‘He is now with the orchestra in his mind’: West Norfolk remembers Juggling Jim

Juggling Jim, as seen in a documentary made about him last year. Photo: Brodie Rake, YouTube.
Juggling Jim, as seen in a documentary made about him last year. Photo: Brodie Rake, YouTube.

Since it was announced earlier in the week that Lynn ‘icon’ Juggling Jim had passed away, the life of the busker has been celebrated by many.

A temporary shrine has been created in High Street, where Juggling Jim, whose real name is Anthony Bowen, used to perform, and thousands of people have taken to social media to remember the local celebrity.

Sally Beadle, aka Crazy Bananas, with the shrine in Juggling Jim's spot in High Street. Ms Beadle brought some of the juggling items to the spot to "recreate his space".

Sally Beadle, aka Crazy Bananas, with the shrine in Juggling Jim's spot in High Street. Ms Beadle brought some of the juggling items to the spot to "recreate his space".

A post on Russen & Turner Estate Agents’ Facebook page said: “An icon in Lynn, rest your musical soul Anthony. Least he is now with the orchestra in his mind, and hopefully has peace in his heart.”

Similarly, a status on the Majestic Cinema’s page said: “Anthony came into the cinema on many occasions and was always friendly and polite. Always had a smile on his face whenever he walked through the door. RIP Anthony.”

The morning after the news was broken, hundreds of people stopped in the town centre to remember the man with the broken guitar.

Fellow entertainer Sally Beadle, also known as Crazy Bananas, left juggling clubs, a feather duster and hoops in the doorway in between Clarks and River Island, where Mr Bowen would stand and perform.

Tributes paid to Juggling Jim.

Tributes paid to Juggling Jim.

Ms Beadle, of Pott Row, said: “I spoke to him most days I was in town and enjoyed our chats. I considered him a friend. I saw him last week and the last thing I said to him was to take care of himself.

“He was always so kind, he would give me tips on entertaining, such as ‘you’ve always got to keep the audience guessing’ and ‘you always need something new and fresh’.

“I feel so sad that he has gone, but I’ve tried to recreate his space here. I feel like I’ve lost a family member.”

Ian Ashford, owner of Castle Costumes in Norfolk Street, left a Christmas hat at a shrine to the entertainer.

Tony Bowen, aka as Juggling Jim

Tony Bowen, aka as Juggling Jim

Mr Ashford said: “He used to come round the shop and buy hats and juggling balls. He was a regular customer, and a man of few words.

“We will miss him. He’s part and parcel of Lynn. I liked that he used to work in the rain, in the snow, wind and sun. He had got good working ethics.”

Barry Whisler, of Watlington, used to bring him hot soup every Tuesday morning.

Mr Whisler said: “We would always have a chat, I’ve been bringing him soup for a couple of years now, but I never knew his real name.”

Darren Finch, of CDF Fruit and Veg stand in High Street, said: “He used to come to the stall once a month and spend £3.70. He always made my day when he was up there playing his guitar – a lovely bloke. He will be deeply missed.

“Although one time he poked a woman in the eye with his brolly, and he got banned from Lynn for five years.

“That’s when he went to Hunstanton – he abided by the rules very well.”

Local beer warehouse Beers of Europe announced its own tribute to the “local legend” on Wednesday.

In collaboration with The Norfolk Brewhouse, Beers of Europe is to sell limited edition bottles of golden ale, with 100 per cent of the profits going to a charity yet to be confirmed. Versions of Moon Gazer Ruby, Gold and Amber will have special commemorative labels on to celebrate Mr Bowen’s life.

Many have also called for a permanent memorial to be installed.

Mr Bowen was a regular feature in Lynn town centre and local residents thought it would be only right for a plaque, bench or statue to be created in his memory.

Councillor Sandra Collop said: “I just think he was an amazing guy. It’s such a shame. I think it would be fitting to have a plaque.”

Staff at the Clarks shop on High Street, next to where the entertainer would perform, said: “He kept us entertained – we felt quite protective of him. He was our little juggler. There should be a plaque for him.”

Richard Chappell, of Snettisham, said: “There’s a petition for something to be done for him, he needs a plaque. He was a big part of Lynn – it’s not going to be the same without him.”

A Lynn-based firm has now offered its services free of charge to help with the funeral.

AJ Coggles Family Funeral Directors offered its support on a JustGiving webpage: “We would like offer our services, the only costs involved would be the church fees and the grave digger. We feel he should have a dignified funeral.”

In his final years, Lynn entertainer Anthony Bowen, better known as Juggling Jim, was described as a man of few words, but this did not stop people from trying to find out more about this mysterious character.

The mystery became so much that, last year, when College of West Anglia student Brodie Rake filmed a documentary The Enigma of Juggling Jim, it received tens of thousands of views.

From the Lynn News archives, we know that Mr Bowen was in his early 60s when he passed away, and that he lived in Magdalen in the 80s when he worked as a painter and decorator.

A true lover of the arts, in 1989, Mr Bowen received an Equity card after passing with distinction his Senior Acting Examinations for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

A member of the King’s Lynn Players at one time, he used to run discos as Tony ‘Hats’ Bowen – changing hats between records.

He also appeared in the paper as an Andrew Lloyd Webber lookalike.

Mr Bowen’s father Len also died very recently and there are suggestions that the two might be buried together.

Mr Bowen senior’s funeral is to be held on Monday at St Nicholas Church, Gayton.