Featured image taken in North Street by Lesley Burdett
There is only one man on the planet who can say his full-time occupation is being a Disco Bunny. The iconic Pablo Woodward has worked every job under the sun- he’s been a barman, teacher, meat market worker, telephone salesman, perfume salesman, injury claims consultant, tennis coach, and quiz-night host. But he spent the majority of his time this year donning neon leggings and spreading love, glitter and smiles on the streets. Since deciding to change his life and become the Disco Bunny, he’s been here, there, and everywhere – most recently to Australia – but is a well-loved face in Brighton and Hove.
We caught up with Pablo during what’s set to be his last week in Brighton for a long while before he sets off on a journey from Land’s End to John O’Groates – a prequel to his world tour. He was just as gleeful and groovy as we expected! What we didn’t expect was for him to tell us he’s feeling very frustrated, tired and restricted at the moment. But why?
“I’ve realised how many people recognise me and the impact of the disco bunny in Brighton and thought ‘oh my goodness’,” explains Pablo as he sips his coffee. Because he’s so well-known in Brighton, people here are reluctant to donate – perhaps not realising this is Pablo’s main source of income. “I want to spread the word, spread the message, and I don’t want to be in this position of struggle,” he adds, “there’s more to the world than Brighton.”
Last year, a video of Pablo shaking his groove thing with a pensioner on North Street went viral – it got whopping 70 million views. He may be well-known in London-by-the-sea, but he reckons the time has come to leave Brighton to challenge himself.
Even the most happy-go-lucky and glittery folk have times of trouble, it seems. Another shocker was discovering that Pablo doesn’t live in Brighton. “It’s a common misconception,” he explains, “but I don’t live anywhere.” Although his biggest support network is in Brighton, he lives in the Disco Bunny Bus and spends his time travelling from city to city, so we ask him what it’s like to be a nomad. He says: “What I do is essentially the same thing everywhere. I make people smile, I make people react in the same way. When they’re walking down the street, some people are miserable and they smile. Some people open up and tell me their stories, and I’ve had people burst into tears.
“The difference in Brighton is I can see there’s a higher level of general happiness! How to get a feel from a city or town is by being out there on the street and looking people in the eye – seeing if you can create a rise from them. Brighton people love Brighton!”
We ask Pablo for some of his hundreds of tales. He tells us about being hugged by a crying woman who just lost her beloved dog, about Martin the street cleaner watching him dance, and being told he’s got a suicidal girl through the winter. He also vividly remembers a passerby on his way home from work in Brighton who told Pablo he had not smiled all day. It was 6:30 pm at the time.
“I think people don’t open their eyes enough,” explains Pablo, “people are clouded, their judgement is clouded by what’s right in front of them – the daily struggle of life.
“I was in a situation where I was in a country I didn’t want to be living in, in a relationship I no longer wanted to be in, doing jobs I didn’t want to do. I did that for too many years and I became blinkered as a result of it. I think that’s what happens to a lot of people – you get so absorbed like you’re falling down a rabbit hole. You’re not taking any choice or saying ‘who am I? what am I doing in my life?’ and you can’t see the beauty around you.”
Some people are so blind they don’t notice Pablo when he’s grooving around in a shiny gold or neon pink bodysuit with music blaring out from his Disco Bunny bike. We can’t believe it and ask him more: “I’m dancing and I’m going to give it one hundred per cent and there are some people who, when I go past and say ‘good morning’, reply ‘no thank you’. They’re so trapped in their way of life that they are unable to appreciate the beauty and have joy in their life.”
How on earth does Pablo manage to maintain his infectious energy with so many people giving that kind of reaction? “Energy is reciprocal,” he tells us, “I give out the energy, but then somebody stops and they want a selfie. That’s a compliment! They’re saying ‘thank you, I like what you’re doing, I want to document this moment in my life with you’.
“Wow! That warms my heart and puts a smile on my face. I smile at them, they smile back. That is a transaction of energy, that is what keeps me going.”
We get on to the topic of success and fulfilment. Pablo measures success in five ways – physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and financial – all of which he treats with equal importance. He says a lot of people get bogged down chasing one success, usually financial gain, at the expense of leading a balanced life. But what can people do to avoid this? Pablo says: “It’s the old thing of gratitude. You’ve got to open your heart and soul to love, you’ve got to let love in! Learn to love and let yourself love and be loved. Count your blessings, because if you can open your eyes you should be going ‘hallelujah!’”
Pablo’s just bought a super-colourful rainbow windmill which he’s trying to put in his curly locks for an evening of disco bunnying. With a bit of luck and a lot of gaffa tape, we manage to stick it in place.
Pablo’s message to the world? He wants to start a movement which gets people questioning their life choices, taking control of their lifestyles, and spreading love: “My message to the world is what I’m trying to do,” he says. “I am trying to create a world – or make a positive change to the world – whereby people open their eyes and look at each other as fellow humans, appreciating that we are one. I want people to realise the beauty and similarity in each other, and to avoid judgement.”
Pablo may be leaving Brighton, but he’s got a super-exciting proposition which we will write about in the very near future. You can keep up with his joyful antics on Facebook or on the Disco Bunny website in the meantime.
If you’re craving more of Pablo’s glitter, sunshine, and infectious smile, here’s his short movie: