Journey to Freedom
Damien Pestell, meets Tim from The Bavard Bar and finds out about his journey from the courtroom to the stage and his search for freedom.
Those who have been to see The Bavard Bar will know that it is a rather marvellous and unique blend of nonsense, audience participation and stories shared by members of the public who stand up and talk about a topic of their choosing. Anything is possible, apart from politics or religion, and the lineup is a closely guarded secret, revealed to the audience at the start of the evening. It is an organic show where the acts don’t rehearse together beforehand and even Tim hasn’t seen it performed, “The whole point is that it is live, anything can happen.”
Bavard Bar has been charming local audiences at the Kino Teatr in St Leonards since its inception and has become a firm favourite, regularly selling out. I recently sat down with the founder and host Tim Crook to find out more about its creation and his journey.
Tim grew up in leafy Surrey where his dad was a big fan of comedy, “I remember going to see him in various shows, often larking and messing about, taking off characters like ‘Pete & Dud.’” His dad introduced him to various shows on the radio which he would grow to love, “I’ve always liked nonsense and grew up on a diet of Radio 4 comedy shows.
I would scour the Radio Times and tape them on the old TDK 90 tapes and then listen to them again and again.”
Tim is a naturally funny man, but as we sat down to chat I noticed he seemed more reserved away from the microphone, “it may surprise people to know that by nature I am actually an introvert.” I asked him how he found standing up and being funny in front of large crowds for a living, “Being a lawyer was actually the perfect training for being a compere.”
Since starting The Bar Tim has started to go by an alias, “I used to be called Tim Crook and I guess that is still my name, but I now go by the name of Tim B’vard”. His name change quite nicely bookending two very diverse parts of his adult life – firstly as a solicitor for 25 years and now as an MC.
Tim began his training to be a lawyer in 1992 and instantly struggled with the restriction of the job. I asked him how quickly he realised the role wasn’t for him, “On the second day of training I knew [it wasn’t for me], but you could argue it was more like minute two!” He turned 21 at about the same time as his training began and received a present from a mum of one of his friends, it was Edward Lear’s book of nonsense and inside the front cover was inscribed a personal note, “Always keep a bit of nonsense in your life!”
The note would prove to be prophetic as Tim reflected on his legal career, “I lost my fun through being too serious.”
Goodbye to law
Tim knew being a lawyer wasn’t for him, but really the issue was the lack of freedom he found from being employed, he felt he had little choice, “Being sensible in a corporate law firm didn’t really suit me, but I didn’t have any money.” He has been seeking freedom in his life and employment ever since, so rather than leave his job for another with similar restrictions, Tim pragmatically chose to make his career work for him and continuously sought areas which could give him more autonomy.
He gradually found liberation in the form of standing up and speaking, first as a trainer to graduates embarking on a legal career and then opting to spend more time in the courtroom instead of the office. It was there that he had to really master the art of speaking publicly “Being in court so often with very grumpy, surly judges does keep you on your toes. It couldn’t have been better training.”
Creating his own business was a further release: “I set up my own [law] firm in 2003 which I really started to enjoy. It was a little bit more demanding but somehow running your own business is actually more rewarding.”
In 2017 Tim set up The Bavard Bar, he began with searching for space above pubs with his daughter when he realised he didn’t even have a name or a pitch.His daughter suggested the name and he scribbled the idea down on a bit of paper. He confessed he had no business plan or idea of what the business was “I just did it!”
The Bavard has become a strong reflection of Tim’s energy, he has developed many interactive and nonsensical games such as Oojah Kapivy and KP nuts where audience members can enter his nonsense world and join in with the fun. When I was with him he introduced me to an alter-ego called Cicely Sponge who writes him nonsensical fanmail.
I ‘ve been to The Bavard many times and it feels like a community and a refreshing antidote to an often overly polished and curated world that we sometimes live in, the last time I went I actually left feeling better about myself.
It was lovely to meet Tim and hear about his journey to creating The Bavard Bar and a life with more freedom, filled with nonsense, a life that is truly his. Creating it has meant being more himself, that takes bravery and I think what he has created makes St Leonards and maybe the world a slightly better place.
• If you are a local business owner (or know one) and have a story to tell please get in touch with Damien at [email protected]
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