Busker brings hijinks to the Square

BUSKING RETURNS: John Higby, aka Yo Yo Guy, performs for red-zone workers in Cathedral Square.
BUSKING RETURNS: John Higby, aka Yo Yo Guy, performs for red-zone workers in Cathedral Square.

A busker has returned to Cathedral Square for the first time in nearly two years, to put on a special show for Christchurch red-zone workers.

Boston performer John Higby, otherwise known as Yo Yo Guy, performed tricks and rode a tiny unicycle in the heart of the red zone yesterday, with the ruins of Christ Church Cathedral as his backdrop.

It is a place where, before the earthquakes, performers attracted big crowds as part of the World Buskers Festival.

Higby performed his routine while wearing the high-visibility vest, hard hat and sturdy shoes required for all red-zone workers.

Construction workers' reactions to his energetic and skilful performance was mixed.

About a dozen workers drifted across to watch as they ate their lunchtime burgers from a nearby food van.

One man walked past with a burger in one hand and a drink can in the other. He took a bite of his burger, glanced at Higby performing his wonderful feats of skill, and looked away without even breaking his stride.

Perhaps working in the red zone makes you immune to extraordinary sights.

But the workers who took in the spectacle had a good time.

Scott Galloway said he was glad to see a busker return to Cathedral Square.

"It is pretty cool. I am rapt they let him in.

"It breaks our day up. It's dark and dusty here, but this is a bit of humour," he said.

By the time Higby reached his finale, about 20 rebuild workers had gathered to enjoy his show.

He pedalled around the Square on a unicycle with a propeller on his helmet while flicking two yoyos into the air.

He was like a cheery ghost of Christchurch past.

Higby, who has performed at United States military bases in Turkey and for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina, was proud to bring laughter back to Cathedral Square.

"I am pretty honoured to be able to perform in there. This is my favourite festival in the world and I've performed in 26 countries," he said.

He has performed at the festival about four times before and remembers drawing crowds in the Square. "The difference is pretty dramatic [in Cathedral Square]. If I had never been here before I wouldn't have an emotional connection, but having entertained people in the Square before, I remember when it was full of life," he said.

The performance was co-ordinated by The Press with help from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and festival organisers.

The Press