STRATFORD’S own knight in shining armour is preparing for stiff competition when the town hosts the UK’s first ever living statue championships this spring.
Zdenek Goc – better known as the Statue Knight – has been part of Stratford’s street scene for the past eight years.
The 55-year-old – who originally hails from the Czech Republic – was a builder before he decided on a more sedentary career after encouragement from a friend and fellow statue.
He can usually be found on Henley Street outside the birthplace posing as the gallant knight atop his podium, bowing and saluting passers-by.
And the dedicated knight revealed there was more to his job than many might think – from swotting up on history and creating his own costumes, to keeping a straight face when prodded by curious children.
“Some people think that being a living statue is not an art, we just stand still and do nothing.
“But being a good living statue is not just about being motionless. One must be constantly focused and react immediately to the situation and be ready to capture the right moment to attract the attention of people around and drag them into the game.
“You have to be in a good mood all the time, because when you board the plinth in a bad mood, you carry it to people. And of course people will feel it and stay away from you.”
Zdenek, who works around the midlands, can spend over six hours on his plinth – which can takes its toll on his back and feet – with an hour either side to pack his equipment and get into costume, which was handmade by his wife and fellow living statue Eve.
He works year round but not when it rains, although the weather is often the least of his problems.
Occasionally during his career he has been faced with hecklers, and even physical abuse, but a more common gripe was people taking pictures without dropping anything in his pot.
As a registered taxpaying business, Zdenek explained there were a lot of outgoings and seasons could vary.
But while he admitted it was hard for a statue to earn a solid living, and was reluctant to say exactly how much he earned, he still loved his job, and the joy it brought people.
Watching as children try to figure out whether he is really a statue still amuses him.
“Small children tend to be amazing and their naive sincerity is wonderful.
“Sometimes it’s hard not to laugh when people start arguing whether you are a living person or a statue and even touching you to find out. The greatest reward for a living statue is when someone decides ‘it must be a statue because no one can stay that still’.”
Both Zdenek and his wife have a passion for history and read scores of history books to perfect their elaborate costumes.
But ‘Richard The Lionheart’ remains his favourite alter ego, despite exposure to the elements meaning expensive armour replacements.
The National Living Statue Championship will take place around Stratford between April 20 and 22 during this year’s Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations.
Visit lsdpromotions.com/national-living-statues-championship for details on the championships, and www.statueknight.co.uk for more information about Zdenek.