Ziggy was a dancing street sweeper who could teach Michael Jackson a few moves. He swivelled, span, slid and twirled his litter stick as he collected rubbish in Chiswick; stopping passers-by in their tracks. Thousands of people watched his YouTube clips of the self-styled ‘Ziggy Dust’ and residents raved about him on online forums, wondering who he was and what he listened to on his iPod.
Ziggy, a 47 year old Pole from Torun, came to Britain in about 2005. Back in Poland he worked as a watchmaker and a DJ and also played in a rock band. At one point he even performed as a juggler in a circus. When interviewed by the Daily Mail, he said: “I dance while I am working as it makes it more fun. I love music and dancing. I am used to performing and I get a great reaction from people in Chiswick. Mothers stop with their children and dance with me and one old lady phoned the council to say she wanted to take me for a cup of tea on my break. It is not the most interesting of jobs but I am very happy doing it as I make other people happy and have made lots of friends.”
Ziggy said he had more than 1,500 songs on his iPod, adding: “I love any jazzy stuff, Brazilian music, funky house and James Brown. Amy Winehouse is great and I can play Duffy’s song Mercy about 50 times a day.”
Ziggy insisted he was not trying to imitate Michael Jackson. He said: “I have always had my own free-style steps. I just improvise, watching my shadow on the pavement and my reflection in shop windows. It is very tiring because I dance up to seven hours a day, six days a week but it is good exercise.”
Hounslow council’s senior street cleansing supervisor, Marcus Harrison, said: “Ziggy is a wonderful entertainer, who brightens up people’s day as well as doing his job blindingly well. It is a pleasure to have him working for us.”
However, this happy little story turned sour in around 2009 when Ziggy was bullied because of his fame and even received death threats. In a post on a local internet forum, he bid farewell to the residents whose hearts he had captured in dramatic style. “I’m outside of England because someone wanted to kill me before New Year,” he wrote. “I feel very sad. Not everyone was happy, someone hates me very much, me and my dancing job. I miss Chiswick. I left England without choice. All the best, Zig.”
His message sparked a flurry of sympathetic replies including one from Sam Harrison, owner of Sam’s Brasserie, who said Ziggy, who used to DJ at the Barley Mow Passage venue, had popped into see him to collect his equipment. “I don’t know the full story and perhaps there was some exaggeration. He said he had been forced up against a wall and threatened by people who said they didn’t like what he was doing in Chiswick and he shouldn’t be in this country. He felt no-one could help him. He was very scared and said he didn’t feel safe. He also said he’d been threatened several times, that notes were left on his dust cart and near his home with threats to kill him, and that the police said they couldn’t do anything.”
He added that Ziggy would certainly be missed by locals!
Ziggy’s supervisor Marcus, said he was not aware of any actual threats and that nothing had been reported to him. “He did get a bit paranoid about a few things and comments from people in passing,” he said. “I don’t think there were any physical altercations. He decided it was time to go home just to be on the safe side. School kids used to wind him up but there were no actual racist comments. I think he took it a little bit to heart. The fact that he put himself in the limelight, I think he was reading a little bit too much into it. In one case, he said that people were parked in a car near where he was working, and that they wanted to kill him. He was a little bit paranoid. He felt that people didn’t like what he was doing. Which is a shame because people loved him being there.”
Maybe Ziggy was a bit paranoid because Inspector David Osborne, of Chiswick police, said: “As you would expect, we treat allegations of this type very seriously but there are no records of Ziggy contacting police to make any allegations whatsoever.”
I guess we will never know the truth however, when you are a long way from home and family it is easy to feel afraid and threatened. However, throughout his brief period of fame at the end of the noughties he always seemed such a nice, friendly guy who just loved the thrill of entertaining people for the pure joy of doing it.
Here at Jammy Toast, we miss Ziggy!