We are used to receiving curve balls and undertaking unusual instructions, but this one was different from all the rest.
Every year I attend Glastonbury Festival as a crew member in the Theatre and Circus area: the Sensation Seekers’ Stage to be precise. About a week before the festival a message was posted on the Theatre and Circus Facebook group to find out if there was a Chartered Surveyor on the crew.
Jay Rawlings, who recently got a world record on Britain’s Got Talent for balancing the greatest number of chairs on his chin, was making another world record attempt. This time it was balancing a lawnmower on his chin. He was hoping to beat two world records simultaneously. Firstly for the greatest distance travelled whilst balancing a lawnmower and secondly for duration.
As the Guinness Book of Records would charge £7,500 to send out an adjudicator, asking a crew member to measure the course and other members of the crew to witness, time and film was infinitely cheaper!
The record attempt took place in the Circus Field on 27th June 2019. The attempt was managed by Jules Howarth (Stage Manager of the Mavericks Tent) and Elfin Porter (Sensation Seekers’ Stage). They had assembled time keepers, a video team, a photographer, various witnesses and myself (to measure the track).
The circuit was staked out around the circus trapezes and a small stage. This was easier said than done because the field was rammed with festival goers enjoying watching performers or just lazing in the sun. I sprayed a start line on the grass and a team of crew formed a moving cordon to keep the track clear. We were ready for the attempt.
The compère announced the record attempt to the crowd and then I was filmed all the way around the course using a measuring wheel. With thousands of onlookers, I measured the course at 139.55m.
With this done, the attempt could begin and the lawnmower was weighed at 7.5kg (it has to be at least 7kg under the rules). Jay Rawlings is a slight young man and I wondered if could carry the lawnmower more than 249m to beat the previous record. Heather Hull and Lucy Springthorpe (both from Sensation Seeker’s Stage acted as time keepers and witnesses).
With the lawnmower on his chin, the compère counted down three, two, one and Jay was off. A slow start with a few wobbles at first. The stiff breeze and bright sun made it more difficult, as did the tussocky grass. Elfin had to walk backwards in front of Jay to guide him as he was looking skywards. “Left a bit. Right a bit. Left. Left!”
The crowd were yelling encouragement. Occasionally Jay wobbled close to the crowd. Once onto the back straight, Jay picked up speed and the first lap was completed. The second lap seemed to go faster, but on the back straight there was a massive gust of wind that blew my hat off. The lawnmower seemed to twist on Jay’s chin, but somehow he kept it aloft. The crowd were getting really excited. I was able to yell out “250 metres”, which meant he’d beaten one record. Moments later, he crossed the line a second time.
Only fully completed laps count, so Jay halted 7 metres over the line and tapped his left wrist to indicate he was going to concentrate on the duration record. The previous record was 6 minutes 28 seconds and he had already surpassed it by quite a margin. At 13 minutes 7 seconds he pulled the lawnmower off his chin and the crowd went mental. The official distance he had covered was 279.1 metres.
My report, witness statements, photographic and video evidence now need to be submitted to Guinness World Records for scrutiny. They are notoriously precise, so we will await with baited breath to see if the records are confirmed.
The attempt attracted some press interest from the Daily Star.
Worthy FM (the Festival’s own radio station) have produced a great piece which can be heard here.