Derbyshire's head-balancing hero wants to hit 100 world records - and there's just four more to go!
Derbyshire’s legendary strongman John Evans would love to score a century of world records during a lengthy run in which he has raised £250,000 for charity.
The showman with a big heart, who has 96 records for his incredible head-balancing feats, looked like an unstoppable force until the Covid pandemic forced him to throw in the towel.
John, who lives in Ilkeston, said: “My last public performance was in 2000 for an ITV breakfast show when I balanced a Christmas tree on my head for three minutes.
“In March 2020 I got 15 carnival shows cancelled and then there were none this year. I really enjoyed the limelight of doing shows. I’m sorry it’s come to an end because businesses don’t have much to give any more.
"In December I put a news alert on Facebook and asked the main suppliers to donate me a load of toilet rolls for me to balance for a new record and then to give to the homeless, but nobody replied to me.”
John, 74, hasn’t ruled out a return to achieving more world records. He said: “I was hoping to have made the 100 and still might if things pick up.
“I have never failed at any record that I have attempted. In all this time nobody has ever come anywhere close to what I have done. There are lots of strongmen, lots of people who balance things on their head. I am best because I do the big hard dangerous things that everyone else is scared of.”
He is most famous for balancing a Mini car on his head, a feat achieved in London in 1999 which earned him one of many Guinness World Records. John said: “I get asked all the time what is the best record. Of course the Mini is the most photographic and unbelievable.
“When I look back I’ve done some very dangerous stunts. In Helsinki on a television show I balanced a 6ft ladder with two bikes fixed at each end then a girl sat on each bike. The whole lot weighed 374lbs and I had to balance this very difficult dangerous weight for over ten seconds for a Guinness World Record...I balanced the lot for almost 20 seconds.”
John says his most dangerous and exhausting challenge was balancing a staggering 96 people on his head in just one hour. He devised the test 21 years ago in response to a request from a head injuries hospital in Lowestoft asking him to set a new record.
He said: “Once I had the person on my head I had to balance them and walk 10ft hands-free to the witnesses, then get that person off and repeat with another person. In that one hour, I managed to balance 96 people on my head and the total weight was 5180kg.”
His incredible record attempts have included balancing speed boats and big fridge-freezers on his head in Japan.
"The one that frightened me most was quite easy, balancing an oil drum in China with a girl inside it,” said John. He also balanced a juggling entertainer on his head for a minute in China. “My head and neck were going around like a washing machine,” he said. “It’s very dangerous when balancing a person as they tend to think they can move around and reseat themselves.”
John realised that he had a knack for balancing things on his head when he was an 18-year-old worker on a building site. He said: “I was carrying bricks up ladders to build houses, I developed stacking bricks on a board and putting them on my head. Very quickly I could run up ladders balancing 20 bricks on my head.
“I started doing charity events for free just to make a name for myself. In 1992 I got my first Guinness World Record, balancing 84 milk crates on my head on the Big Breakfast Show.”
Many TV appearances followed but the one John is most proud of is The Tonight Show, presented by Jay Leno, in Hollywood in 2009. He said: “On the 40th anniversary of that show out of all the fantastic acts there are in this world they chose me as special guest and I even got my name in the credits. I balanced on my head the original host of the show, Steve Allen who was 70 years old on that day, and also the world famous Mini Cooper.”
John’s performances around the globe have included five shows in Hollywood and head-balancing feats in Taiwan, Singapore, New York, Sweden, Portugal, Madrid and Italy.
Amazingly, John has never had an injury while doing his stunts and believes that the head-balancing acts have kept him fit. He said: “In 2011 I was on a TV show called Stan Lee Superhumans – he is the man who invented Spiderman Marvel films. This show had me balancing the Mini and other things and the next day I was taken to Derby University where I was examined by a professor and put through machines which found out that I had the bone density of a 20-year-old athlete.”
John credits head-balancing for his good posture. He said: “I still practise a bit, because I started to gain a stoop; doing this head-balancing has done me well in keeping tall and straight.”
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