Jack Brockbank who travels the world adjudicating novel attempts for the Guinness World Records
Jack Brockbank has no dull days at work. His ‘office' is crammed with peculiar people: a woman with around 7,000 piercings, a man who has pulled a double-decker by his teeth and a daredevil motorist who has driven a car at 205 mph on an ice track. Brockbank is an adjudicator of the Guinness World Records and his job throws up such heart-stopping surprises every day.
It's also a job with enviable perks. On an average, Brockbank — who lives in London — travels two or three days in a week. The week before he landed in Chennai to adjudicate a novel music feat, Brockbank was in Romania to witness an attempt at making the largest chocolate coin, at a shopping mall. He does not know where he will go next. “You can be asked to go somewhere at short notice. You have to be on your feet, but, believe me, it is fun,” says the 31-year-old Englishman.
Being a Guinness representative has given Brockbank rare privileges, which include rubbing shoulders with royalty. It also allows him to feel the pulse of a nation by connecting with its common people. “Sipping espresso at a café in Lebanon and talking to the Lebanese army general, I am forced to ask myself, ‘What am I doing here?'” explains Brockbank. “On the other extreme, I get to meet the foot soldiers of the world who take a shot at the impossible. For example, I was thrilled to meet the ordinary folks of Mumbai who came together to create an umbrella mosaic (1,056 people held umbrellas to create the logo of a sunscreen company). Bollywood stars — who these commoners adore — stood in awe of the effort.”
In his line of duty, he always meets people whose Guinness ambitions rule everything else in their lives. He can never forget the lady with close to 7,000 piercings he met on a television show. “She looks a bit scary, as you can imagine. But she is an extremely sweet person,” reveals Brockbank and he admits to being at a loss for words to describe her achievement.
While the world may call these quirky super-achievers eccentrics, Brockbank has only developed an admiration for them. Fanatically driven by their unique goals, they teach the value of single-mindedness and of the courage to go where no feet has trodden before. Another unforgettable record-holder is strongman Manjit Singh, who has pulled double-decker buses — empty and with passengers — in a variety of ways. He has employed his teeth and then his hair in this feat of strength. He has also created records for lifting and hauling huge objects with his ears. “During an effort to pull a huge bus by one of his unconventional methods, his shouts of exertion were extremely loud. They conveyed his spirit of determination,” says Brockbank, who admits that officiating at such events is a heart-rending affair if the attempt falls short of the record.
He was particularly pained to witness a failed attempt at the most number of push-ups. “The weight-lifter, who went for this record, had the support of the local community. They had assembled in huge numbers. When muscle fatigue got the better of him and he narrowly missed the mark, they let out a big howl of disappointment,” recalls Brockbank. “In such situations, an adjudicator has to be a picture of consolation. He has to encourage the challenger to give the feat another shot at a later date.”
In the five years he has served Guinness as adjudicator, Brockbank has met many who have persisted with attempts to topple existing records. They convey the optimistic message that the best is yet to come. Having worked in various departments across the Guinness establishment before being rewarded with his present portfolio for his dedicated service, Brockbank can relate to this message. “Before becoming an adjudicator, I served in office-bound positions for the organisation.”
One may expect that having a ringside view of great human feats must have led Brockbank to break a few records. “Those serving Guinness are forbidden from attempting to create records,” explains Brockbank.
However, to spice up weekend parties, he and his Guinness colleagues ape record-making activities on a smaller scale — such as eating the most pungent garlic dish. Says Brockbank: “We are never short of a great party idea.”
Key to success Jack Brockbank of Guinness World Records was in Chennai on Sunday to adjudicate an event where music teacher M.S. Martin and his 109 students played a carnatic composition on their keyboards. At the Music Academy, this ‘crowd' of performers played “Ragamrutham”, a
five-range ‘Carnatic symphony' that was created on the keyboard. The 15-minute composition was aimed at breaking the existing record for the largest keyboard ensemble - 107 participants playing Billy
Joel's “Piano Man” at the opening of “The Shoppers” at Cross Keys, Florissant, Missouri in the United States.