Belfast Telegraph

Meet the daring Northern Ireland circus performer whose act went viral when he accidentally set his beard on fire

The Limavady man, who brings his Logy on Fire show to this weekend's Festival of Fools in Belfast, talks to Stephanie Bell about his performances

Steven Logan
Steven Logan
Street performer Steven Logan at his home in Limavady
Street performer Steven Logan showing off his skills while juggling knives
Steven Logan adding saws to his act
Steven Logan performing in Belfast

By Stephanie Bell

Captivating crowds with his fire breathing and juggling act, Steven Logan brings fun to city streets all over the world.

This weekend it is Belfast's turn to be mesmerised as the 31-year-old Limavady man stages his show, Logy on Fire, at the annual Festival of Fools.

Steven has devoted the last 10 years to honing his unique tricks to perfect an act which is now in demand at festivals across the globe.

To date he has performed in over 15 countries as far away as New Zealand, Australia and Singapore.

Not bad for a former tattooist who went out of business during the credit crunch in 2009 and only turned to juggling to combat boredom.

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Street performer Steven Logan showing off his skills while juggling knives

With distinctive whiskers long enough to touch his chest Steven, who is also a teacher with Belfast Community Circus School, is affectionately known as the "Biggest Beard in the Business".

His act is certainly not for the faint-hearted - as well as his signature "Vaudeville-style gentleman juggling" tricks he also juggles with razor-sharp knives and fire.

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Steven lives to entertain and ahead of this weekend's festival he also reveals how even the shock of a cancer diagnosis last year didn't keep him from performing.

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Steven Logan performing with fire

He underwent surgery in London in November for testicular cancer and then went on to perform twice a day, every day, between December 28 and March 7, mostly in New Zealand and Australia.

Speaking about his diagnosis for the first time, he reveals how he was taking part in a festival in Copenhagen when he was told that he could have testicular cancer.

Further tests in London confirmed the diagnosis and after surgery he was fortunate not to need further treatment. He now has check-ups every three months to ensure the cancer hasn't returned and says keeping positive is the only way to deal with it.

"Because of having to go for the check-ups I am very aware it could return, but the way I look at it I could also get knocked down crossing the street, so there is no point in dwelling on it," he says somewhat philosophically.

"Things happen and you have to keep going and smiling and keep happy.

"When I was first told I had cancer, I was out of the country and away from family and friends and I found dealing with it very difficult.

"You don't exactly feel like you want to go out and brighten people up when you get terrible news like that.

"All you want to do is to lie around and watch Netflix.

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Steven Logan when he accidentally set his beard on fire

"But after a couple of days I realised there was no point in sitting around feeling sorry for myself.

"I do feel very lucky because they were able to remove it all. It could have been a lot worse."

Evidently, it is this positive attitude which also helped him deal with another terrifying incident that happened just a year earlier when his beard was set alight during a fire breathing performance in Belfast.

Shocking video footage which made it appear as if Steven had been turned into a fireball went viral online and it put him in the full glare of the media spotlight.

Reflecting on the drama, he insists the incident was very minor.

"My show is called 'Logy on Fire' and doing fire breathing and having such a long beard did prove hazardous that year. It was only a little bit of the side of my beard that caught fire and I have suffered worse sunburn, but it looked on the video like my whole head was engulfed.

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Steven Logan adding saws to his act

"The story just got out of hand and then it just kept getting bigger.

"After it, I got messages from random people I had never heard of saying they hoped I was okay and then I got random horrible messages as well.

"It made me realise the internet is not a nice place."

While that has been his only accident in 10 years, Steven is no stranger to dangerous situations, juggling razor-sharp objects in his shows which are billed as "raw" and "rockin'."

He's passionate about his work and enjoys teaching his craft at Belfast Circus School and Streetwise Community Circus, passing on his skills and knowledge to future generations of performers.

However, it is a long way from his roots as he explains: "I originally worked as a tattooist and was also a frontman for a heavy metal band. When I was 14 a bunch of us were sitting in a playground when we decided to set up a band and we went that day and bought instruments.

"We were all self-taught which is why we were really bad at the start. We were called Dying Breed and it did go quite well for a while and we played in Londonderry and Belfast once or twice.

"We split when I was in my late teens and went our separate ways."

After a foundation degree in art he decided to do an apprenticeship in tattooing and worked as a tattooist until 2009. As most of his clients were in the building trade the property market crash hit his business hard.

"The work dried up and I decided to move to Belfast to find work but the studios there were also feeling the pinch. I joined the juggling club at Queen's University out of boredom but the first night I went along I had got the times wrong and when I turned up it had just finished and everyone was leaving.

"The tutor, Neill Hall, invited me to the pub with the rest of the members and I spent five hours with them on that first night and discovered how much I really enjoyed the circus community.

"Everyone looked out for each other and they were very pleased to welcome me and talk to me and that is one of the things that pushed me towards it as a career.

"Once I started to learn basic things, I found I had a knack for helping other people and I went from learning to teaching. Streetwise asked me to join them and we work with numerous groups, including kids at risk and kids with special needs."

Once he started juggling, Steven was hooked and has continued to add to his skills by learning escapology, how to lie on a bed of nails, escaping a straitjacket and walking on broken glass.

While danger is an essential element, safety first has ensured he has only suffered minor injuries.

"Some of the skills are more dangerous than others and of course it makes it exciting... the idea that something could go wrong.

"I juggle three razor-sharp knives and I have been teaching myself to juggle two chainsaws on fire. I am always trying to find the next step up."

Just some of the props used by Steven which give an insight into the level of danger include a circular saw blade bolted to a brush shaft, a Viking bearded axe, two beaver traps attached back to back and fire torches, which are twice the size of normal ones.

For his audiences, his performance offers many jaw dropping, hold-your-breath moments.

At the heart of his hazardous display of skills is a steely determination.

He adds: "You have got to keep going and keep pushing. "If you fall down you need to get up again. I love learning. I learn one new fact a day. I also like to tell a lot of historical facts about the circus when I am doing my act in a way that people don't feel they are being given a lesson.

"No matter what is happening there is always time to learn something you never knew. I also ride motorbikes and love playing music in my spare time, and I do miss playing in the band."

Steven is due to perform on Saturday at Cotton Court at 3pm and in Castle Place at 5pm when audiences can expect to witness an extravaganza of his talents.

"I'll be performing my world-travelled street show Logy on Fire. I have performed in the three biggest arts festivals in the world and the two biggest outdoor music festivals in the world with this show.

"I try and take all the older gentleman juggling skills that I love and try to perform them in a way that people will enjoy.

"I juggle an array of custom dangerous objects that you wouldn't see anyone else juggle."

He adds: "It is combination of classic skills, comedy, rock and roll and a healthy dose of danger."

The Festival of Fools takes place from Friday, May 3 to Monday, May 6. Visit www.foolsfestival.com

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