The first uber client Borkowski PR ever had was Archaos, the punk circus which scandalized the UK between 1988 and 1991 with dangerous chainsaw-juggling, a raunchy Gallic attitude and explosive, two-fingers-in-the-face-of Health & Safety performances. The UK circus scene was shaken to its very core and would never be the same again. And I’m proud to have been the impropergandist that crafted their media profile, and equally proud to be celebrating them with an exhibition this September.
The groundbreaking campaign for Archaos we conducted for Archaos was the foundation for the Borkowski ethos. One of the immutable things about the company is our attachment to a good yarn, a great tale, a strange story, a bit of salacious gossip, a secret confidence, an odd anecdote or an outlandish rumour. We work with the stuff of conversation – the sort that fuels all social interactions. Barnum knew it, and he knew how to get conversations going to his commercial advantage.
We started out as theatre publicists who sought to follow in Barnum’s footsteps: getting bums on seats by getting people talking about stuff we got in the press. There wasn’t any money to mount costly media occasions or events, so we used guile and whatever creative means we could think of. We were relentless and ruthless in our pursuit of column inches. We ducked and weaved, thought fast and improvised.
We used stunts, hype, scams, and bizarre photo opportunities on the streets and we researched, promoted and invented every possible story angle in the search for ones that would secure coverage in every possible kind of media outlet. We didn’t restrict ourselves to targeting the obvious publications and programmes. We saw our job as spreading the word, wherever and whenever we could. We didn’t doubt that PR was a serious business but, at the same time, it had to be serious fun if it was to work.
The stunts were gripping, and they were absolutely expressive of the celebratory, life-affirming, invigorating and exciting spirit of the shows. People heard about what was happening on the streets, because we made sure – through gossip, whispered hints, press releases, questions in the house and whatever else it might take – that the media were on hand to witness it all. What was witnessed was published (how could they resist?) and anyone who had the slightest admiration for the edgy and the anarchic wanted to see these freaks in the flesh, and so they rolled up and Archaos played to packed houses wherever the production went.
And that is the cavalier, buccaneering spirit upon which Borkowski was founded. It may have moderated over the years, as we shifted into consumer PR, but it’s a spirit that still sits right at the heart of the agency. I find it hard to believe that 20 years have passed since the spectacular end of Archaos, but nonetheless, a group of us have combined forces to celebrate their legend with an exhibition celebrating their brief and wondrous life, which will be taking place at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf as part of the Thames Festival programme from Thursday 9th and Sunday 12th September.
As part of the exhibition, I will be revealing – for the first time in over 20 years – some of the deepest, darkest secrets behind the “mad, bad and dangerous to know” Archaos images as well as the dark arts I employed to help make them one of the most infamous circus troupes of all time. Understand what we did with Archaos and why, and you will understand much about the nature of Borkowski PR.
My talk takes place at 4 p.m. on Saturday, 11th September. The exhibtion is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the 9th and 10th and 11 a.m. to 8.30 p.m. at the weekend. Entry is free. Hope to see you there!
Here’s a link to an article in the Independent on the exhibition.