Tightrope walker prepares for Yarmouth extravaganza

Stephen PullingerAs Didier Pasquette busily prepared for Saturday's spectacular tightrope walk that will launch Yarmouth's Out There festival, he took comfort from a weather forecast for much calmer, brighter conditions.Stephen Pullinger

With a shrug and facial expression that could so perfectly be summed up as Gallic, Didier Pasquette raises one finger to the wind and points to a furiously flapping seafront flag.

But as he busily prepared for tomorrow's spectacular tightrope walk that will launch Yarmouth's second Out There festival, he took comfort from a weather forecast for much calmer, brighter conditions.

Late-season holidaymakers looked on inquisitively yesterday as the Frenchman's team put up a 25ft tower on the Esplanade and waited for a lift to arrive that would allow them to string a tightrope across Marine Parade to the top of the 50ft Windmill Theatre.

Mr Pasquette, wary of the legendary east coast wind which defeated his attempts to walk across the Market Place at last year's festival, confessed that the 100m distance was on the long side.

"Anything more than 50m is a long walk, but we only do things that are possible. I am not a stuntman and have never had an accident," he said.

"It is like other skills such as juggling. The key is practice, practice and more practice. When you start learning you begin with the rope 1m off the ground."

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The 20-year veteran of the tightrope, a teacher at the French national circus school in Chalons, is recognised as one of the world's leading performers and, since visiting Yarmouth in July to check out possible walks, has appeared at such far-flung places as New York, Algeria, Holland, Italy and Spain.

A large crowd is expected to gather on the seafront to watch the walk which is scheduled to begin - wind permitting - at 10.45am.

Peter Jay, owner of the grade-two listed Windmill, hailed the colourful new chapter in the history of the former theatre.

"The first stars to come to Yarmouth, like Tommy Trinder, were brought to the Windmill by my father. All the big names performing there would certainly have been surprised to see someone walking towards the roof of the theatre on a high wire."

Out There, described as the east of England's biggest free festival of street arts and street circus, will continue with a colourful "musical masquerade" - three carnival-style masked parades all arriving in St George's Park at 11.20am.

The park will be the centre of festival action, with zany street acts and shows going on throughout tomorrow and Sunday.

From 5pm to 7.45pm, a spectacular show on the seafront will include music, fireworks and a second performance by Mr Pasquette and his company, premiering a show based around a pirate ship-shaped circus rig.

Throughout the festival, visitors will be able to enjoy more than 90 outdoor events, ranging from giant robots and marauding prehistoric monsters to jugglers, dancers and musicians.

Joe Mackintosh, chief executive of SeaChange Arts, which is organising the festival with the help of EU funding, predicted the kind weather forecast could draw as many as 50,000 visitors from all parts of the region.

He said: "The reaction we are getting from people is excitement at how big this is going to be - but then they are looking for the catch. The message we want to put out is, 'yes, it really is free'.

"Even some of the performers have cottoned on to the fact this is not a small seaside town occasion."

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