Mad military men marching about its perimeter and a group on powered stilts bouncing off its flagstones – the new look King’s Square will be tested to the limits on Saturday (June 14).
A one-day festival marks the official opening of the square after a nine-month, £500,000 revamp – part of the Reinvigorate York project.
From 11am-5pm, internationally-acclaimed (and frankly bonkers) street performers will entertain the crowds.
The event not only celebrates the reopening, but acts to fill the gap left by Buskival, York’s annual street entertainment festival put on hold this year by the Tour de France.
The organiser is Rob Roy Collins – an escapologist who performs around the world and lives in York.
“It’s as if the square has come full circle,” he said.
“Two years ago you guys did a piece on how we were at war with the chocolate attraction.”
(That was when York’s Chocolate Story applied to put tables and chairs in the square to extend its café outdoors – a plan fiercely opposed by the buskers who performed there.)
“Since then they’ve had the regeneration of the square. Everyone’s come together for the meetings and we all know each other better.
“Now we all get on great and the Chocolate Story have come round and realised we all need to work together.”
A lot of the businesses around the square have put in money towards the one-day festival, and are offering discounts on the day.
So what can we expect? Here’s Rob’s guide to the performers…
Rob Roy Collins
“I perform a handcuff and chains escape act on top of a 10ft ladder,” Rob explained. “It’s a show I’ve done around the world.
“I have a lot of comedy in the show, get the crowds together, lots of audience participation.”
His best and worst experiences?
“The best moment was when I did a stunt in Canada. I hung from a helicopter upside-down by my ankles in a strait-jacket. I escaped.
“Worst? I did a cling-wrap escape years ago in New Zealand. I got tied up from my ankles up to my neck, so became a total cocoon – and I fell over.
“And it’s just impossible to get up. I was rolling round.
“After about ten minutes I managed to get my chin onto my suitcase and then pull myself up. It was awful!”
Team Power Stilts
“These guys are incredible,” said Rob. “They do the bouncy stilts.
“They are like gymnasts on stilts. They go all over the world. They’ve been in Slovenia this week for a car launch, but they have never been to York before.
“They do somersaults, back flips over cars. They’re going to be testing out the new paving stones.”
The Sergeant Majors
“I love them, they’re brilliant,” said Rob of the two larger than life characters known as Major Lookup and General Goodlength.
“They’re 10ft tall sergeant majors, they’ve got these massive big moustaches, they interact with the crowds and shout out orders.
“They’re really funny, with posh British voices.”
One of the pair, Tim Cockerill is also a zoologist who worked with David Attenborough on his upcoming documentary Conquest Of The Skies.
Another York based performer Andy Sumpton is “a blindfolded knife-juggling unicyclist,” Rob explained.
“It’s ridiculous. His skills are incredible.
“He’s a sword swallower. He can balance on a ladder and do those tricks, he can juggle chainsaws.”
Bunting will decorate the square, and deckchairs will be available for the spectators.
Rob has also booked York Dance Works to entertain the crowd – the dance troupe are on at 3.40pm – and is hoping to get others on board including balloon modellers.
And if you turn up any time between 11am and 5pm you will see top class street entertainment.