Lovely Bones

Mermaid Cove Put on Events with Real Life Mermaids

9 September 19 interview: Eve Smallman

Being a mermaid is something we’ve all dreamt about, but dreams are usually where it ends. However, the folks at Mermaid Cove are bringing this fantasy to life, with the magical underwater performances that they tour across festivals in the UK. We spoke to mermaid performer Elle Woods and marketing man Kai Coombes about how they came up with the idea, what a typical show entails, and how they train to swim in those hefty flippers...

How did the concept of Mermaid Cove come about?
Danielle: I’d recently become a mermaid for hire at corporate events. When we met, we were just having a car ride and we decided to join together and do festivals.
Kai: My background is in staff, businesses and development. When the idea first struck us, we knew there were a couple of businesses in American doing similar things, but we saw it as something different that no one else was doing here. So we thought we’d have a bit of fun with it. We advertised it last year and it just exploded. As well as the mermaid performances, we also run TankSpace, an underwater photography studio that offers shoots to a massive variety of clients, from mermaid enthusiasts to up-and-coming models, bridal shoots, and even music videos, which local musicians Bone Cult used for one of their shoots.

What does a mermaid cove show usually have in it?
Danielle: It all depends on what the event is, and what the venue is capable of. Everything revolves around the mermaid tank itself because we have people in it at all times, whether that be mermaids or other activities, and we also have outside performers, like acrobats. The show itself revolves around an overarching narrative – every event we go to has a story to it.

What sort of characters do you have in the show?
Kai: We have a huge variety! There's three different shows; a circus, a pirate show and an Atlantis/Greek show. Our audience can follow the same cast of mermaid characters on different adventures. We found a couple of actors who looked identical, so we have two mermen who are brothers, and their stories are based around Norse/Viking folklore. We have a real variety of different mermaids, because we want to represent different types of personalities so that everyone can relate. People like to pick and choose who their favourite mermaids and mermen are.

How do you learn to swim in a mermaid tail?
Danielle: It's actually what you'd imagine if you were swimming in the sea or a pool. But it's a different story entirely when you're in a tank and you have to go with the waves and power of the current.  When the tail is on there's much more to it than you realise, so you have put a lot more effort in to use it, as it’s very much an extension of your own body. It involves a lot of composure.
Kai: There is a community of people that do the whole mermaid thing by putting the tail on and dressing up like mermaids/merman, but there are not many people who know how to actually perform in the tails. We've had to reach out into the people within the mermaid community who are interested in performance work and then teach them how to perform both within the costumes and the tank. 

The reactions from younger audience members is just spectacular because they think it’s real. They believe in mermaids

What sort of reaction do you get from the audience?
Kai: It's absolutely incredible. My favourite reactions are from the adults. I think they enjoy it more than the kids! A lot of people ask how we manage to stay underwater for that long, and assume that we must have oxygen masks, but our performers can actually hold their breath for five minutes. The reactions from younger audience members is just spectacular because they think it’s real. They believe in mermaids. It’s funny that a lot of people can’t quite grasp just how many audience members we get along to shows. When we were at Brixton, we have people queueing for two hours just to have a photo taken with us. It was absolutely mad! 

In folklore, mermaids are said to have immortal souls. Do you think you’ll be performing as Mermaid Cove forever?
Kai: We hope so. We may end up working as Mermaid Cove for as long as we can, as mermaids are never truly going to go out of fashion. Just take modern clothing, Halloween, and the live-action Little Mermaid that's coming out. It's a creature that people, no matter the culture or place, are always fascinated by, and generations to come will no doubt be the same. We want to expand and grow the Mermaid Cove universe that we base all of the shows and characters within. We may find that mermaids won't be the core focus of it forever, but they will always be a part of it.

Have you got any plans for the future?
Kai: Our focus is on building more tanks, not just in the UK, but in Europe and America as well. We want to have our own stand-alone touring performances that isn’t reliant on festivals, where we can create an entire circus tour with a really immersive and interactive show that is as much fun to adults as it is children. We also want to develop a website similar to the Harry Potter website, so people can find out more about the different storyline and characters, where you can interact with us and learn more about the show.

Mermaid Cove website

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