Buskers a hard act to swallow
You have to have a stomach of steel to become a sword swallower.
The ancient art calls for performers to pass a sword through their mouths down their throats and into their stomachs.
It requires years of training through a long and painful process of learning to control involuntary muscle movements, so it's no surprise that only a handful of trained artists across the world can practise it.
But for Irishman Murray Molloy it's become a way of life.
"It's not like I just picked up a sword one day and said I reckon I can swallow this," he says.
"It's an extremely uncomfortable thing to learn to do.
"Three and a half years of suffering and training, all to have half of the audience think the sword folds up into the handle and that it's a magic trick."
Mr Molloy will join a host of other performers taking to Auckland's streets for the International Buskers Festival this Auckland Anniversary weekend.
The 36-year-old discovered the "weird and wonderful" world of sideshow performing through a book at the age of 18.
After finishing school in rural Ireland, he taught himself the art of fire eating, constructed his first bed of nails and began performing on the streets of Dublin.
Mr Malloy's repertoire of stunts ranges from contortionism and escapology to balloon modelling and clowning.
There is something special about performing his crafts live on the street, he says.
"For me, they represent a sort of primeval awe that we seem to have lost in this age of video games and 3D movies.
"When I busk it's an extremely genuine and warm relationship with the audience.
"It's more challenging because nobody expects to see a show, it just happens, and that spontaneity and energy make it really rewarding."
Fellow International Buskers Festival performer Brazil-born Jessica Arpin says busking audiences vary immensely between countries. Ms Arpin has been performing her mix of circus, clowning and poetry on streets around the world for the last eight years.
Audiences from English-speaking countries require a faster rhythm of comedy than Latin audiences, she says.
"In some countries there is no need to talk about the hat. They know that if they enjoy the show they will put money into the hat at the end.
"On the contrary, in other countries you nearly have to hammer the spectator throughout the show with that aspect to obtain money in the hat."
The International Buskers Festival runs from January 25 to 28 from noon to 10.30pm.
Visit aucklandbuskers festival.co.nz for details.