? What special precautions do you take to make your act as safe as possible?
A: Both. When we were walking in a costume contest at Halloween the stage had ramps onto it. They were too steep for comfort so I walked along the bottom and of course did not win, but that was my comfort level and it was my safety I was concerned about. I think that water or anything wet is a serious threat. I fell in front of my apartment thinking I was "Super Girl" and tried to walk through a puddle. I fell and now know better than to walk in water.

Q5: Do you have any ambitions for your stiltwalking?
A: Nope. I do not crave anything that is crazy. I would probably only consider doing something crazy if it were safe also.

Q6: How does weather affect a performance and what would cause a cancellation?
A: High winds water and rain

Q7: Which surfaces cause you problems and which do you avoid?
A: Cobble stones, wet polished ballrooms are dangerous and I wouldn't attempt either one. Anything that involves being wet or slippery by nature including water or steep banks. Also anything you are trying to do for the first time is to be considered dangerous until you know how your stilts are going to react.

Q8: How do you descend staircases or steps safely?
A: Being the girl that I am I would rather ask a cute boy. I believe that its the big-headed guys with egos to match who walk straight down and its funny to watch especially if they get it wrong.

Q9: In UK we have problems with KIDS who think its great to try and push you over. How do you cope?
A: I feel for the poor stiltwalker who gets tripped. Falling is twice as bad when you are high. You seem to fall with twice the speed and twice the weight and I can tell you that it is the scariest thing I know when you are falling

Q10: Have you ever had a catastrophy in public or an incident you have regretted? What steps have you taken to avoid a repeat?
A: I am yet to fall in public or do anything stupid. But the day I do I will hopefully go on laughing and learn from the experience

Q11: Do you have minders or helpers when walking in crowds?
A: I usually walk in theme parks such as Disney, Universal, and downtown Orlando Florida where they provide security people. Also my boyfriend is always with me as a personal bodyguard. He also makes sure that the places I walk are safe for me.

Q12: What types of stilt do you use? Do you make your own, or who is your supplier? Do you use any person protection?
A: I walk pegs as they are more elegant and graceful for performance. James Ashton built mine and he builds them for his company. They are aluminium. I have walked big foots and drywalls but prefer the pegs.

Q13: Do your costumes cause you any problems?
A: Nope our costumes are designed with safety and vision in mind

Q14: Do you think that it is normal to see male stiltwalkers generally higher than females when walking together?
A: I think that the "Macho" image comes into play. Usually we work at the same height but the men say they would like to be higher. I never knew how much respect peg stiltwalkers got from other stiltwalkers until I learned

Thank you for your time. Roy Lambeth
A: I am glad that you enjoy learning about our hobby. We have fun and that is why we are in this business. I love my stilts and I love making people smile. Please feel free to contact me again with more questions. You say you are 52 yrs old - that is still young enough to do anything you want.
Adrienne Willis
2nd June 2001

I don't mind answering a few questions, especially when they are about one of my passions, stiltwalking - so here goes:-
A set of questions and answers from Richard Story, Adrienne's "CRAZY" friend.
Q1: Why stilts in particular? What gave you the urge to defy gravity in this way?
A: I do construction for a living. Ceilings to be precise. I use drywall stilts to make myself more productive. As soon as I got up on those stilts, it was a sudden rush. I love to be up high, I enjoy heights, and the concept of being able to walk around and be so much taller than I was intended to be is astounding.

Q2: How many different heights do you have and use and what are their individual uses?
A: I own a pair of drywalls that are adjustable from 24 to 40 inches, I also own a pair of 6ft (72inch) pegs. The drywalls are used on the job site building ceilings. The pegs are used for nothing more than to walk around and SHOW OFF!!!

Q3: What is the maximum height you have mastered and which height do you prefer?
A: The tallest I have walked on are my 6ft pegs. I have found that no matter the height I am walking, I feel totally natural. Although I would have to say that tricks such as dancing and kicking are easier on shorter stilts.

Q4: Is your act done indoors of out? What special precautions do you take to make your act as safe as possible?
A: I'm pretty much stuck to stay outside on my sixes. The primary precaution that I take to ensure my safety is to know that I am on stilts, and that I must take extra care with every step I take.

Q5: Do you have any ambitions for your stiltwalking?
A: I don't really have any ambitions beyond what I already do on my stilts. I think that being 12 foot tall (twice my normal height) is pleanty tall to walk around. Although I think it would be neat to see how high I could get on a pair of stilts, but just to beat records, not to use on a daily basis.

Q6: How does weather affect a performance and what would cause a cancellation?
A: I would have to say that lightning would make me not want to walk around on my sixes. I have walked in rain and wind, I just need to be more careful.

Q7: Which surfaces cause you problems and which do you avoid?
A: The more difficult or dangerous the terrain, the more caution I need to take. There probably is not any surface that I wouldn't at least try to walk on. I do avoid deep water

Q8: How do you descend staircases or steps safely?
A: I haven't used my pegs very long, so I have only tried to walk stairs a couple of times. Both times I have had a building next to me that I can grab ahold of. I have not mastered stairs yet.

Q9: In UK we have problems with KIDS who think its great to try and push you over. How do you cope?
A: The only violence that I have experienced on my stilts was verbal. Some kids try and get macho and talk about knocking me down but no-one has tried yet.

Q10: Have you ever had a catastrophy in public you have regretted? What steps have you taken to avoid a repeat?
A: The only time that I fall is when I get too confident with what I am doing and get careless. To avoid falling, I must think about every step I take as if THAT step WILL MAKE me fall. Sure the show must go on, but the show can change. If the walking surface gets slippery, many of the tricks can be eliminated, for I have found that guests and spectators are entertained simly by walking around on stilts.

Q11: Do you have minders or helpers when walking in crowds?
A: Not usually. I tend to go out with friends who are also on stilts. If I do have an escort, they don't normally do anything but keep me company.

Q12: What types of stilt do you use?
A: The stilts I have used are Dura-Stilts, pegs and hybrid drywalls. The hybrid is just like a Dura-Stilt, only it has two bars holding the calf plate, and they are a little more comfortable.

Q13: Do you make your own or who is your supplier, and what feet do the stilts have?
A: I don't make stilts. My pegs were made by a friend of mine and I bought my drywalls from a local supplier. The foot on the pegs are rubber stoppers. The foot on the drywalls is the one supplier with them, a kind of square shoe.

Q14: Do your costumes cause you any problems?
A: The only part of a costume I have had to contend with are really long pants, and they don't get in the way. Although the wind can grab my leg making it a little more difficult to take steps.

Q15: Do you think that it is normal to see male stiltwalkers generally higher than females when walking together?
A: I have not seen a gender difference. Some people are just more cautious than others. I don't know anyone else who walks on 6ft stilts

Q16: Have you had any incidents that you have learned from?
A: I have broken a number of drywall stilts, mostly in parades when I start running and jumping. The stilts didn't snap where I couldn't walk on them anymore, they just felt loose to where I know I needed to get off them as soon as possible. I just need to be gentle on drywalls as they are rather weak. That is one reason I like pegs better.

Q17: Do you wear any protective gear?
A: The only protective gear I wear are soccer shin pads. They help reduce the pressure on my calves from the calf plates and straps.

Q18: Where do you walk for your own pleasure?
A: I mostly walk stilts to show off if I'm not on the job site. I have also worked for Universal Studios Florida in their parades.

Q19: Can you remember how you started to stiltwalk?
A: My first time on pegs, I was climbing a tree on them!!! When I had walked 36inch pegs two or three times, I decided that I wanted a pair for myself. When I asked a friend to make them, I told himthat I wanted 6 foot stilts. He didn't think it was such a good idea. I don't think I am crazy, maybe just a little adventurous!!!

I hope these answers help you in your stilt quest.
Richard Story 7th June 2001

A set of answers to my questions from James Ashton of Entertain Florida Q1: Why stilts in particular? What gave you the urge to defy gravity in this way?
A: I used to fabricate equipment. A friend of mine at the time was a stiltwalker and she needed a pair of stilts. We were talking and I told her it would be a simple task. Since then I have sold many pairs. I am, I believe, the only person in the US marketing aluminium pegs (in 2001). Anyway I figured I should learn to walk on them if I was building them. I loved it and began performing on them. About a year ago I met a gentleman who was putting together a stilt performance company. We became partners and Entertain Florida evolved from there.

Q2: How many different heights do you possess and what are their uses?
A: I have 24, 30, 36, 48 and 72 inch pairs. I mainly use the 36inch pair. Most of our work is "walk around" or "atmosphere" and we find that closely packed crowds react better to 30 or 36 inch than they do to taller stilts. The taller stilts are great for shows and places where there is some distance between the people and the performers.

Q3: What is the maximum height you have mastered and at what height do you perform best at or what height are you most comfatable with?
A; The tallest I have ever walked on are my 72inch pair. I am comfortable on them and wouldn't hesitate to try out a taller set. The only real difference that height makes is fear and weight. All the basice are the same with a little exaggeration added for the length. I am most comfortable on the 36 inchers mainly because I use them the most.

Q4: Is your act done indoors or outside? What special precautions do you take to make sure your performance is as safe as possible?
A: We perform wherever we are requested. There is quite a bit of convention work in this area and we work inside a lot as a result.. As precautions we use knee and sometimes elbow and wrist pads. We also have people walking with us when we are in a crowd.

Q5: Do you have any ambitions to go higher or attempt something considered by you to be more difficult or dangerous?
A: As a person I would like to go to 180inches (15ft) in the future but have no craving for any higher. As a company we hope to set the height record and also we just began using powerskips, and they can be seen on our web page www.entertainfla.com (no longer available) and hope to set running records and some type of jumping records on them.

Q6: If working outdoors, how does the weather affect a performance and what would cause a cancellation and why?
A: We won't perform in the rain. Mainly it is an insurance thing. The liability is too high. I practice in the rain or just after quite frequently. I try to stay away from smooth wet surfaces but pavement and textured concrete are fine.

Q7: When working, what surface conditions cause problems and which ones should be avoided?
A: Wet painted areas, wet waxed or sanded floors, muddy roads and wet grass should generally be avoided. But our insurance doesn't like water in general.

Q8: How do you descend stairs safely?
A: What is safe depends on the performers strengths. I prefer to walk straight up and down stairs. I also know people who walk sideways up ramps. Some are stronger than others. It is a personal thing. I like the woman asking a man gag. It works well with certain crowds.

Q9: In UK we have problems with KIDS. How would you overcome such problems?
A: I weigh 250lbs. I generally just quickly put all my weight on the stilt someone is going for and when they get it, it usually doesn't move for them. I have had them catch me off balance before though. We always have a person on the ground for protection when in crowds. He would catch the kid if possible and hand him to the authorities

Q10: Have you ever had a catastrophy or incident in public that you have regretted? What steps did you take to avoid a repeat?
A: I have fallen in public before. Basically all you can do is to be more careful next time.

Q11: Do you have minders or helpers?
A: We have one person for protection of 2 stilters, but with odd numbers we judge based on location and type of audience.

Q12: What type of stilt do you use?
A: We use exclusively pegs. I have performed on Duras and Big Foots and simply feel there is an advantage for me using pegs. I prefer the look and costuming is easier, cheaper and more attractive.

Q13: Do your costumes cause any difficulty with vision etc:?
A: We have many costumes and very few have any such drawbacks. In high wind though some costumes can be almost like a sail. I imagine for the women, some of the hooped skirts will make placing their steps difficult.


A biography of answers to a general question from Mark Tate a stilt performer in the UK Date of birth 7.6.66 Born in Australia lived in UK for 12 years (2001)
1] I trained as a trapeze artist, and joined a company of artists who also had other skills as jugglers, wire walkers, fire eaters and stiltwalkers. I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn as much as possible so I bought a pair of stilts and started practicing. It was never to become a professional stilt walker though.
2] I have two pairs. One aluminium and one wood. They are 36inches and 30inches respectively. I have also worked on 60inches for a specific project, however I feel that to go beyond a certain height alienates you from your audience. This can be fine for visual performance but can hamper interactive performance.
3] On the 60inch pair of Ash wood stilts I worked with another stilt walker at the same height. We carried a pole that held a trapeze on which performed a trapeze artist. We were a mobile trapeze rig and the act still continues. My usual height is 30inches and I also use arm crutches or 'four-legged' stilts a lot.
4] I work equally in and outdoors. I check my stilts frequently and change the rubber bottom as I see fit. I wear HUGE kneepads ALWAYS!
5] My stiltwalking is much more performance based and I am much more interested in creating believable and interesting characters than performing 'tricks'. I have thought about putting wheels on my arm crutches though, and it is something I am still toying with.
6] I find soggy or sodden ground affects my performance ability outdoors. If you sink in the ground, it makes it kinda hard to walk!! I have NEVER cancelled a gig due to inclement weather yet.
7] The ground surfaces I watch out for include slopes, polished surfaces, broken or shoaly ground, cobblestones and anything wet - especially cobblestones -YUK!!!
8] I must be a 'Macho' male. I just tackle the stairs. This is after much practice holding a rope and gaining my confidence. Its also a personal test. I don't like areas I can't go on my stilts. It's a challenge but it's not showing off. I will often walk stairs privately - just for my own satisfaction.
9] ALL stiltwalkers have problems with over zealous public. Some of my characters are quite agressive, so the character will deal with the situation and sometimes just a smile works wonders.
10] I fell recently (something I hate doing) in a very public place. This was due to 2 floor types painted the same colour. One was great to walk on.... the other a nightmare. I was on 4 legs when my arm slid and I went down. I stayed in character, drew a crowd, and tried to make something out of it. Eventually I was lifted up and given a round of applause. Staying in character helped. The public don't want to know that you are human or mortal - it breaks the illusion.
11] I use minders if I know its going to be particularly rough or if the organiser has given me one but usually I work without them.
12] I have only used pegs
13] Costumes wreak havoc with vision and balance especially in a strong wind where a costume can act as a sail. I design my own costumes and try by design to minimise such complications.
14] I have worked with many of the UK's top stilt companies and always there is a different approach. Some companies are interested in seeing how far they can physically take stilt-walking, others are interested in creativity of performance and some just for the money. I work to my own ethics. I like to work with other stilters who are of a 'certain' standard as it allows much more play and freedom of movement, which on the whole is much more satisfying for me.
15] I was once asked to rise out of a swimming pool on 4 legged stilts as part of a fashion show. The catwalk was built over the pool. I painted my stilts with waterproof paint but then the choreographer changed his mind. I would have loved to have done it though.
16] As a word of advice to future stilt-walkers, when practicing, never be afraid to turn your back on the wall, take away your 'skyhook' and your confidence will soar. You WILL fall, so learn to fall safely. If your only fear is falling, and you take that fear away, then its only going to be enjoyable.
Mark Tate 10th July 2001


A quick reply from an ex-stiltwalker I met at Euro-cycle 2001. A European unicycle convention at Plymouth UK.
1] Why stilts in particular?
A] My new boyfriend (later my husband) was a stiltwalker. He learned to unicycle, I to stiltwalk in our early 'going-out' days when we were both poor students.

2] What kind have you used?
A] Mainly 30 inch strap-on pegs. The first pair I made were Ash wood. The next pair were aluminium uprights with wooden footplates. I tried some 60 inch pegs. They were OK but scary. I also tried Duras but they were dull compared with pegs and I couldn't even think about affording a pair at the time.

3] What is your normal height and what your maximum?
A] 30 inches normally. 60 inches maximum

4] Which suited you best and why?
A] 30 inches. Easy to dance and run on. Not to bad to fall off of.

5] What did you use the stilts for?
A] I liked playing stilt football and stilt croquet.

6] Any special precausions or protective gear?
A] After starting with nothing and hurting my knees when falling, I used wrist guards and knee pads. I tried getting my wooden stilts heeled with shoe rubber to stop the slipping on hard floors. It's OK but not as good as rubber strips crossing the base of the stilt and coming up the side a bit. On the aluminium stilts I used foam rubber to bung the ends then crossed strips of cycle tyre bolted through the upright.

7] Any surfaces that cause problems?
A] Soft ground after rain. I find I sink in it and then it's easy to trip and fall.

8] Any problems with KIDS or other public?
A] Never used them in a kiddy situation. I do not perform. Only being with adults or kids also on stilts or juggling.

9] Reason for not stiltwalking now?
A] Apathy and a passion for unicycling. I broke a stilt 5 yrs ago and haven't got round to mending it yet!

Sarah Miller
ex-stilt-walker with 2 pairs in shed and 2 pairs in parent's attic


A set of answers from UK based clowns Bluey Brattle & Flossie <www.clownbluey.co.uk/>

Stilts are basically another skill to add to our repertoire which we can offer to our potential bookers. In addition, stilts offer the potential employer a high profile particularly when performing for shopping mall promotions. You can be seen a long way off and thus draw people towards you. Children are fastinated by our tall characters - they think of us as real giants, not as people performing on stilts.
We both have Durastilts adjustable from 24 inches to 42 inches. Flossie always works at 24 inches as she is comfortable at that height while I always work at 42 inches. I also have pole stilts which clip together and which go from 7ft (84 inches) to 14 ft (168 inches) but I rarely use them as they are too high to interact with children and being poles they are a lot more dangerous to balance on particularly when working with children.
We will work both inside and outdoors and usually have a scout around before starting, to note in our minds possible hazards like low roofs, doorways low hanging cables and fans or uneven or slippery ground etc.
We do not have any ambitions for our stiltwalking.
We have NEVER cancelled a gig due to weather. High gusty winds can be a problem and if too strong we will take the stilts off and work at ground level. One has to use common sense. Health and safety of your public must come first.
The only surface that ever caused me a problem was when working in a shopping mall in Dubai. The top floor was made of polished marble and as I stepped (or was thrown) off a jerky escalator, my right foot slipped forward. I couldn't recover and badly gashed my left knee when I hit the marble! Uneven ground outside with tall grass hiding pitfalls can also be a problem.
Regards stairs, I must be a 'Macho man' as I try to walk down stairs as I would without stilts. Flossie likes a steadying hand or a wall to brace herself against. She has never tried an escalator.
A kid rode into me on a bike once while performing outside. Luckily, I was clear of the crowd and was able to fall cleanly forward without doing any damage. The kid said he didn't see me. I have heard Mums say to their little darlings "Go and trip the clown". I usually smile at them and say "I hope I don't fall and kill your baby". That usually makes them think twice. I have had a drunk stand on both my feet and grab my real legs and refuse to budge so I accidentally poked him in the eye with my tickling stick. Good job I was on Duras.
I have only come off twice in 25 years. Flossie has never come off yet.
If I am working on my own, Flossie will act as my minder.
I use both Dura and pegs, Flossie only uses Dura. Dura are probably the safest stilts around and are perfect for interacting with children.
I bought my Duras but made a pair of wooden pegs years ago. I now use aluminium pegs made for me from aircraft aluminium.
Costumes are never a problem with us. There is no particular reason that we use different height of stilt. It's just that Flossie has no desire to go any higher.
The metal plate that straps around just below the knee has fractured several times, probably due to metal fatigue. I dance a lot and high-kick and I reckon they are not designed for such stress. I check them each time before wearing them and replace the plate as soon as I am aware of a crack or they are showing signs of wearing. I always carry spare parts. One snapped during a gig but the webbed strap enabled me to walk slowly back to our dressing room where I effected repairs.
The only protective gear we both wear are volleyball knee pads and that's not to protect the knees but to cushion the leg where the web strap comes into contact with the leg flesh. However I know of several stiltwalkers who use the skate-boarding type of knee and elbow protection under their costumes. I guess its not a bad idea but I have never worn such and guess we never will now.
All the best.
Clown Bluey & Flossie
6th June 2001

A set of questions and answers from a girl I met in Edinburgh, Scotland handing out leaflets promoting the opening of a new hotel. 1] Well Julie tell me about yourself
A] I come from Glasgow and am 23 yrs old. I have been stilt-walking for about 7 years

2] Why stilts in particular?
A] When I left school I went on holiday to Spain with some of my school pals where we saw a circus school. We challenged each other to learn different skills for a laugh. My challenge was stilts. It was frightening at first, but I soon started enjoying being head and shoulders above the rest.

3] How many heights do you use?
A] I have four pairs. 18inches for use with children, 30inches for interacting with the public or where the ground surface is wet or slippery, 48 inches for safe ground conditions and 60 inches for showing off

4] What is the greatest height you have mastered & at what height are you most comfortable at?
A] I tried 9foot ones once but they were too heavy for me and I felt very unstable and uncomfortable at that height. But that was some years ago and would like to try them again now I have more experience. I have mastered my 60 inch ones but am most comfortable with my 30 inch ones

5] Do you usually do your act in doors or outside, & what precausions do you use for safety?
A] I do not act. All my work is promotional or guest welcome work. I ALWAYS wear skateboarders knee pads and sometimes if I am worried about the walking surface I wear ice-hockey hip protection pads

6] Do you have any ambitions to try something harder or dangerous?
A] I saw on TV a Chinese girl on a unicycle on a large rolling globe and thought "Why not stilts on a globe"?, but that is a "pie in the sky " ambition. My main ambition is to enjoy myself and retire by choice, that is not to be forced into retirement by injury or accident.

7] When at work, what will cause you to cancel your appearance?
A] I try not to cancel - I need the money!! But I adjust my appearance to suit the conditions. In high winds or on snow or ice I use the lower stilts. I take all my stilts with me and use the best height for the job considering the working conditions. I have NEVER cancelled as yet but several falls while at work have caused the organisers to stop me, being worried about their insurance.

8] What conditions cause problems and which ones do you try to avoid?
A] Oh! That's a difficult one. It would be easier to tell you which ones do not cause a problem. Perhaps I should state that I have no fear of falling. I learned to fall safely while learning to parachute jump some time ago. I accept falls as part of the job because on pegs, they can and do happen without warning. In-doors, very smooth and steep ramps, smooth dusty concrete, and any polished wood with wet footprints can cause a sudden downfall. Outside, almost anything but especially wet cobbles steep grassy banks, very dry grass, wet wooden boardwalks are especially tricky and anything that should not be there including fruit, oil, grease, fast food, potholes, snow,ice, drunks, trouble makers and attention-seekers

9] How do you approach stairs?
A] Depends on where I am. I tend to be headstrong and will attempt almost anything. Going up I go straight ahead with frequent rests. Going down I used to go straight ahead but following some HUGE falls when I caught the step edge and tripped forward I am now more careful. Still going straight ahead but feeling for the edge of the step before putting weight on the stilt. The main problem is that if you plant half way off the front edge of the step, when you transfer your weight YOU WILL FALL!!

10] Do you have problems with the public?
A] Yes with both kids and drunks. I have been tipped off or pushed over many times, mainly from behind. Drunks can be a problem. If one grabs one stilt I can cope but if the management try to get him off, then with the drunk and me pulling one way and the management pulling the other, when I get free I have been known to fall - but that gets tons of sympathy

11] Type of stilt?
A] Ash wood made by local carpenter

12] Do costumes cause you any difficulty?
A] No they are all simple or formal. The problem comes with footwear for the stilt foot. I am yet to find a tread that will not slip on any surface. Sneakers or trainers slip on smooth wet metalwork like manhole covers, Leather formal shoes slip on dry grass, Rubber stoppers are fine on the dry but lethal when wet or oily. Bare wood is great outdoors but difficult on ramps and lethally dangerous on wet boardwalks or wet cobbles. I think the best combiation is rubber stoppers with dry tarmacadam.
The worst is being caught out by sudden rain when a long distance from the wagon and you are on high stilts with bare wood or rubber stoppers on a boardwalk, then I have a great challenge and a lot of adrenalin while returning to the wagon to change.. I have special metal bottoms for use in winter which have 5 bolts sharpened to a point on which to stand. I have done several jobs on ice-rinks on my highest pegs with no problem. In fact working on ice-rinks with these feet are the only times I have worked without a single fall.

13] Have you any experience of other stilt-walkers, and have you learned anything from them?
A] Not many, but the men I have seen seem to go for height, but are the first to cancel due to weather conditions whereas most girls stay low and ask for assistance if they are not sure of their safety. I am in the middle. The show must go on and I am head strong so I get more work than some..

14] Do you have a web site so that I could advertise for you?
A] No, I cannot afford one, being a single parent, we have computers but not internet.

I found this one to one personal contact much more interesting than a set of questions by e-mail, thank you. Do you wish to say anything else that we may learn from?

A] Never be afraid to try something new, but always wear too much protection until you can do it safely. Regularly practice falling so that your body knows how to react when it happens. Enjoy it and do your own thing.


From LoriB in Orlando, Florida:- I don't mind answering a few questions, especially when they are about one of my love of stiltwalking - so here goes:
Q1: Why stilts in particular? What gave you the urge to defy gravity in this way?
A: Honestly, being a stilt walker wasn't something I was looking for at all. I had just finished a dance contract for a production company and had nothing else coming up. They asked me if I wanted to learn, and I said, Sure! As soon as I got up on those stilts, it was a sudden rush. I love to be up high, I enjoy heights, and the concept of being able to learn a new skill and perform in front of large crowds was thrilling.

Q2: How many different heights do you have and use and what are their individual uses?
A: I don't own any of my own stilts, because the good ones are really expensive. The lower stilts, 2-3ft are good for adding just enough height that you are above the crowd, easily seen, and don't have to shout too loud to be heard. At that height, its perfect for strolling entertainment. Anything over that is really just to show off the character and the costume.

Q3: What is the maximum height you have mastered and which height do you prefer?
A: The tallest I have walked on are 4ft hybrids. I have found that no matter the height I am walking, I feel totally natural. I'd say 2.5-3ft is preferred, only because its such a versatile height.

Q4: Is your act done indoors of out? What special precautions do you take to make your act as safe as possible?
A: Inside or outside doesn't matter as long as the ceilings inside aren't too low and I'm able to get in and out of the doorways safely. The primary precaution that I take to ensure my safety is to be aware of where small children are, aware of slippery surfaces (especially spilled drinks), and to be aware of where sprinkler heads are in the ceilings if they are low.

Q5: Do you have any ambitions for your stilt walking?
A: I would really like to work at a circus training center.

Q6: How does weather affect a performance and what would cause a cancellation?
A: Rain or nearby lightening cancels any performance. Heavy winds can also cancel a set, but it depends on the strength of the wind and how big my hat is.

Q7: Which surfaces cause you problems and which do you avoid?
A: There probably is not any surface that I wouldn't at least try to walk on. I do avoid sand when possible, but it just takes a little extra high stepping to get through it.

Q8: How do you descend staircases or steps safely?
A: The type of stilt being used really makes a difference on how easy or difficult stairs are. Any kind of stilt can be used on stairs. It just takes a bit of practice. It's always safer to have a wall to grab hold of just in case of any unsteadiness, but just take a deep breath, keep a steady pace and go for it.

Q9: How do you with KIDS who think its great to try and push you over.?
A: Most of that type of heckling is just joking. Only once have I had someone try to pull me down as I was down in a squat. I was really solid though, so it didn't even phase me. I got up, chased them down, and got them kicked out of the event.

Q10: Have you ever had a catastrophe in public you have regretted? What steps have you taken to avoid a repeat?
A: I have fallen 3 times due to stepping in spilled drinks on a night club floor. The only one I regret, is the 2nd one, because it was in the same exact spot as the first one…and only 5 mins later!! I got a big applause after I got back up though. There isn't much you can do to avoid spilled drinks in a club like that, because you cant see the floor. But, anytime I'm on a painted or tile floor, I high step a little more and walk flat footed.

Q11: Do you have minders or helpers when walking in crowds?
A: Not usually. If I need to get through a crowd, trust me, once I start walking, people always move out of my way. If I do have an escort, they normally are only there to tell me when my set has ended.

Q12: What types of stilt do you use?
A: All kinds really. I first learned on Bigfoots and still use them the majority of the time. I have also used dry walls, hybrids, jaywalkers, wally stilts, pegs and powerskips.

Q13: Do you make your own or who is your supplier, and what feet do the stilts have?
A: I don't make stilts. I have been very lucky, because every company I have worked for has supplied the stilts for me.

Q14: Do your costumes cause you any problems?
A: Not usually. I always prefer to have a fitting before I get to the event so that can be taken care of ahead of time. If the pants are too big or too long, it's just annoying because I'm constantly trying to pull them up. Sometimes, if the pants are too tight its not very comfortable doing squats. If the jacket is too tight, its not as easy to do leg grabs. If a hat is too big, I hit my head a lot on things or hit the stilt walkers next to me. If the hat is too small, it gives me headaches. But, all those things don't happen often.

Q15: Do you think that it is normal to see male stiltwalkers generally higher than females when walking together?
A: Yes, because its more picture perfect that the male is taller than the female. It simply looks better in pictures. But, it guess it might also depend on the roles that they are portraying and their costume for what height stilt a performer might be on.

Q16: Have you had any incidents that you have learned from?
A: There are many! Walking on stilts is always a learning experience. You have to quickly adapt to your surroundings and make whatever necessary adjustments. I am constantly learning.

Q17: Do you wear any protective gear?
A: The only protective gear I wear are soft knee pads on my calfs. They reduce the pressure on my calves from the straps and allow my calf muscles to flex without cramping up. On pegs, I also wear hard knee pads on my knees.

Q18: Where do you walk for your own pleasure?
A: I cant say that I have ever taken a leisurely stroll in the park while on stilts. Haha Everytime I'm on stilts is a pleasure, no matter what.

Q19: Can you remember how your first steps?
A: Of course! I held onto the wall for about 10mins and next thing I knew, I was walking around the room. What an adventure!!

A set of answers received today from Michelle "Rainbow Dave" Frost who recently set a new world record by completing The London Marathon on 4ft high pegs in 8hrs 36mins. Well done Michelle. 1] Why Stilts? What gave you the urge to defy gravity in this way?

Don't know, got taught through the scouts & found it was strangely a great confidence booster & a weird skill to have learnt



2] How many different heights do you use, and what are their uses?

Peg stilt wise I have 1/3/4ft adjustable unicycle poles that I mainly use for teaching walking & performing
4ft Wooden homemade ones that are rarely used because of weight & comfort.
Dura stilt wise, adjustable plasterers stilts, I can use all heights but mainly use these to teach.
And I also use bocks/bouncy stilts



3] What is the maximum height

a -you have tried. - 6ft

b - you have mastered - 6ft

c - you prefer to use - 4ft for performing, as its easier, good height but also easy to get on & to access places on (as I can get in doorways)



4] If you perform are your performances done inside or outside.

Usually outside as they're mainly done at scout events, although we have been known to invade big marquees and buildings many a time, and we have performed inside & outside the o2 arena in London



5] Thinking about safety, do you take any special precausions to keep you as safe as possible?

Generally, consider the conditions before stilting, the ground, if its got lots of potholes, weather wise, if its muddy, or if its rainy means its too slippy, and strong winds are an issue too, especially if wearing stilt trousers. These all depend on when I’m stilting, if its during the week on camp teaching, then its considering amatuers in these conditions, if its just the team performing, then we have more ability, but if we are surrounded by busy crowds then that’s also an issue.
Safety gear wise, although I am meant to use knee, elbow & wrist guards on bocks I have never made use of any safety gear on poles.



6] Do you have any ambitions to do with stilting.

Wouldn’t mind going higher if I have access to higher stilts, other than that I achieved my vague ambition of doing the marathon. So maybe doing it on other types of stilts. But other than that I have silly ideas of doing other actiivities on stilts, have so far done abseiling on 1ft poles.



7] How does weather affect a performance and what would cause a cancellation

Think I’ve explained that above.



8] Which walking surfaces personally cause you problems and which do you avoid walking on & why?

Gravel because it shifts & sinks, Mud, because you sink or get stuck
But both I have successfully walked in. Long grass, because you can’t see the pot holes.



9] How do you descend steps or stairs safely?

Either hold on to the banister or just go for it, I doubt there's really a safe method… other than taking the stilts off!



10] Do you ever stilt in darkness and if so how do you cope safely when you cannot see where you are going?

Bring a torch? In general if you can't see there's not really a safe way of doing it other than proceed with caution. I have done it & its just a case of treading carefully & hoping!



11] How do you cope with KIDS & drunks who think it is great to try and push you over?

When involved in scouting it's happened a lot, but we tend to stilt in a group & can be fairly intimidating and tell them off if they try. When in public people seem more impressed than wanting to push us off, although they will joke about it plenty.



12] Have you ever had a catastrophy or accident in public which you regretted? If so, what steps have you taken to avoid a repeat?

During my marathon training I fell over while fairly alone in an isolated area, which was fairly concerning, but no injuries, was just hard to get up again on my own. But this has not affected how I stilt, 'coz I’m used to falling over plenty, although I try not to.



13] Do you have minders or helpers on the ground when working in crowds?

Sometimes, though usually we are in a group & all on stilts, but as it is usually scouting events or local fete type things there are always marshalls around. For the marathon I had a team with me to keep an eye on me along the way.



14] What types of materials are you stilts made of?

Lightweight aluminium or wood



15] Do you make your own, or who is your supplier?

Made one pair, my others I brought from www.firetoys.com But I know they are Unicycle stilts.



16] What type of stilt feet do you use and how long do they last?

The unicycle stilts came with feet & although I got some spares for the marathon, they have not worn out at all considering the many miles of training I did, let alone the use they got before the marathon!
The wooden poles my friend provided me with this plastic tube that goes round the bottom of the pole, and then is heated to shrink so that the wood does not split.



17] Do your costumes cause you any problems with vision, wind or rain?

Trousers are an issue in strong winds
Vision, some of our costumes involve masks that can be slightly difficult. And rain generally means you get wet & cold.



18] Some performers have told me that often girls are seen to use shorter stilts than men. The reasons have been suggested that men are often more headstrong and go for height rather than safety. Another reason suggested is that girls are normally naturally shorter than men. And another reason could be that men like to be seen to be very tall where as girls prefer to lower inorder to interact with the public. What do you think?



Heh heh! You’re really asking the wrong person, although I am considered a guy & part of an all male stilt team even though I am a girl. But no, I want to do higher, and I’ve done the marathon which all my team thought would be impossible! And I’ll do anything, don’t think I’m particularly more cautious.



19] Have you had any incidents or anxious moments that you have learned about stilting from? If so, can you explain?

Nope, many funny stories of falling over and things like that, but nothing concerning or that would put me off. Even the ones with the more serious injuries.



20] Do you wear any protective gear for your own safety?

Nope, although I’m sure it would be a good idea



21] Do you go stilting for your own pleasure or is it all to do with your work?

Pleasure, even the stuff in scouting, it’s a hobby and I do it for the love of it!



22] Can you remember your first steps on stilts? How high were they and of what type?

When you first get a go through stiff and stilted it is on 2ft adjustable dura stilts, I have vague recollections, mainly of the sweaty shoulder I was holding on to.



23] Have you experienced other stiltwalkers at work or play and how do you rate them? Do you learn from watching others?

I’m from a team of stiltwalkers that perform and teach kids at various scouting events, through this I also have a group of my own friends who stilts together either at random gatherings in the park or we do local fetes & fundays in costume. We take everything as a bit of fun & always enjoy ourselves.
Professionally wise I have seen some stiltwalkers and I'm always disappointed to see them on dura stilts with the knowledge that I have taught 8year olds to be able to do what they were doing in about 10 mins! Let alone my own opinions that I know I could usually make a better costume than theirs. Although saying this one performer I saw was jumping around on Duras (very hard thing to do) and I was very impressed.



24] Do you have any fear of falling and if so how does if affect you?

Nope, I have fallen many times, and although its not fun, can hurt and is embarrassing I’m not fussed. I usually end up laughing, although usually with some shaking from the shock of the fall.



25] What do your friends and family think about your stiltwalking?

Friends…. Are mainly stiltwalkers too or think its pretty mad but cool.
Family, especially after the marathon, think I’m mad.

Many thanks Michelle for an interesting set of answers. On reflection, and talking from experience, I feel that on 4ft pegs you should at least use good knee protectors. You cannot replace your knees and I am told that stilting with a straight leg and locked knee joint is difficult





Mike Weakley
www.StiltFun.com

Q1, Tell me about yourself, Where you are from sex & approx age?
A,  I am male, age 44, from Orlando, Florida USA

Q2, Why stilts in particular? What gave you the urge to defy gravity in this way?
A,  I use to be a clown with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and would use stilts in some of my clown routines

Q3,  What type of stilts do you usually use (pegs, duras etc.,)
A,  I usually use the SII magnesium stilts, but also use peg stilts from time to time

Q4,   How many different heights do you have and use and what are their individual uses?
A,  I stay right at 3.5 feet.  All my costumes are made for that height.

Q5   What is the maximum height you have mastered and which height do you prefer?
A,  I've gone as high as 6 feet, but that was back in my younger days.  I prefer to stay right at 3.5 feet these days.

Q6   Are you a performer or do you stilt for your own pleasure?
A,  Performer for over 25 years

Q7   Is your stilting done indoors of out? What special precautions do you take to make your stiltwalking as safe as possible?
A,  I stilt both indoors & out.  I wear hard knee pads & always check my stilts for loose or damaged parts before each gig.  I also always check out the area I will be stilt walking in BEFORE getting up on the stilts. 

Q8,  Do you have any ambitions for your stiltwalking?
A,  Continue making a living at it for as long as I can.

Q9,   If working outdoors, how does weather affect a performance and what would cause a cancellation?
 A, Living in Orlando, I've learned to deal with the heat (even in some uncomfortable costumes).  But high winds and/or rain would definitely cause me to come down. 

Q10   Which surfaces cause you problems or that you consider dangerous to stilt on and which do you avoid and why?
A,   I try to avoid mud all times.  My costumes are very expensive, and I don't ever want to get them dirtied & damaged by a fall.  I avoid ice as well.  I will walk over wet surfaces if I really need to, but am VERY cautious when I do.

Q11   Can you stilt up and down stairs, and if so how do you do it  safely?
A,  Yes, I can go up & down stairs.  I walked stilts at a hotel for 8 years, and the break room was directly up a flight of stairs, so I had to learn.  I used the wall on one side of the stairs to help steady myself.  If there is no wall or railing to hold on to, I take my time and go one step at a time... with both feet stepping on each step.  I use to go up & down escalators as well, but that too was back in my younger days.  I prefer to walk on non-moving surfaces now!

Q12,   In UK we have problems with KIDS who think its great to try and push you over. Have you ever experienced this problem and if so, how do you cope with it?
A,  Occasionally I do come across kids who like to threaten or pretend that they are going to push me over.  But in all my years of stilt walking, none ever have.  When a kid acts like they may push me over, I look them directly in the eyes & tell them VERY STERNLY to stop!  Even if they are just curious and want to touch my leg, I still do this.  I will break from whatever character I may be playing and use my "mean Daddy voice" to let them know that I will not tolerate that type of behavior.  Most of the time this works because kids are surprised that an entertainer would talk to them that way.  Plus, since I'm nearly 10 feet tall, I can be intimidating to alot of kids when I'm visibly angry while using such a mean tone of voice with them.  On the rare occasions where this doesn't work, I simply leave the area immediately and look for someone in charge to report the incident.
My biggest concern isn't the kids who act up... it's the adults who do it.  I can't intimidate them... they know there's nothing that I can personally do to them to make them stop.  And if they have been drinking, or with a group of rowdy friends, then it is even worse.  When this happens, I immediately leave the area, look for a safe place to be, and also look for help.  If I can't find any help and the problem persists, I would simply take my stilts off & leave the area altogether.

Q13,  Have you ever had a catastrophy, accident or fall  in public or an incident you have regretted? Can you describe it?  What steps have you taken to avoid a repeat?
A,  I was walking stilts at one of the local theme parks (Universal Studios), and was in the back lot area getting ready to go out on set.  As I was walking across a small street, part of my costume somehow became tangled with the bottom of my stilts.  I was in a bit of a hurry, so I decided just to kick out my leg as I continued walking... thinking this would untangle the costume from my stilts.  Well, it didn't.  As soon as I "kicked", I fell forward (rather quickly I might add) and instantly knew I was about to hit the pavement.  I had about a half second to decide if I was going to use my hands, or my face, to break my fall.  There was no time for any other choice.  I chose my hands.  I ended up breaking my right wrist, and getting scraped up pretty badly as well.  However, that was still better than landing on my face.  I learned a valuable lesson that day... any time I notice any problem with my costume or stilts, STOP IMMEDIATELY and check it out.

Q14   Do you have minders or helpers when walking in crowds?  What are they instructed to do?
A,  I do not.

Q15 Who supplies your stilts, or do you make your own?
A,   I usually purchase my SII's online.  My pegs are made by a local friend of mine.

Q16,  When stilting, do you use any personal protection for your knees, wrists etc.,
A,  I always were hard knee pads (the type skateboarders typically wear).  The stilt pants I wear always cover them.  I used to wear wrist guards, but not anymore.  Wrist guards usually can't be covered by a costume.

Q17   If performing, do your costumes cause you any problems with vision or balance?
A,  Only if they become tangled with my stilts!

Q18,   Do you think that it is normal to see male stiltwalkers generally higher than females when walking together?  Any thoughts on why?
A,  For me, it really doesn't matter.  I've worked with several different female stilt walkers.  Some were shorter than me, some taller.  It's never been an issue.  As long as they are good performers, that's all that I care about.

Q19   Have you had any incidents that you have learned from?
A,  Always plan to arrive at a gig at least 1.5 hours ahead of time.  You never know what issues you may incounter before arriving (traffic, weather, equipment or costume problems, etc.)

Q20,   Where do you stiltwalk for your own pleasure?
A,  Around my neighborhood.

Q21,   Can you remember how you started to stiltwalk?
A,  Attending the Ringling Bros. Clown College.

Q22    What do your family, friends and relations think about your stiltwalking?
A,  They all think it's cool!

Q23    Do any of your family, friends or relation stiltwalk?
A,  No one else in my family, but several of my circus friends do.

Q24  Do you have any photos of yourself on stilts while not covered by costumes?
A,  I may have one or 2 stashed away, but that's it.

Q25   Do you have any recommendations for someone interesting in starting to stiltwalk?
A, When you are first starting out, always wear a helmet, knee pads, and wrist guards.  And it's best if you don't try learning on your own.  Find someone who is experienced and have them help you

Q26   Do you have any comments about stilting that I have missed or that would be of benefit to others?
A,  No

 Schuyler Snowdon
Q1, Tell me about yourself, Where you are from sex & approx age

Well, I am a self-titled circus artist, training for auditions at The National Circus School of Canada and E'cole de Cirque de Quebec. We'll see which one takes me in the end. I'm twenty one, male and living in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where I work full time as a stilt walker and juggler.


Q2, Why stilts in particular? What gave you the urge to defy gravity in this way?

Haha, mostly because it was available. When it comes to circus I'll try anything somebody is willing to teach. At a circus camp I met a stilt walking instructer who taught me how to teach people to walk on stilts. I didn't actually get a chance to walk at the camp. When I was done I went to the grocery store and bought a packet of powdered alfredo sauce and two bags of egg noodles because it was the most food I could buy for the least money ($5). I boiled the noodles, made the sauce and mixed them. It was all I ate (besides what I could mooch off of friends) for two weeks while I saved to buy my first pair of stilts. I'm happy to say I'm doing a little better financially now and it's been a while since I've had to starve! When I finally got my stilts I showed my brother how I'd been taught to spot a stilt walker and learned in a park.

Q3, What type of stilts do you usually use (pegs, duras etc.,)/
Q4, How many different heights do you have and use and what are their individual uses?

I usually use pegs. My first set was adjustable between one foot and two feet. I learned to walk on them set at one foot, but after I adjusted them to two feet I never went back to one. My current stilts are a beautiful fire truck red pair of metal pegs, a proud three feet. I occasionally use bouncy stilts, but for the most part pegs are what I find the most fun and the most interesting.

Q5 What is the maximum height you have mastered and which height do you prefer?

Three foot pegs I guess are the height I've "mastered" however I'd be hapy to try higher or lower. Three feet feels good to me, I can get way down low when I need to get through doors or interact with tiny children (I have yet to find a child too small for me to high five on three foot pegs) and they feel more stable than lower stilts.

Q6 Are you a performer or do you stilt for your own pleasure?

Both! Performing is my pleasure.

Q7 Is your stilting done indoors of out? What special precautions do you take to make your stiltwalking as safe as possible?

I stiltwalk in and out of doors, on convention halls, on cement, on carpet, on grass and on ice. My stilts have knee pads built into them so that I can fall onto my knees and minimize the risk to myself if I fall properly. On ice I take off the rubber "shoes" on the stilts and attach hockey pucks with screws through them. They give me a good grip but I still need to be careful. This winter I got careless playing on a skating rink, took too large of a step, and well... the sprain in my wrist has almost healed.

Q8, Do you have any ambitions for your stiltwalking?

I do. I want to make something big, and beautiful. One of these days I want to write a good busking show on stilts, but I find this hard to do. I want to make beautiful costumes and I want to do things people can't believe.

Q9, If working outdoors, how does weather affect a performance and what would cause a cancellation?

Hm... I'm not sure. I tend to tell clients that snow and rain can cancel a perfomance but I know for a fact that I don't actually do that. I suppose if the winds get high enough I try to get out of it but the one time I've encountered winds strong enough to make me worry the venue was indoors and outdoors so my partner and I just went inside. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

Q10 Which surfaces cause you problems or that you consider dangerous to stilt on and which do you avoid and why?

 I'd say slippery surfaces. When I'm performing I have so many things that I'm trying to think about that I do my best to stay on surfaces that are easy to walk on.

Q11 Can you stilt up and down stairs, and if so how do you do it safely?

Haha, no unassisted yet. I suppoose I technically could but I still don't because I worry about stairs. I do go up and down stairs though provided there's a wall or something to hold on to so I can stop and balance myself. My favorite thing though is elevators. It's hilarious watching the looks on people's faces when I step out of an elevator!

Q12, In UK we have problems with KIDS who think its great to try and push you over. Have you ever experienced this problem and if so, how do you cope with it?

I haven't. Sometimes adults will play around and pretend they're going to push me but I just play with them. I haven't had any serious trouble with people harrassing me on the stilts. Here's hoping I won't!

Q13, Have you ever had a catastrophy, accident or fall in public or an incident you have regretted? Can you describe it? What steps have you taken to avoid a repeat?

Every fall is embarrassing. The worst one was over the past winter while I was playing on a skating rink. I was teasing a group of kids who had formed around me, and just forgot for a moment to be afraid of the ice. I took too far of a step and my ice feet didn't sink into the ice and I started to slip. I was determined, however, not to look like an idiot slipping on the ice and I tried to stay upright. By the time I realized that I couldn't save this fall it was too late to fall properly. I went down hard and accidentally braced myself with my wrist to avoid cracking my head. I sprained the wrist, but after sitting for a few minutes I hoisted myself back up and finished the day then did a perfect juggling set that night. The wrist is still healing however.

Q14 Do you have minders or helpers when walking in crowds? What are they instructed to do?

I do not. When I first started this worried me but over time I've realized that people are mostly respectful of what I'm doing. I find that if somebody gets too carried away the crowd will turn against them and protect me.

Q15 Who supplies your stilts, or do you make your own?

My stilts are supplied by the lovely and talented Randall Fraser, head of the Edmonton Stiltwalker Society and JumbyStix

Q16, When stilting, do you use any personal protection for your knees, wrists etc.,

I have knee pads built into my stilts and just enough good sense to not fall often.

Q17 If performing, do your costumes cause you any problems with vision or balance?

Haha, sometimes. I was being a giant werewolf for a haunted house once. I made a werewolf mask myself that is really cool, but when I made the eyes I didn't create a lot of visibility. On top of that they fogged up after about five minutes of use and I couldn't see clearly. Now let me set the scene, I'm crouched under a barn, in a slippery muddy field, at night, the only lights are shining straight into my eyes and my mask has fogged up so that I can only see blurry shapes if they move. My job was to come charging out of the barn and scare a crowd of people. Somehow I made it through.

Q18, Do you think that it is normal to see male stiltwalkers generally higher than females when walking together? Any thoughts on why?

I have no idea if it's normal. I'm 6'2 before strapping the stilts on so I'm used to be taller than everybody. I think if people are using the same size of stilts then it's normal for the taller people to still be taller.

Q19 Have you had any incidents that you have learned from?

More than I could possibly try and list. Almost every time I get up I learn something new. I think the most important lesson I ever learned on stilts is the first one I ever learned: It's never as bad as you think it's going to be.

Q20, Where do you stiltwalk for your own pleasure?

Anywhere and everywhere!

Q21, Can you remember how you started to stiltwalk?

Yes, I described it above.

Q22 What do your family, friends and relations think about your stiltwalking?

Everybody seems to think it's really cool. I'm lucky to have a lot of highly supportive people in my life.

Q23 Do any of your family, friends or relation stiltwalk?

My little brother learned a little at the same time I did, and most of my friends now a days are other stilt walkers I met in the city. For the most part, no, nobody who didn't stilt walk when I met them have really learned.

Q24 Do you have any photos of yourself on stilts while not covered by costumes?

I do. I try to get as many photos as I can. This is because I find it really hard getting good pictures of myself while I'm working or playing so if I try really hard I wind up with one or two.

Q25 Do you have any recommendations for someone interesting in starting to stiltwalk?

Find somebody who does it and ask, and remember that most of stilt walking is getting over fear. It's never as bad as you imagine it's going to be.

Q26 Do you have any comments about stilting that I have missed or that would be of benefit to others?

Nope!


 
Mark Gray,  Fenfire UK,


1] Why Stilts? What gave you the urge to defy
gravity in this way?

Not sure I have an adequate answer to this, mainly it was an extension of professional performance, I am not a natural stilt walker lol.


2] How many different heights do you use and
what are their uses?

Peg stilts, 2,3,4,5,6, foot, general work, including carnival, rarely indoor, cross country,   Durastilts mixed height mainly indoor use and long haul carnival, rarely cross country work, Powerisers non technical work, not used so much outdoor /  indoor / cross country.


3]What is the maximum height that you have
mastered and what height do you prefer?

6 foot, preferred height five foot, thinking about seven for this year.

4]Is your act done indoors or out? What special
precautions do you have to make your act as safe
as possible?

Indoor work is done almost exclusively on Dura stilts, I can supply a copy of our standard risk assessment / control of risks document for specific safety protocols, currently in excess of 2 pages just covering the stilt walking..

5] Do you have any ambitions for your
stiltwalking? e.g. to go higher or do something
not yet achieved 

Yes but not fully realised as of yet for what form this might take place, we do a lot of combined fire arts / stilt work

6] How does weather affect a performance and
what would cause a cancellation?

See risk assessment, currently the stilt component for this is over two pages,  technical not above wind force  2-3 / no rain, non technical not above force four moderate rain tolerated, all performances are weather graded.

7] Which walking surfaces cause you problems
and which do you avoid?

No preference,

8]How do you descend staircases or steps safely
and how do you cope with darkness when you
cannot see where you are walking?

Stair cases are excluded where possible through site survey and risk assessment, stilt walking where there are no visual surface cues would also be excluded, the general exception here would be reduced visual cues for illuminated carnivals etc.

9] How do you cope with KIDS who think it's
great to try and push you over?

See risk assessment, this is where I consider safety’s and spotters are mandatory for public work, although I did threaten to fall on one particular ####### #### from 6 foot once.

10] Have you ever had a catastrophe in public
which you have regretted? If so, what steps did
you take to avoid a repeat? 

None as yet, would be dealt with through our accident investigation protocol and revised risk assessment, insurance etc.

11] Do you have minders or helpers on the ground
when working in crowds?

Yes one safety / spotter to three stilt walkers.


12] What types of stilts do you use and what are they made of?

Peg stilts – wooden, aluminum and duraluminum, dura stlits and powerisers

13] Do you make your own stilts, or who is your
supplier?

All peg stilts are made either by myself and or in group workshops, or by our members, all stilts irrespective of origin are checked by myself for safety before a performance.

14] What type of stilt feet do you use and how
long do they last?  Do you use more than one type for different surfaces? How do they improve your stilting?

Motorcycle tires, mainly for grip, and proprietary feet for dura and powerisers.

15] Do your costumes cause you any problems
with vision, or in wind or rain?

The last set of costumes for Nottinghil were a problem, in that the full face masks substantially restricted visual cues, also wind is a problem for 5 and 6 foot costumed stilits.

16] Do you think that it is normal to see male
stiltwalkers generally higher than females when
walking together?  Or does it just appear that way because men are generally taller than women?

Have not really thought about this too much, when we put on a show there is a complete vertical mix, I would guess males tend to go out on taller stilts, its personal preference. 

17] Have you had any incidents or accidents that you have  learned from? 

I learn something each time I go out.

18] Do you wear any protective gear?

High quality knee pads are mandatory for any one taking part in the group.

19] Do you ever go stilting for your own
pleasure or is it all performing? 

30 / 70 % mix,

20] Can you remember your first steps on
stilts? How high and what type were they?  Was it love at the first attempt?

Yes, two foot peg stilts and hated every step.

21] Have you experienced other stiltwalkers at
work and how do you rate them? Did you learn
anything from watching others? 

Mainly others that I come into contact with are either teaching staff for the group or students, I do try and at least learn something from everyone irrespective of student / staff.

22] Considering Mandy Dalton's stilt forum and
her comments on falling. Do you have any fear of
falling and if so how does it affect you?

Not aware of her work.

23] What do your friends & relations think about
your stiltwalking? 

Same as my fire arts work, would prefer I did not.

 24]  How does risk assessment work with stilts considering there is ALWAYS a risk present?  How does it a
ffect a performance?

I will send you a copy of our standard risk assessment for your inspection, currently the stilt component is over two pages

25] Would you like to add anything to my questions so that I may present a more comprehensive list in the future.

I’m sure something will come to mind.


 
julia@pickup-stix.com>
        Hi Jules, here are the questions:-
  1] Why Stilts? What gave you the urge to defy
gravity in this way?
  A - just fell into it as a kid

2] How many different heights do you use and
what are their uses?
A -  i use mainly my 5 footers and sometimes my 3ft
ones and the use depends on the gig and i use all four for  certain
costumes

3]What is the maximum height that you have
mastered and what height do you prefer?
A -  i can do 7ft ones but i like my 5's
                
  4]Is your act done indoors or out? What special
precautions do you have to make your act as safe
as possible?
A -  it all depends on the gig i do it all as long as the
ceilings are high enough and I do  bars but they get charged extra
so u can pay a spotter to keep a clear dry path for me and keep the
drunks away from grabbing me
    
5] Do you have any ambitions for your
stiltwalking? e.g. to go higher or do something
not yet achieved 
A -  more levels of play are always fun, just pushing what you
can do on them and what you can do with other people on them and of
course new ways to make you look crazy in costume to blow peoples
minds
               

 6] How does weather affect a performance and
what would cause a cancellation?
A -  i have rain contracts because i cant walk in rain or
ice its not worth the risk
                       
7] Which walking surfaces cause you problems
and which do you avoid?
A -  marble sometimes or really rocky and shifty
ground like sand with cement you dont have sure footing
 

 8]How do you descend staircases or steps safely
and how do you cope with darkness when you
cannot see where you are walking?
A -  i only do stairs if im on all fours or my shorts and i
dont do much in the dark i dont want to take a risk of not knowing
whats under me and I do do the stairs in the talls if I have too, i
have had to squeeze into an elevator b4 that wasn’t fun
 

 9] How do you cope with KIDS who think it's
great to try and push you over?
A -  i am always watching around me and tell them i
will fall on them and i have hopped on one leg while trying to shake a
2r little girl off my stilt she thought she was helping me be safe she
meant well but i almost took her out
      

10] Have you ever had a catastrophe in public
which you have regretted? If so, what steps did
you take to avoid a repeat? 
A -  i have been lucky never taken a spill i almost
did in a bar but decided to end early and went into the splits to get
down safe, they all thought it was part of the show
 

11] Do you have minders or helpers on the ground
when working in crowds?
A - no only in bars


 12] What types of stilts do you use?
A - wooden stilts i make


 13] Do you make your own stilts, or who is your
supplier?
A -  my troope makes our own


 14] What type of stilt feet do you use and how
long do they last? 
A -  i use golf tire cut into plus signs it has not steel
belt so its easy to work with and lasts usually one season
                         
15] Do your costumes cause you any problems
with vision, wind or rain?
A - some have but i make them so you can see the ones i
dont see well in i only do in small crouds
         

 16] Do you think that it is normal to see male
stiltwalkers generally higher than females when
walking together?
A -  only if they are tall themselves bc i am a girl who
likes a challenge and dont want to be topped by a boy
     
17] Have you had any incidents that you have
learned from? 
A - no major ones just look where your going
     
18] Do you wear any protective gear?
A - no just pads on the knees to be safe from the brace
                    

 19] Do you ever go stilting for your own
pleasure or is it all performing? 
A - sometimes, we like to get together for some stilt
soccer in the summer
 

 20] Can you remember your first steps on
stilts? How high and what type were they?
A -  i was 10 and they were 26" i was a kid and wasn't
afraid so i guess that helps. little wobbly but i got the hang of it in
about 20 min
          
21] Have you experienced other stiltwalkers at
work and how do you rate them? Did you learn
anything from watching others? 
A - all the time back home we dont like to be full of
ourselves but a lot of people charge less and get hired but then the
clients come back to us bc they sucked and all they did was stand
around and their costumes sucked, but i do love to see other walkers
that inspire me to be better

22] Considering Mandy Dalton's stilt forum and
her comments on falling. Do you have any fear of
falling and if so how does it affect you?
A - if you dont think about it and worry you wont its
all in your head just pay attention
   
23] What do your friends & relations think about
your stiltwalking?
A -  relations? do you mean family? they all love it but a
lot of them i taught and we play together, but everyone else says they
see a stilter or hear about one at a show or on tv and they all know
its me and look at it as another day for work me

 Its been nice to think over some of the crazy situations you end up in on stilts.



  Mer from UK.Tribe.Net
> 1] Why Stilts? What gave you the urge to defy
> gravity in this way?
         1. A friend wanted someone to practice with and I like trying new things.
>
      > 2] How many different heights do you use and
           > what are their uses?
2. mainly 90 cm[36 inches] for performing at festivals and carnivals
>
> 3]What is the maximum height that you have
> mastered and what height do you prefer?
3. 90 cm so far
>
> 4]Is your act done indoors or out? What special
> precautions do you have to make your act as safe
> as possible?
 4. In and out. Once got too confident on a very shiny floor and fell. Once nearly got stuck in a very low ceiling felt like Alice in wonderland where she grows too big. Gave up doing some nightclubs because of drunks and skiddy floors and the people didnt deserve it. Hard decision because it can be good money. But quality of life is more important. Too stressful.
>
> 5] Do you have any ambitions for your
> stiltwalking? e.g. to go higher or do something
> not yet achieved
 5. More crazy costumes and time to build them. I am also inspired by your all terrain idea
>
> 6] How does weather affect a performance and
> what would cause a cancellation?
 6. Torrential rain can ruin certain feathery costumes. I have been out in gale force winds and had to brace myself into the wind and tuck in my wings.
>
> 7] Which walking surfaces cause you problems
> and which do you avoid?
 7. Certain wet floors mainly because it makes performing a bit boring. I like to go crazy and do spins and kicks and dance loads.
>
> 8]How do you descend staircases or steps safely
> and how do you cope with darkness when you
> cannot see where you are walking?
 8. Stairs can be a nightmare depending on the spacing. When I first started doing stairs my toddler daughter got it before I did. You can learn a lot from kids. Still find them scary if steep. One of my first jobs was at st Katherines docks London which was all bridges I hate bridges normally. But this annoying person in charge wanted me to go over a wooden chain bridge of the wobbly kind. No way I refused. Felt like a big chicken but tough. No one would have been able to fish me out as i sunk. Do you know of anyone whos managed to swim with stilts on? Or at least hold themselves up? Difficult to practice.

>
> 9] How do you cope with KIDS who think it's
> great to try and push you over?
9. Ive had to deal with a gang of ten teenagers coming at me. I had enough time and room to do some impressive kicks aimed their way that put them off . Ive had quite a few drunks too, normally when they see you can handle yourself they back off.
Scariest was a huge rottweiller that had to be grappled by two big blokes to keep it away so i got out of its vision and hid round the corner. I was dressed as a fairy.

Dog owners never believe me when I say dogs dont like stilts. they always go " oh s/hes fine" then a mega barking attack takes place.
>
> 10] Have you ever had a catastrophe in public
> which you have regretted? If so, what steps did
> you take to avoid a repeat?
10. I was performing at Kerrang heavy metal weekender did a series of cool spins and kicks then my black pvc wig slipt down and I tripped and draped myself down this startled bloke and landed at his feet. Redivised wig

Also had a stilt break on me it snapped also at Kerrang ended up on the floor again.

>
> 11] Do you have minders or helpers on the ground
> when working in crowds?
11. Not usually
>
> 12] What types of stilts do you use?
12. Pegs
>
> 13] Do you make your own stilts, or who is your
> supplier?
 13. My husband
>
> 14] What type of stilt feet do you use and how
> long do they last?
14. Used to use motorbike tyres but hard to get hold of. Now use bmx. Might try roller boot stoppers.
>
> 15] Do your costumes cause you any problems
> with vision, wind or rain?
15. I like to be able to see clearly
>
> 16] Do you think that it is normal to see male
> stiltwalkers generally higher than females when
> walking together?
16. Not for me. I like being tall!
>
> 17] Have you had any incidents that you have
> learned from?
17. Alsorts, falling over, tripping on bags and banana skins, it helps to fall because then you are not scared of it anymore. So long as you fall ok. I was taught to land on my knees and lean back. But in reality its however your going down.

>
> 18] Do you wear any protective gear?
18. Knee pads and gaffa on bindings.
>
> 19] Do you ever go stilting for your own
> pleasure or is it all performing?
19. Performing and freebies like festivals and carnivals. its a good way to meet interesting people.
>
> 20] Can you remember your first steps on
> stilts? How high and what type were they?
20. I fell instantly. My tiny friend tried to catch me but I thought I'd squash her so I threw myself side ways and tried to grab some railings and slithered and crashed onto the ground. Then realised my arms arnt long enough to get me up. So hoisted myself up on kids slide and spent ages just holding on stepping up and down. They were 80cm pegs and i thought it would be easier than it was.
>
> 21] Have you experienced other stiltwalkers at
> work and how do you rate them? Did you learn
> anything from watching others?
21. My friends boyfriend is one of the best I have ever seen he taught me to do spins and kicks and hops and bounces. He used to get towed along on a rope behind a motor bike till he fell then get dragged along behind it with sparks coming out of his knees then hed have fireworks go off from his helmet. Very inspiring.
>
> 22] Considering Mandy Dalton's stilt forum and
> her comments on falling. Do you have any fear of
> falling and if so how does it affect you?
22. Once i fell i wasnt so scared of it. But it could be nasty if you land badly. Its always scary when you trip or get tripped.
>
> 23] What do your friends & relations think about
> your stiltwalking?
 23. My daughter is not impressed and thinks its all normal and boring.