Viewing all threads tagged #conventionreview.
I just got back from Bungay 18. On the journey up, the A12 was closed for resurfacing. After a slow single lane stretch myself & the six cars between me & a very distinctive lorry all followed the diversion signs which led us in a neat circle back into the slow single lane stretch which was somewhat irritating. Then I arrived on site, stress immediately dissipated & it all went a bit Bungay.
In no particular order then…
We enjoyed glorious sunshine for the whole week aside from a brief ~20 minute rainy spell. 4 of us stood just inside the entrance of the main tent looking out at the rain. Then in silence & led by Avril we all just stepped outside to enjoy the cooling effect which was a lovely moment. Some people get wet, others feel the rain.
On my first night I broke into a bottle of Becherovka that I acquired over Christmas & enjoyed sharing it with others. It's an interesting drink; I describe it as a liquid mince pie. I think slightly more people enjoyed it than didn't. This may have been a contributing factor to Richard, Ewan, Sam & I rigorously debating the precise nature of Kelis' milkshake & her yard well into the next day.
I woke up the next morning almost as drunk as I was when I went to bed.
Bungay is all about the board games for me. This year I added a copy of Kingdomino to my games collection. A very simple domino themed deck building game that I heartily recommend to everyone.
I played several 3+ hour games over the week: Caverna with Kat, Susannah, Adam & Andy, Castles of Mad King Ludvig with Andy, Ron & Richard, Small Worlds with Dom, Ernest, Jude & Anna (which saw some poor decisions based on some very suspect counting I thought), & Say Goodbye to the Villains; a card game that simulates a battle in feudal Japan, after which I felt I had genuinely been in a physical fight. Shockingly the annual Power Grid session was not one of them which we managed to race through in an unprecedented 2 hours.
All this was nothing to the game of croquet featuring myself, Ewan, Mandy, Ash & Greg. I wisely kitted myself out with my tea-towel headgear to protect my neck from the relentless sun. I would not have been able to survive the game without it. This earned me the nickname Orinoco of Arabia from spectators. Earlier in the week Kat was chatting to a friend who plays croquet competitively. It turns out that at Bungay we play a mixture of American rules & English rules, & our posting rule that sends a player back to the beginning is something we have just made up & is not played anywhere else. Apparently the friend was horrified when they found out about our rule, "That would make a game last for hours!" Yes, yes it does. All 5 of the players were posted twice, Mandy was posted 3 times. I was agonisingly one hoop away from invincibility just before both of my postings. For the long range posting attempts we employed the 'post or buttercups' technique, which is where you line up the shot to send your opponent into the post, but take a golf swing so that if you miss the force of the shot sends them out of bounds & deep into the field. When I posted Greg I was momentarily worried that I cracked the post. Incidentally in non-Bungay croquet if your ball is sent out of bounds you are supposed to bring your ball back & drop it just inside the boundary. We circumvent this rule by not having any boundaries. This allowed Ewan to tie up Ash for 3 turns by sending his ball into someone's tiny popup tent. 5 hours into the game concentration, stamina & will to live were all waning severely. The only thing that held in all players was sheer bloody-mindedness. When Ash made it through the last gate it looked like it was going to be all over, but he missed a shot allowing Greg to get through the last gate too, then he pulled off a splendidly executed 8 shot sequence to clinch the game. Not bad for only his 2nd ever match.
I discovered one of the caterers, Greg, was Romanian which allowed me to try out some of my Romanian language skills. Unfortunately for him my Romanian is entirely focused on flirting with a beautiful lady friend who I go dancing with, but I think he handled it pretty well.
Heckmeck Barbecue is a game involving gambling on the rolls of 8 die. I was pretty good at quickly calculating the odds, but the thing about probabilities is even the unlikely outcomes happen occasionally. Kat rolling 4 1s when almost anything except a 1 would do was amusing, me rolling 4 worms, then 2 5s, then another 2 5s to bust less so. Void's yes/no game complete with the oh so satisfying reception bell turned very rowdy very quickly. Farmer Paul's attempt at the game was hilarious. Only he could ramble for 3 minutes on the simple question, "Do you have a favourite actress?"
Dominique particularly enjoyed Andy & I relentlessly spit roasting Richard during Robo Rally. This was another long gaming session that was interrupted for a brief argument involving everyone in the cafe over the correct pronunciation of 'scone'.
I had a look at Dee's notebook that included detailed analysis of the copious amount of gin flowing on site. I thought my notes were hard to follow but at least I don't jump my sentences back & forth over several lines. The joyously incoherent Chilli had quite clearly been involved in the tasting process.
I enjoyed talking to Dr Helen, I find the life of a working doctor incredible & fascinating.
On the far side of the camping area there was a minor campfire incident, fortunately I had a saucepan of washing up water in my hand when I heard the call. I don't think it would have turned into anything serious.
Eddy Bacon's contact juggling was superb in the show. I also very much enjoyed Karen's belly dance, Avril's song describing Bungay from the point of view of an alien & Duncan's juggling bird impressions.
I did a couple of short handstand sessions & about 5 minutes of club juggling over the course of the week. I think my transition to social juggler is complete.
" It turns out that at Bungay we play a mixture of American rules & English rules, & our posting rule that sends a player back to the beginning is something we have just made up & is not played anywhere else."
This explains a lot.
The Bungay rules of croquet are based on my hazy recollections of how I played at home as a kid. Since I first introduced the current set to Bungay (and large parts of it survive even though I've replaced quite a lot via eBay) I think it's perfectly fitting that we stick to them...even introduce them to others in an attempt to shake up the croquet world!
I thought they were based on how Simon taught me, and others, when we played at his house. Anyway, Bungay rules rock. And 4 hour games are just fine. (But 5+ is pushing it.)
OK. Maybe it's a combination....in any case, our rules is right and their rules is wrong.
Absolutely, I think I'd find anything other than Bungay rules croquet to be boring.
Funny thing is I've been having conversations about croquet with muggles for years about what a savage & vindictive game croquet is. Now I know that they've only played croquet lite.
I think the Bungay rules need to be written up for the Bungay website.
I think you might need to ask a Squirrel whether the correct spelling of "Greg" might, in some circumstances, be "Bogdan".
Oh, and it's definitely pronounced "scone".
It might indeed, I just took the first syllable from the first of his somewhat excessive amount of names from the full name on his FB profile!
& don't you go trying to provoke another pronunciation war. We are a tolerant & peaceful community here on the Edge where all 3 possible pronunciations are acceptable.
'Twas my first one for about six years, so I made up for it by attending twice ... and it would've been three times had I stopped over on Monday night as well.
Bungay tings :-
Anyhow, it'll probably be back again next year, but you really shouldn't come, you wouldn't like it.
8...for those of you who couldn't make it: There was an informal gathering in the tent on Sunday afternoon over tea & cake, where we shared memories of Gary (some were written down for posterity) and some people made woven paracord shapes, which was a favourite of his.
We will not forget. It is a testament to the strength of our community - and of some particular members of it - that after such a terrible shock last year we continue to come together and share such joy.
Arrived Saturday lunchtime with Sam, having caught the train from London Liverpool St together. Met by Void at Halesworth Station. Some confusion as to if we needed to wait for Sarah, but she was arriving into Bungay so no need. Stopped off in the co-op before making our way to site.
Erected tent just to the edge of the family camping area and then went for a wander. This didn't prove to be the potential disaster that it could have been. It turns out that while most noises wake me up at night, apparently I can sleep right through children crying!
Off site adventures during my stay included: 1 trip to Co-op with Andy; 1 trip to Southwold (Tuesday); 1 trip to river swimming (Thursday); 1 walk to the brewery and back (Sunday - but I was back onsite before the brewery opened).
Mostly I was very lazy, in particular on the second Saturday, when my silk sleeping bag liner saw some good use on the couch [I was completely done in by the heat and sinus medication]. I read lots of books, juggled some on Sunday morning, encouraged Ash more (well done on the progression from 10 to over 100 catches of three clubs in a week and hence winning £5) and generally took the chance to catch up with people. Watched the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte's van.
Some cunning plans formed for EJC2019, including introducing "Bungay rules" croquet to the masses and a mini-golf course. Of course only time, resources and space on the Newark site will see if these can actually come into fruition (so no holding breath on these).
Gin tasting notes to follow. Participants in this gin tasting session were me, LP, Ewan, Becky, Helen and later joined by Robbie. So, Orin, I'm afraid that your speculation about Chilli being involved were wide of the mark. My notes were hampered by my resolution to keep all the notes about each gin on a different page - one gin in particular had rather extensive comments.
Left site at midday on Monday, dropped by David to Halesworth Station to begin my rather epic public transport journey back to Bristol, the first stage (to Ipswich) accompanied by Greg and Karen.
Your sleeping bag liner made for a very effective camouflage against the sofa you were sleeping on. A couple of people took a detour to an alternative seat when they got close enough to realise.
Don't forget the Blankety blank theme tune for your playlist!
Wow, that was a wonderful 10 days.
Notwithstanding our house being demolished around us, so we have no idea where anything is, and our car needing replacement the day before the festival (I bought another car, which initially had no MOT, faster than I've ever bought one before), we weren't going to miss this year at any price.
Highlights included some of the warmest and sunniest weather for years, meaning we spent a lot of time at the seaside and the river. Smoked mackerel bought directly from the fisherman at Aldeburgh eaten on the beach with our fingers. Brave women swimming in the North Sea at Southwold while all the men except equally brave Russell looked on, followed by a hilarious group effort to preserve Anna's modesty with a tent of towels as she changed (Europeans you probably won't understand this bit). What seemed like endless lazy days in the buttercup field watching kites fly, children run about and croquet played. Later sat in a wood-fired hot tub at 2 in the morning watching the International Space Station cross the sky.
The Bungay show was well....the most Bungay ever. We had a novice and friendly compere, belly dancing, two songs, a group kids act (which my daughter punctuated with a sudden spectacular nosebleed), 3-ball bird impressions, that trick again, pole spinning and Eddy Bacon's flawless contact. It felt like a village talent show, in a good way. Afterwards a few people wanted to learn 'that trick' and I spent some time teaching ball spinning. We also played a lot of volleyclub with quite a few beginners learning the ropes (and the Bungay rules, which can best be described as 'don't be *too* evil'). We even had a Fight Night - I finished fourth after folding in the final stages, partly due to being intimidated by those who take it seriously.
Cafe Chameleon cooked tasty grub (seriously, if you're involved in a UK event you should book them, they're lovely) all week including a couple of Sunday roasts using meat from the farm itself. St Peters Brewery had its annual spike in sales of Badly Labelled Beer. In between jugglers' generosity manifested itself as crisps, chocolate, cake and beverages were shared. Lots of games were played apparently, including the ones which cover an entire table with cardboard bits and take far too long to complete. Endless conversations about subjects both serious and silly (I remember: Victorian rainwater collection systems, boat welding and 'beating the boundary').
There were some new additions to the family: first-timer adults declaring they were *definitely* coming back again next time and tiny kids discovering how to stay up late and run around in the buttercups. Our two raided Bungay's extensive charity shops for slightly battered toys & books and the youngest became slightly obsessed with origami (when he wasn't involved in the ongoing Nerf Ninja war fought valiantly between tents and from behind old sofas and chairs).
The world's shortest and most relaxed 'business meeting' concluded that a) wasn't it good b) let's do it again c) let's not change much at all. Bungay will be back next year.
Poker data updated: http://tlmb.net/misc/BBUPokerTournamentsBunagyBallsUp.txt
My pics are up (Some IG repetition) at http://tlmb.net/galleries/BBU18/ No re-uploads, please.
The epic splendour of BBU Fight Night can be seen here:
Completing my collection of The Catch.
Lost Cities, Chess, Chessss And Ladders, The Game, The Yes-No game, Spyfall, The Oxford Word game, Robots both ricochet and Micro, boiled head Kuub, Table Tennis. That 5-in-a-row tile game I don't know the name of.
The BBU backcross challenge, and other silliness at the top of the field.
Nut roasts and halloumi at Chameleon Cafe.
The horrible weather.
Charlie taking the quiz win, after 2nd place last year. Monte & Nat in the final too.
Being rubbish at the BBU trick in the show. I'm blaming borrowed equipment.
Undefeated at Scrabble, Croquet and Chessss And Ladders.
The sky full of stars, kites, satellites, and planets.
Filming kendama tricks.
Forgetting the grudge match and substitute poker trophies.
Finally getting to hold the poker trophy, a year after winning it... But only by making a new one.
Handing out ice creams, and getting the karma back a few days later.
Charging phone and ipod exclusively from solar all week.
Observing the progress of Monte's van.
Wood pigeons nesting above the sink.
Supercool people being nonetheless cancer-seeking stench-ridden junkies.
Getting Paul's missing 50th answer in his bird quiz.
Dave's plaintiff "But I've already come second!" a couple of hands before condemning Andy into his 4th runner-up spot.
Post-show diabolo session with Sean_ and Susannah.
Fight Night turning out to be quite fun, even though beforehand I was very unenthused about running it. Plus... points!
- "I've had enough of feeling stupid for tonight."
- "See you in the morning!"
Avril's BBU song.
No trebuchet! (It was a fallow year.)
Turning £2 into £25.50 over 4 cash games. (only 4! I was starting to think Bungay might be broken).
Building my new kitchen instead of repairing last years Trebuchet.....mixed feelings about this.
Being persecuted by Charlie in the 15 to 1 final because he saw me as the greatest threat.....
Having some great games of whiff waff with the riff raff (having a winning total against everyone except Mandy)
Actually spending some time juggling (well you have to do something while you wait for the ping pong table to become free)
New faces this year was a great thing.
Helping Clare and Chilli in the cafe with contributions such as venison pie, spinach and cream cheese crepes and pineapple upside down cake.
Winning the grudge match trophy off Ewan with a str8 on the flop.
All this and some great weather made for one of the best Bungays yet.
If you haven't been to BBU yet, why the hell not it's great.......
sorry to persecute but I had to win after last year's Mastermind second place. Would have preferred to face Void again this year but I suppose someone had to run the quiz...at least that was his excuse!
The 30th British Juggling Convention, Nottingham
First thing on the morning after the BJC I laid out my tent, mopped the underside, applied some spray polish to the zips (try it, it works wonders!) then left it out to dry. I returned to it an hour later to find I had laid it out over an ant colony. Much of this review was written in between picking ants off of my clothes. Try not to scratch while reading this.
Stephen, this is what a long piece of text looks like.
Friday, 7th April
My BJC started at 5:30am on Friday morning. After a bowl of porridge & a very picturesque drive watching the sun rise over the misty Sussex & Kent countryside I arrived at Kevin's place just before 7am. We crammed everything we had into the boot including Dorothy before picking John up from Etchingham station. Thankfully he just had the one bag to squeeze in. The drive to Nottingham was pretty uneventful. We stopped for a second breakfast off the M1 where we had a nice full English including satisfyingly thick cut bacon & a serious wedge of black pudding. John spent a quid less than us on some onion rings from elsewhere in the services then had to break into his camping supplies when he got back in the car. There was one slow spot where everyone was slowing down to look at a car on its roof but we made good time & arrived in Nottingham at about midday. We picked up some supplies at the nearby Asda where I had the pleasure of using the world's squeakiest wheeled shopping basket. We also scouted out a promising local cafe for breakfast in the morning.
We arrived on site around 12:30pm. Fellow TWJCer Nicola was already there having set off at 4am. I know she has a crazy high IQ, but when she does stuff like that it doesn't do her any favours. We helped set up some tables for the bar area & finished off the last section of fencing for the camp site. Site supremo Anna Inman was rightfully very pleased to have the site ready to open 2 hours before the official opening time. I took the tour of the car parks & arranged to do the second shift on one of the marshal posts. However, when I turned up for duty after pitching my tent I wasn't needed.
We made camp just inside the inner wooden fence by the gate on the left hand side of the campsite as you came from the main building. This was a good idea because if we were anywhere else I would've been tempted to vault the fence to save myself a trek & I would definitely have hurt myself.
At some point in between all that I picked up my registration pack from the main reg desk which appeared to be well organised & running efficiently. Our pass this year was a printed fabric wristband with a pressed metal clamp the same as used for BJC 2016 however, the fabric this year was silky smooth making the pass much more comfortable to wear. Kudos to whoever produced the information booklet, top quality all round.
I spent most of the afternoon saying hello to old friends that I haven't seen for ages. It was great to see Izzy back to her effervescent bouncy self after her ordeal at Crawley festival last year. She was acting chaperone for her friend Steve who was there for his first ever BJC. I met up with Mark Watson & Jon Peat in the campsite & introduced them to Dorothy. Jon was nursing a broken left hand after coming off of his bike (if only he was a bit more coordinated) which was really tough timing. Like me he was already taking notes for his write up that will be coming soon.
In the early evening I cooked myself some veg & halloumi, which I have to say was an excellent choice on my part. Kev struggled to decide what to have from his vast stash of food he acquired from his Italian restaurant owning friends. Not long afterwards we were joined by Simon, Laura & George, then a little later still we were joined by Paul & Louisa (not Laura) with the TWJC bar tent. Paul has now installed a much improved LED lighting system & a fridge running off of a womping great battery & a huge PV solar panel. The lighting system has many different modes, my favourite was all red which felt like being on the bridge of a Klingon warship. On tap we had two kegs of Paul's home brewed beers. The usual dark convention ale & a new one for this year called An Innocent Blonde which was a delicious Leffe clone that made me question my commitment to cider.
Later in the evening I joined in with the crowd playing with Duncan's beautifully crafted Kururin. Somehow we had all forgotten what they were called & had collectively settled on the incorrect name Kuroshin. He had a dozen or so turned from various woods with different finishes. Like most people I preferred the white beech(?) wood ones with the black tops. Playing with them was highly addictive & wonderfully satisfying when you could get it to work. The sound of a good roll was very pleasing.
It was a long tiring day for me so I packed it in at about 12:30am.
Saturday, 8th April
I woke up early on Saturday morning when the tents were still frosty, I found Dorothy had spent the night outside & had white frosted hair but was otherwise ok. I joined Kevin, Paul, Louisa (not Laura), John, Nicola & Duncan for a 3 minute walk to the Broxtowe Cafe. The staff were fast & efficient as we challenged them with a sudden surge of the largest breakfast platters they had to offer. The food was great & very reasonably priced. We were all very pleased & sufficiently stuffed.
When we got back to site I made it to the main hall for my first juggle of any kind since August last year (yes, really). I spent an hour mostly working on 3 club stuff which wasn't as bad I was expecting. When I last juggled I was able to perform most of my drills first time, while this was not the case this time round it didn't take many attempts for me to regain my rhythm & hit my target number of catches. During this morning it was nice to chat with Nigel Roder, Andy Fraser & Adam Leigh in particular. In the afternoon I had a welcome nap as I tried to escape the burning sun. This nap was greatly aided by Paul's beer.
Later on I played with Duncan's Kururin in the bar again. I managed to get pretty consistent at rolling the stick in a line, stopping with each finger in turn on each flip which was very pleasing. After that I headed into the...
All the shows other than the main gala show were held in the dogleg area just off the main gym. The stage was framed by a large aerial rig that was used extensively over the course of the festival. The audience was seated on very uncomfortable bleachers. We managed to bag seats in the back row so at least we had a rail to lean against.
Our compère for the show was the indomitable Tiff who filled in the gaps with tricks & songs from his considerable repertoire including spinning 2 rings in opposite directions on one leg while juggling 7 balls leading to a nice 007 pun, a Brunn combination trick & playing the match of the day theme tune while juggling a football with his feet. He then nearly killed Kevin when he booted the ball into the audience which Kev blocked inches from his face. My favourite skit was his walking on sunshine gag with the banjo.
Opening the show were Brook & Becky with a top passing routine to the fun sounds of Robots by Flight of the Conchords. They finished with a monster long run of 9 club ultimates. Beyond that I don't remember a great deal. There was a 3 ball juggler who although remained largely static performed a wide variety of patterns very smoothly with very few drops. CJ showed good strength on the corde lisse but I was left cold. Børre Isac L'orange from Norway (in the British show?) performed with triangular rings, he kept my attention with many triangle specific patterns but lost it with the regular ring juggling. Another chap camped it up in a tutu, a joke which is getting old now but still managed to make me chuckle in places. The final act was a highly adept poi spinner who was very good with a solid handstand in the middle but I just couldn't connect to his style of humour.
My style of humour is much more...
Once again Jay dinged his bell at Brits Pink Nigel & Nigel Roder, & guests Rhonda Murray from the US & Greg Phillips from Canada. My favourite panelist was Rhonda who had some wonderful stories from her life as a circus performer, I particularly loved how she used to encourage other kids to hurt themselves by pretending that the stunts she had been trained to do since the age of 3 were easy. There were some great one liners from Greg especially, & a lot of very enjoyable hero bashing. The conversation was dominated by Pink Nigel who shut Rhonda down on a couple of occasions though which I did not appreciate. So it was nice to finish on the simple question of, "What is your record for 5 clubs?" everyone was low to mid double digits, Rhonda seemed embarrassed to say she stopped counting after 200.
Rhonda's answer about a dream show lineup sounded great, but there was one name that I don't think any of us had heard of so I caught up with Rhonda for more information & it turns out that it is comedian Arthur Fratelli.
Sunday, 9th April
After a good night's sleep I had a nice hot shower then went to sit in the warm where I intended to do some writing but I ended up chatting to Max Oddball, Nathan & Nigel instead, mostly about the current state of the international circus prop retail industry. I then went back to camp for some breakfast, the cafe was not open on Sundays so I made do with my own supplies while Kevin & Paul went off in search of an alternative.
We lounged around for the rest of the morning making good use of the TWJC bar & chatting to various people. We got on the buses into town at 2pm, Dorothy enjoyed looking out at the locals who returned bemused stares. Two students sitting behind us were playing a very Southendesque game where if you were the first to spot a yellow car you got to punch your opponent in the leg. At the end of the journey we were deposited just outside Nottingham castle for the games. I didn't join in much but did enjoy playing on the spring loaded horses in the kids playground. I also learned how to juggle Dorothy & two balls. Dorothy joined in the big toss up but most of us just lounged around & enjoyed the hot weather. A number of people commented on my Lawrence of Arabia style head gear I had fashioned by draping my tea towel over the back of my head & neck then wedging it in place with my sun hat. It worked brilliantly & personally I felt it was one of my better decisions after already picking up some sunburn on the first day while putting up the fencing.
After the games we set off for food & found May Sum, a large Chinese restaurant offering an all you can eat buffet for £7.50. Challenge accepted. It was bustling with customers many of whom were Chinese which was a good sign, an army of staff were constantly bringing out fresh dishes. I thought the sweet & sour pork was particularly good. I didn't realise that the meal deal also included unlimited visits to the desert bar as well. In the end I worked through 3 plates of main course food, but could only manage 2 bowls of ice cream, a slice of strawberry cheese cake, a slice of swiss roll, some fruit salad & two servings of jelly. Kevin's traditional attempt to go chocolate free during the BJC took a turn for the worse when he drank a ramekin full of chocolate sauce from the chocolate fountain.
We then made our way to the theatre where we found seats near the front of the top tier. Our seats had a good view but not much legroom. Russell Wells & a team of helpers built a gigantic green octopus with a 6+ foot diameter head (I wondered if it would pop to reveal Mr Toons in his union flag underpants again) and tentacles that could reach across the entire auditorium being waved about by volunteers with long poles. I'm not sure if the puppet was supposed to be decapitated or not but the audience enjoyed bouncing the head around before the start of...
The Gala Show
Rosie Kelly started the evening off with a highly entertaining reverse psychology tannoy announcement about phones, flash photography & the like. She proved a fantastic host with boundless enthusiasm, razor sharp wit & ample silliness. Her juggling club puppet & the kids/ducks skit had me in stitches.
Our opening act was Gustavo Ollitta from Brazil with a Buugeng or 'S' staff manipulation routine. I'm not often into flow arts but the flow is strong in this one. He was smooth & created hypnotic opical illusions. I also geekily enjoyed trying to work out how the props were connected to allow him to manage the shape changes. Being a relatively new prop it was many people's first time seeing it. It was a shame there was a bit of a prop malfunction towards teh end but he covered as best he could & regardless it was a very strong act, well thought out & well performed.
Next up was Kathrin Pancakes with a one ring balancing & manipulation act which unfortunately did nothing for me. The dramatic music was far too overpowering for the understated activity on stage.
This was followed by the lovable Paddy & Harry with their Dueling Hats routine. I've seen it three times now & I still love it. I think this act will be one that will live on for years. It won't need to change because it is spot on. (I wonder if that's enough to get a third quote from me on Paddy's acts page?)
Closing the first half was Anni Küpper from Germany with her act, Paganini. She came on stage with one club & a length of rope. She then deftly bound her wrists together with an elaborate handcuff knot. I knew I was going to like this act by the way she tied herself up. She elegantly performed a whole array of tricks while working around her bonds maneouvering herself from having her hands in front of her body to behind her back & back again. Highlights for me were a right foot kick up to a left leg knee catch, balancing the club on the back of her heel then flipping it back to a balance on her toes. This was a fantastically put together act performed with class.
Coming back from the interval we had Emma Hörnell from Sweden performing a hoop juggling act that was rammed full of lots of original tricks. Many involved rolling hoops over her body so that the hoop rotates around an axis running through two opposite edges of the hoop as opposed to an axis running perpendicular to the plane enclosed by the hoop (to the mathematicians &/or hoopers: there has got to be different words for that surely?). The act was a tour de force of technical ability but I didn't like the presentation. Mostly I didn't like the periods where she was simply whipping & beating herself with a hoop. It wasn't goofy enough to be slapstick comedy. It wasn't really anything, it just didn't suit the act.
From Israel, Asaf Mor presented his act Nine to Five, an intense club manipulation routine combined with body popping & break dancing. I have to admit I was flagging by this stage & I struggled to follow along despite the obviously high skill on display. The tricks he was performing throughout the act were clearly different but there was not enough variety in the shape & style to keep me interested. There were some ironic muted cheers from behind me for the very brief section of traditional toss juggling.
Waking me back up to full attention with my eyes wide open was Nadia Lumley. As well as millimetre perfect control of a cyr wheel she threw in some stunningly elegant breakdancing performed in a graceful ballet style. In addition her footwork on the base of the wheel was exquisite. I'm not sure what act Nigel was watching (it's ok to say you nipped off to the bar Nigel, no one will hold it against you) because I very clearly remember her performing cartwheels & a penny drop, the latter because she also performed it with a spectacular high-kicking leg sweep on each rotation. This was a breathtaking routine that had me rapt throughout. This was easily my favourite act of the show.
For the grand finale we enjoyed diaboloist Guillaume Karpowicz. Those of you who have been reading my juggling convention reviews over the years will be all too familiar with the phrase 'generic diabolo act'. I've always believed that the nature of the prop & the physics behind it result in a certain style that all diaboloists gravitate to. Well it turns out that isn't true. Instead of smooth flowing circles Guillaume flawlessly performed a sharp staccato routine full of harsh & surprising straight lines. The whole shape & style of his diabolo technique is unlike any diaboloist I've seen before. Awesome stuff.
Congratulations Claire Stephens for putting together a great show, well done!
After the show while everyone was sprinting down the road to get on the early buses back to site, we casually wandered up to the one that appeared on one of the cross roads that everyone had run past. We sat on the top deck with Dorothy perched on the shelf of the front window, occasionally sliding from side to side on some of the tighter corners.
Back at the site Glyn joined us in the TWJC bar where we enjoyed dissecting the show.
At some point I managed to reach the stage where I was drunk enough to believe it would be a good idea to visit the...
I wasn't intending to stay for long because Renegade has not been my thing for a long while now, but I ended up staying for the whole show which went on to 3am & I had a fantastic time. The atmosphere of the whole show was one of friendly riotous fun & reminded me of why I used to enjoy Renegades from years ago. The reason for this great atmosphere was largely the result of the host for the evening, the fabulous cross dressing Clunge Wonkle of the Cunty Bumpkins ([sic] look them up if you dare). He kept the pace high & the sophistication low.
Right at the start Amy discovered that I was a salsa dancer, she suggested I should do some dancing on stage with her friend who was also a dancer. Her friend was already stripped to his boxers after he fell in the nearby pond & didn't currently have any dry clothes to wear. Our extensive preparation consisted of deciding that I would lead, establishing that we could do a basic & a cross body, choosing a track (Bailando by Enrique Iglesias) & ensuring the sound desk could source it. Which took all of 5 minutes before we were on stage. I don't think any of my instructors would be proud of what we did, but I thought we did well to overcome many issues, the surface was not conducive to spinning & my partner did exceptionally well to follow along as well as he did which is exceptionally difficult to be a follow when you have been trained as a lead. It was the first time I threw in a handstand mid-dance & also the first time I've lead a body roll while holding my partner's nipples (at least I think that was a first, I'll have to check with Kate). The audience obviously felt we looked good together & demanded a kiss (Clunge demanded tongues) which we were happy to oblige. He broke off the kiss first, story of my life.
Traditionally Renegade performers have been rewarded with a drink of some kind for getting up on stage. This evening the drink was administered in the form of A Screamer™. The recipient lies on his or her back & screams while having drink poured into their mouth. It's a bit like being waterboarded with alcohol. I didn't really know when to stop screaming so ended up with a soaked t-shirt which was pleasant to suck on for the rest of the evening.
I think we set the tone for the evening. Jack followed on after us, first he demonstrated a gull wing catch (bend over forwards catch the ball with your arm outstretched straight up in the air) from a 3 ball cascade. He then tried to perform a 2 ball gull wing squeeze catch. Clunge employed his main tactic for keeping acts short by insisting that Jack removed an item of clothing for each failed attempt. It wasn't long before he was naked.
Keeping up the level of skin on display were two young ladies, one with orange hair & hats (Georgie?), the other with green hair & hoops. They faced off against each other trying to one up each others' tricks & removing clothing on each drop. Both were so fantastically fast & highly skilled at their chosen props that I was genuinely more interested in their juggling than in their very beautiful bodies. I think the one with orange hair understandably enjoyed showing off her body. If you know you're going to get involved in a game of strip something most people generally layer up but she only started with 3 items of clothing on.
Ieuan came on to do his health & safety bit by checking the available ceiling clearance. This might have been a ruse to do the extending the tape measure as far as possible without it buckling trick. He was able to get from the stage to the top of the aerial rig quite easily. He then came up to the top of the bleachers & attempted to get to the ceiling. However, from where we were sitting at the back we could see Katie Struthers in the main hall getting much closer to the ceiling from the floor.
Logy showed off his epic beard & showcased a very nice two hat multiplex under the leg catching one hat on the foot & the other in his mouth. He then tried to tried to frisbee the hat in his mouth to a heel catch which thanks to the remove clothing on failure rule resulted in him stripping to his boxers. Amy was loving the amount of men on display this evening.
The two chaps who had been wowing everyone with their trials unicycling earlier in the week came on to 'express themselves using rice cakes'. They pulled up a couple of chairs, made themselves comfortable then casually began eating from a packet of rice cakes. Then the heavy metal kicked in, they jumped up & started ferociously ramming the cakes into each others mouths & throwing them everywhere. It was beautiful. This was followed by the Kärcher industrial vacuum cleaner act to clean up the stage. I believe the performer was a Kärcher KM 70/20 C that displayed phenomenal suction power. It was suggested the machine should be given A Screamer™ but we were not sure if it could handle liquids.
Christian Hauschild from Germany came on & did consecutive pull downs with 3 to 7 rings, a solid run of 3 club alberts, then 3 club 6-way. Not once did he look like any of these hard tricks were in any way taxing for him.
Matt Green who seemingly didn't stop smiling for the entire festival did some hoop diving & some malteser tricks including balancing one on his foot, throwing it up in the air behind him while launching himself into a forward roll then catching it in his mouth first time.
Russell & a partner set a new Renegade world record for rolling a malteser down the length of a tape measure into the mouth, beating the previous record of seven metres by a full metre. Particular impressive because of the need to twist the tape at the half way point when the malteser reached a buckled section.
Dee picked up a lighter from the floor in the most awkward way. She placed it in front of her feet then while keeping her feet flat on the floor throughout she used her right hand to reach round in front of her, behind her legs on her left hand side, then out the front on her right hand side. I tried it with her later in the week & could only get as far as touching the back of my right leg. Edwin picked up a fag paper from the floor using his mouth while standing on one leg, impressive on its own but it is worth mentioning that he is a 6ft plus giant.
We got to see more impressive hat tricks & skin from Paddy & Harry. There was a rousing interlude for the Macarana which was fun to see my dance partner consistently turn the opposite direction of everyone else on stage. Kudos to the guy performing it while bouncing on a unicycle too. There was much more silliness throughout the evening. The acts just kept coming, there was never a dull moment.
The evening finished off with a rousing rendition of Fagin's Reviewing the Situation from Oliver Twist the musical sang by Clunge & Paddy backed by a stage full of dancers. It was a fantastic night. Well done to all involved.
Monday, 10th April
I was still full from the Chinese buffet the night before so I only had a large breakfast at the cafe this morning. I then went to the hall for a juggle where I chatted to Tom for a bit & supported Helen round the hall during her first attempt on some freeliners. My handstands felt pretty good. I then tried my hand at five clubs. The last time I was juggling I was able to hit 200+ catches consistently, but today I could barely manage a qualify. It is not like riding a bike. I stuck at it & got up to 40ish catches which was a little upsetting. My three club drills went pretty smoothly though.
The security guards were starting to loosen up a bit. I caught the excited cheer from Arron when he achieved his first qualifying run of three balls. One of the other guards was spending his down time on the knife throwing range where he appeared to be a natural. I saw him drilling a quick draw throw, drawing the knife from a sheath & consistently hitting the target dead centre with a horizontal knife.
I watched the lovely Tor practicing her belly dancing in the hall. She has the most amazing poise, & that's before she starts dancing. I managed to grab her for a nice chat later on in the day, it is so sweet that she still remembers me as 'the Ceilidh man' from when we first met at BJC 2013!
I popped along to the BJC business meeting to see what was going on. It seemed a bit odd having the meeting so early in the festival because you obviously can't talk about the pros & cons of all the things that haven't happened yet. As it transpired this turned out to be a good thing because we would need a second meeting. Rosie enthusiastically presented her case for a BJC in Cumbria it was a great case however, she did buckle a bit under questioning. Spyro Mike also presented a bid for Canterbury which was perhaps less exciting but a much more solid case & had clearly already done a lot of the necessary work. I was particularly annoyed by the guy who repeated the question about Mike's previous experience which had already been answered, I don't know if he wasn't listening or just didn't like the answer his response to Mike of, "Well that's a start" was rude, aggressive, unfair & unnecessary. I agree that Mike hasn't been involved in a large amount of BJCs before, but his experience, tech knowledge & contacts gained from working in the theatre, the quality of his presentation & the work he has put in sourcing a venue & working out the details is ample evidence that he is pretty switched on. Thankfully others, Ron & Jane especially, managed to cut through the crap & ask the right questions. The session was in danger of overrunning into the tech set up for the next show so the meeting was adjourned to be followed with a second meeting later in the festival.
That next show was the...
Open Stage Show (1)
Mark Watson was on fine form as our host. He was charming, entertaining & very funny. I particularly enjoyed the way he murdered his balloon animal dogs.
The first act were Felix, Christian & Theo as the 2.5 Germans. One juggled balls, one juggled clubs, the other juggled rings with some interesting ways of swapping props between the three of them. I thought the three person feed with all the props looked particularly nice. Leanne & Esther presented a pleasing club balancing act, balancing props on their face, shoulders, elbows etc. & swapping them between each other. My favourite trick was the chin to chin transfer. Rob Woolley made pretty patterns with one set of three connected rings in each hand, then with four unconnected large rings. Excellent isolation work, & top marks for thinking of those sitting in the side bleachers too! He finished with a nice run of five big rings.
Matt Green did a fun ball juggling act. He started with three balls & a box up on a table, then got rid of the box & laid down to include his legs in the pattern, rolling the balls down his shins & flicking them back into the pattern & catching balls on the soles of his feet. There was some great interplay been Matt & Mark who grumpily came on to pick up his props when ever Matt dropped. Off the table Matt performed a nice 1-up forward roll from & back to five ball splits & finished with a seven ball cascade & half shower.
Closing the show was Lisa Ellipse performing with up to five hoops. It was a very well thought out act with lots of interesting constructions. A lot of hoop acts I have seen have made it all too obvious that they are constructing a globe or some other shape, Lisa was more like a magician, her constructions seemed to appear out of nowhere. Lovely stuff.
After we were kicked out of the show area the hall was very busy with little room to play. I did some more handstand practice & some three ball jamming. I chatted to Amy & Nicola for a while, then visited the TWJC bar for a pint & a bit more writing, then I went back to the cafe where I chatted to Sonja from Germany about her EJA history project & the book that is going to be produced. Kevin is looking into finding out some contacts for you Sonja & we'll be in touch as soon as we have something! Helen & I also consoled each other at length about the state of the UK.
Tuesday, 11th April
We had our usual trip out for breakfast, then back to site for a shower which turned out to be stone cold leading to my second screamer of the convention. I popped into the main hall to peruse the workshop timetable. Tuesday was going to be a busy day. I did hear some people complaining that only showing one day at a time made it harder to plan ahead, but as someone who doesn't really do much off site I found planning things one day at a time more manageable.
I spent some time juggling in the hall. Seven balls was ok, best effort was 36 catches, four clubs was initially very tiring as I was so out of practice. It took me a while to remember how to throw efficiently. Five clubs was much better, I managed to get up to a much more respectable 126 catches.
In the afternoon I made the trek over to the school hall for...
Fight Night Combat Qualification
Aside from Jon Peat who was running the tournament I was the first one there. It was nice to have such a wide open space all to ourselves for qualifying. Usually there is at least one collision as two players in separate matches attack at the same time & end up smashing into each other. There's no way that would happen with this much space.
In the end 17 people turned up to try their luck. This was fewer than the number who competed last year in Perth, but this allowed everyone to play everyone rather than split into two groups which resulted in us playing more matches. I had a terrible start, I didn't win a point for the first three matches & I managed to hit myself in the left eye which left a nice purple welt for the rest of the festival. I can't remember who it was but someone hit one of my clubs & followed through to hit me square in the mouth giving me a huge blood blister on the inside of my upper lip that was very painful at the time. Ieuan managed to create a Philips screw head shaped imprint on Josh Turner's face. At one point Callum & I were playing separate matches, we attacked our opponents at the same time & managed to smash into each other sending us both sprawling on the floor.
It was great fun, with lots of good sportsmanship all round. I ended up winning 9 out of my 16 matches. For the most part I either won 3-0 or lost 3-0 there weren't many in betweens. The tournament itself was to be at 11:30pm in the main hall.
I then sat in on another meeting about the BJC online presence while feeling a little concussed. I have to apologise for my lack of progress on http://britishjugglingconvention.co.uk/ but hopefully this year should be a bit better year for me & I will be able to devote some more time to it. There was lots of good discussion but we got bogged down in the details a bit too much. I came out more optimistic than I was when I went in that we will be able to produce a useful resource for future organisers & attendees though. I'm looking forward to working with everyone who expressed interest in helping.
What was next? Oh yes...
British Young Juggler of the Year
This year the range of performances included aerial acts so it became BYCPOTY (which I was pronouncing 'by-cup-o-tea'). Our judges this year were Mike Armstrong, Rosie Kelly & Jon Peat. We had 10 acts in the show & I had a busy night so my notes for this bit are sadly woefully lacking but this is what I could remember the next day.
Hosting the show was Nat Lunatrick, one of the instructors from Five Ring Circus, before the show started he amusingly took a call from a telemarketer who had called an audience member at a very inopportune moment. To give her what's due that telemarketer was going to get through her script no matter what we threw at her.
First on stage was Tom who did some ball juggling & tennis racket balancing. He didn't have a costume, the routine just seemed to be a list of tricks & was very droppy. The second act was an emo staff spinning act. She had an excellent costume & make up, she performed appropriate tricks choreographed to well chosen music & she remained in character from start to finish. Very well done, that is what BYJOTY is about.
Next was Max Preece with a high skill technical diabolo routine with 1-3 diabolos. It was a very long time before there was a drop in this act. He had no costume but he showed great stage confidence, smiling & presenting himself well through out. He looked like he enjoyed being on stage & was happy to perform for us which carried over into the audience. I would still class his routine with my well worn phrase: a generic diabolo act, but the difficulty level was exceptionally high earning him a standing ovation from many in the audience.
This was followed by our first aerial act of the evening, a young lady on silks. It was a well choreographed routine featuring some high strength moves & some very daring drops. Next up was a group circus theatre piece based on the Mad Hatters tea part from Alice in Wonderland featuring a few tricks with a wide variety of props, I'm not a fan of this type of act.
Next up was the same Georgie we saw a great deal of on the Renegade stage on Monday night with her hats. It was a bonkers routine with lots of hats being whipped on & off her head, elbows, shoulders at breakneck speed while spinning like a whirling dervish. It was pleasingly difficult to follow her patterns. It was pretty droppy, but if the judges were allowed to award points for partying hard the night before she would have walked away with a gold award.
We then had a moon trapeze act. Again, nice costume, well choreographed, very well performed. Her long hair looked very beautiful hanging free during her artful poses but it did seem to get in her face on a few occasions. I've always thought aerialists tied up their hair for safety reasons but a quick image search shows plenty of counter-examples. Sticking with the safety aspect I was confused by the removal of the safety mat part way through her routine, after which she generally performed higher up on the apparatus. Was that a mistake by the stage hands?
After that was a young chap with a nice three ball routine, lots of interesting moves but far too many drops. Felix Sürbe then over shadowed him a bit with a flashy club routine including lots of his signature club to club balance tricks. The routine had too many drops especially on the four-up 360°, very nice six club fountain finish though. For the final act we had two ladies taking turns on a cloud swing. The blonde girl in particular performed a proper scary drop to a one foot hang that put my heart in my mouth. Unfortunately the act's ending fell flat due to technical reasons. The girl with dark hair was going to sing the final verse of the song. From what I could hear she had a great voice but it was far too quiet & was barely audible over the music she was singing along to & the background noise of the main hall in the distance. This should not have been done without a microphone.
I was initially reticent about adding aerial acts to the competition but in the end I felt they were a positive addition to the show adding a lot more variety than we are used to seeing. I also loved watching the camaraderie among the Five Ring Circus students especially. Given the explosion in popularity of aerial disciplines in the circus skill community I think it is important to provide an outlet for budding talent to keep the kids interested & keep the BJC relevant to young people.
While the votes were tallied & the judges went away to deliberate the awards Nat handled the best trick competition. He did very well to keep it interesting at the end by making the performers swap props & do tricks out of their comfort zone.
When the judges returned Max Preece & the emo staff spinner both deservedly won silver awards, Max picked up the Judges Choice award & also the audience vote to be crowned British Young Juggler of the Year 2017.
It was then back to camp for more food & a bit of a wind down before...
Fight Night Combat Tournament
I was pleased & surprised to learn I had qualified 7th.
A square arena had been built in the main hall. For added atmosphere the arena was being pumped full of smoke from a dry ice machine which looked great, but did make breathing difficult for the competitors! Our master of ceremonies was Gold Martin sporting a wonderful jacket adorned with the logos cut from past BJC t-shirts. The event started with all of the competitors being introduced to the audience while we ran round the arena high fiving the front row. It was ridiculous & I loved it!
As usual I didn't qualify high enough to get a bye into the quarter finals so I was drawn to fight Callum who beat me 3-0 in qualifying. For the tournament he had broken out a garish orange sweatband round his forehead & a shocking pair of tortoise-shell tights. I readjusted his head band for him which may have covered his eyes a little but sadly he felt it was more comfortable around his forehead. After my complaint that the tunes from last year were too quiet & a little subdued I was very pleased with the upbeat sounds provided by Jon's laptop. I was very excited to dance & fight along to the sounds of Barbie Girl by Aqua, to be honest I forgot where I was for a while & thought it was the disco night. We had a very long physical battle, I think we were the only pair to play across three songs? Eventually though Callum won 5-2, he played much better than me & deserved the win.
Tor invited me to join her in the audience so I spent the rest of the evening enjoying the action & bopping along to the tunes with her & Helena. During Britney Spear's Hit me baby one more time Tor complimented my excellent Britney pout. I wasn't pouting, that was just my fat lip.
Ashley did very well to beat fifth seed Tom Whitfield then was doing amazingly well to be 4-1 up against Cameron Ford. However, Cameron then managed to claw back the fight & win 5-4, I know how that feels, he did the same thing to me in Perth last year! Cameron then pulled off a surprising upset against number one seed Brook Roberts in a match that featured some truly filthy language from both players for those into lip reading.
The final came down to Cameron vs Matty Schneider which proved to be a hard fought scrappy affair with both players being forced out of the arena on occasions. The final score which shows Matty won 5-2 does not reflect how close the fight was.
Many thanks to Jon Peat for running another great tournament, well done to all competitors especially Matty for the win. Full results are up on the BJC 2017 Fight Night Combat tournament page.
Wednesday, 12th April
We arrived at our cafe to find Adam finally did take me up on my recommendation & was there before us. While chatting I asked what he did for a living & he did the usual thing of, "it's a bit boring really but..." before giving us a thoroughly interesting insight into the world of archaeology.
At 12pm I attended the CPR workshop being run by the wonderful Dr. Helen which was one of several sessions that happened over the course of the festival. I worked out it has been over 20 years since I last learnt CPR so I was well overdue a refresher course. The resuscitation dummies have come a long way since I first used one. The session was very informative, & the chest compression exercises turned out to be good practice for packing everything back into my bag at the end of the festival. Helen answered all questions clearly in an easy to understand manner. Helen is looking to offer this course at other conventions in the UK, if you get the chance I highly recommend you sign up. A lot of our conventions are in fields a long way from help, you never know if you will be the first on scene. CPR is not difficult. The difference in being effective in an emergency is knowing what to do when the time comes.
Helen & I then joined Ron & Bryan to learn how to play Tzolk'in, a board game based on the Mayan civilisation & calendar. The game board features a large cog representing time that in turn moves five smaller cogs. Players choose to place their workers on the smaller cogs for varying costs & remove them to gain rewards by harvesting crops or extracting resources, or complete actions such as building temples or performing sacrifices to the gods whose names we couldn't pronounce so for ease of communication we renamed them Rod, Jane & Freddie. I managed to shaft all three of my opponents pretty early on by advancing the calendar an extra day triggering the 'feed your workers' stage a round early, this combined with my strategy of monopolising the human sacrifices which gained me a huge amount of favour with Rod, Jane & Freddie I managed to pull off a pretty convincing win. I really liked the game, the mechanics are simple but there are a lot of options to choose from. We played for almost three hours but it really didn't seem like it. Thank you all for your company.
I made a quick dash to camp for some food then made it back in time for the...
Open Stage Show (2)
Tom Callum Baker opened with a sexy hoop juggling routine, he had excellent stage presence & a smooth style. He finished balancing a globe of hoops on his forehead while spinning another four (almost) around his arms. Next a chap in a monkey costume performed with three & four cigar boxes & a lot of bananas. It was a fun routine & despite the comic character featured a lot of high skill. The chap with the most dapper facial hair performed a slow & graceful club juggling & manipulation act that was well choreographed to appropriate music. It was too droppy to really flow, but good enough to make me want to see it again when it is a bit more polished. Dave Stone performed a fun three ball contact & toss juggling routine to Bear Necessities from the Jungle Book. Ace juggling, wonderful stage presence & a great connection with the audience. I'd be quite happy to just watch Dave smile at the audience for five minutes. Finishing off was Paddy McCrea with some more of his high end hat juggling. He had lots of energy & pulled off all the tricks.
It was then off to the squash courts for the second meeting about the future BJC, much action behind the scenes resulted in Rosie changing her bid for an Easter BJC to a separate summer event that is more like a spin-off of the BJC. This left Canterbury as the only bid for 2018 which the meeting attendees voted to accept.
La Lido show
Err... ok. I'm just going to describe what I remember.
La Lido was a very surreal show performed by a diverse international cast. It opened with a man in a suit performing a disjointed monologue, this gave way to a lonely man preparing for his birthday in a way reminiscent of David Walliams' character Vulva from Spaced. He uncovered what appeared to be a dead transvestite behind a curtain who he proceeded to throw around the stage resulting in some great rag doll acrobatics. Then a brash photographer turned up snapping pictures of the odd couple, then lots of other people turned up squealing & screaming oh my god for about five minutes.
People then drifted off leaving a woman in a red mackintosh walking round stage among two guys. She dropped juggling balls like laying eggs, the guys then repeatedly picked them up & placed them in the pit of her knee while she walked. This developed into a very highly skilled hand balancing routine on canes involving balancing balls on the soles of her feet. We then had a guy on a moon trapeze who was very athletic. He swung himself round the bottom of the circle so that he'd pass through the hoop backwards in an impressive stylised way.
Three guys in running gear with a single juggling club each performed an amusing training themed skit. Nice moments included a long run of half flips from & to a club on club balance & a long range high pass across the stage also caught in a club on club balance. The silly medal ceremony on the cardboard podium that couldn't support their weight made me chuckle.
The best bit of the show for me was the chef & her cyr wheel, there was a little bit of traditional spinning but I mostly enjoyed how she released the wheel to roll around the stage so that it wove in between some carefully place eggs without crushing them. An egg was placed on the end of a spoon or fork, the cyr wheel was then rolled to hit the spoon which catapulted the egg into the air to be caught in the mixing bowl. Good use of the whisk in lieu of a drum roll for atmosphere!
After that a Jesus-like figure in a loin cloth went through an impressive marathon tumbling session flipping in circles around the stage while another performer told a story about a Jesus-like character that was biblical in tone but did not match what I was taught about Christianity.
We headed back to the TWJC bar for more beer & more dissecting of the show. It left a lot of people bewildered, myself included. You couldn't lay into the show though because there was a lot of good content both in terms of high skill & original thought. Some people tried to extract a coherent theme or story that was being told but I'm not convinced there was one.
I then made it back to the main hall expecting the disco but got another Renegade instead.
Hannah, Jack & Sparkle were gaffer taped together as part of a forfeit for various infractions of the don't-put-the-object-down game I first experienced at Crawley last year, this time involving a toy watering can in place of Bungle's plunger.
I enjoyed a very amusing chat with Tom & Lizzy who taught me some of their favourite sign language.
One of the first acts was performed by two of the guards from Trident Security, they thanked us for an enjoyable week & then demonstrated some of the skills they learnt. Arron in particular had picked up a great deal & showed off three balls, three clubs, club & ball mixed object juggling & balanced a chair on his chin which he transferred to his hand then in turn transferred it to his foot. I think this is the most a BJC security guard has ever picked up during the festival. Needless to say we went wild.
Logy did some whip cracking, cutting some spaghetti first held in his free hand behind his back, then held on top of his head, then held by the compère at his crotch from behind. While they were getting into this position they looked pretty intimate so I donated the bottle of lube that I had acquired (circumstances probably best left unexplained) earlier in the evening from the Southend lot to the cause.
The big trials unicycle guy jumped over his friend who lay spread-eagled on the floor. He then dropped the saddle to the front & rode the unicycle like an ultimate wheel ramming the saddle into his poor helper's crotch. Ed Cliffe & his friend built interesting constructions with cigar boxes & a contact ball which they balanced on juggling clubs, their hands & their faces. Tor & Helena performed their lovely partner poi routine on a dangerous spaghetti & lube covered floor. The deep intertwining & constantly changing patterns gave me the complexity I enjoy. I also love how smiley & theatrical their faces are when they perform.
The lube went on to feature a few more times throughout the evening. Most notably for the lube combat tournament which saw Jack, Rob & Callum compete at three club combat after covering their hands with lube, & the compère helpfully applied lube to the floor they were playing on. It was fun to watch three competent club jugglers struggle to control a simple cascade & in the case of Callum slip arse over tit during an attack.
Thursday, 13th April
Nooo! Time to go home. How does it go so quickly?
We had our final fry up & thanked the cafe staff for getting us through the week. I took my tent down then joined the volunteer effort in taking the fence down around the camp site, collecting up the fuck off tape & litter picking. I'd like to say thank you to my fence panel carrying partner Lloyd in particular, who worked very hard throughout the morning. I felt that the amount of rubbish to be collected was pretty minimal this year so well done people for keeping the site tidy. It really does make a big difference to the final clean up operation. We said our goodbyes & left the BJC about half an hour after the official finish at midday.
I had a wonderful BJC. It was so nice to get back into my community after such a long time, thank you to all my friends old & new for welcoming me back, I really needed that. Thank you especially to main organisers Stephen Whitehead & Ben Nichol for putting on a remarkably smooth running BJC.
I'll chime in:
Shows -- many!:
British: We dropped our clubs whilst passing some manipulation pattern (3V I think, although I'm not 100% sure which it was at the time) upon hearing Brook & Becky's music, so we ran over to see their act from the side. I'd never seen it before, although I knew the gist from seeing a video. Nice act. Other than that, no idea, although I heard that one of Tiff's songs was very amusing.
Open (1): No idea
Open (2): No idea
Glow: No idea
Clubby-Man's show: No idea
La Lido: No idea, actually fancied watching it, but the hall was nice and empty and there was a chance to do some serious passing which I couldn't (sorry everyone) pass up.
Fight Night: Too loud, otherwise no idea.
BYJoTY: No idea. Looked pretty full, and I thought I'd use the emptyish hall.
Renegade: Surprisingly enough I caught some of the aforementioned Renegade. I watched the malteser rolling which was funny if a bit on the long side. I also say the silly malteser tricks with Greeny (sporting a rather questionable 'tache), Emma, & Isac. Greeny's trademark forward roll malteser catch was particularly surprising.
Old Skool: Too quiet. I caught most of it this year. N & N dominated, particularly N. R & G were much more amusing, but we didn't hear much from them as once N started, it seemed unlikely that he would end until the topic had been pretty much burned. The question about Circomedia could (in my opinion) clearly never have gone well. It was obviously asked by someone who had a strong vested opinion already, and they were asking a crowd who may have an opinion (or in the case of Jay, for example, experience), but somehow either out of date, or just the experience of the common person. N's comment about the problem with the circus-act-market in the UK not being the same as that of, for example, Germany may have been valid, but it was painfully laboured and mixed in with a lot of prejudice which was obviously not well received by the questioner and the circomedia crowd.
Gala: To keep it brief(ish) (and with a deliberate disregard for names and correct running order):
Rosie: Very much a mixed bag. Some bits were excellent, some bits dragged on too long, didn't work, would have lost any members of the public, or ended up feeling a bit like a rant. One particular highlight was the duck thing (although I must admit I feared she might have won the Matt Hall award for that stunt), one lowlight was the rant about the jugglingrock facebook group.
S-guy: I really struggled with his act. I found it somehow irrationally amusing whenever he went for the swastika* trick, and I wonder how many otherwise good photographs he has to reject for political reasons. Far too long with the miscellaneous twirling stuff, and only long, long after my attention span had ellapsed did the multi-planar stuff with twists start which at least had some novelty. (* I guess he prefers "aeroplane propellers").
Kathrin: I'll start off by saying that I'm much too good friends with Kathrin to give an unbiased assessment. But I'll say this: I'd heard about this new act before, and was naturally nervious on her behalf about whether it would be a success at the BJC gala. In the end I was relieved as I thought it was a solid performance of a nice act, and that it neither felt out of place, nor was it anywhere near to the award of "worst gala show act 2017" in my book.
Anni: I saw this act in Lublin 2012 and thought it was lovely. I was talking to Anni after the show and said that I'd forgotten the nice rope-and-club stuff after the unknotting. Turns out that it's a more recent addition, which I thought really tied the two elements of the act together beautifully. Lovely act.
Hatty-men: I'd seen this once before where it had been much better. It was just too droppy for me this year, which made it tricky to really enjoy it.
Hoopy-girl: I actually kind of liked the bit where she smashed the hoop around her body. It somehow made the act a bit more serious. Kind of how the fish thing that the Circus Geeks did raised the stakes. The finger walking of a balanced hoop was a crazy trick.
Suited-clubby-man: Lots of high energy club manipulation with a couple of throws and catches. Left me a bit cold. The speed and intensity was very high, but the precision and/or engagement was a bit low. I have no idea how the full length show was, maybe the act was better as part of a larger piece.
Cyr-girl: Lovely act, although I did have a couple of small issues. Firstly the lighting was a bit annoying, secondly there was a moment in the middle(ish) of the act where the wheel was spiralling lower and lower on the right of the stage whilst she stood on the left. Then she started breakdancing (for the 2nd time), and I thought that if she mirrored the wheel and finished as it fell then it would have been really beautiful. Unfortunately she abruptly stopped, walked over to the wheel and interrupted its spiralling, and proceeded with the final part of the act. That segment just seemed wrongly thought out to me and somehow wasted. Otherwise a fantastic and beautiful act (including all of the bits that it was accused of lacking elsewhere).
Mr-Kraftwerk: Stunning. The minimalistic control of the diabolo and the disjointed movements were excellent. I liked the squareness of the motions, and very, very tighly controlled and choreographed act ticked all the boxes.
An entirely whelming show. No complaints.
Site: Main hall felt much smaller than 6 years ago (or should that be the 7th anniversary of BJC Nottingham 2011?). The cafe took out the right hand side of the hall, the traders (again) took the left hand side. The registration/office tents the back edge. The balloons part of the back edge.
6 years ago, we sat against the wall on the right, now there were people sitting in the middle, and very little space for people to leave bags, which mostly ended up somewhere in the middle, effectively reducing the juggling space very much (people leave much more space from the cafe then they would have done from the wall, and people sitting in the middle have a larger "exclusion zone" around them when in the middle than when against a wall (a. space left from more angles, b. lower sitting density, c. people facing the other direction are more susceptible) whenever there wasn't a show on, the hall was simply too busy.
Food+Drink: I had one portion of curry+rice from Veggies, 1 double veggies burger, 1 portion of curry+rice from the site canteen, and 1 samosa from veggies + various other sources of non-bought-on-site food.
The site canteen's portion was the smallest, and it was also the most expensive piece. Quality was fine, but so was veggie's equivalent.
I didn't drink anything from the bar, it seemed overpriced and not the right selection. I don't mind sticking money into a juggler bar. This year I stayed 99% dry (and hungry).
Tenting: New tent, large, heavy. Combined with public transport meant that I didn't take a large amount of bedding. I was too cold, but at least it was dry, and I shall endeavour to be better prepared next time I go camping on my own.
No'in'ham: Early bus happened to the town for some reason, and we went straight to pizza for lunch.
Pizza: Mod pizza in the city centre was a bit "pop-up"y, and the constant shouting of "Pizza for X" could get on my nerves a little bit, but the pizzas were excellent, fully customizable, and reasonably priced.
Games: No idea. I got a free ice cream after the pizza, and then we went to the games, but were careful not to see any of them. Nice to see Alby.
Kururin: Having seen them discussed online before the convention, it was nice to play with them throughout the week. Other than the typical rolling between fingers, we also went for "stonking", in particular aiming for the maximum number of rolls, and the minimum distance to the edge of the table. I think Avril had me beat.
I now have my very own kururin to play with at home.
BJC "Business" meeting(s):
Rosie's plan sounded very shiny, and was very popular, although I was convinced that Mike's plan was more solid. Mike had much better answers to the questions posed, but Rosie seems to have a knack of positive spin/answering a different question to what was being asked.
As the end of the (original) meeting came, I was afraid that the result was going to be bullied towards Appleby 2018, Canterbury 2019, despite many misgivings I had with such an outcome.
Under the circumstances, the postponement was absolutely the correct decision, and (I reckon), allowed for the Rumsfeld analysis for Appleby to take place.
By the time that the second meeting came around on Wednesday, Rosie's plan had transformed, leaving a single BJC 2018 option for Canterbury, which may have disappointed some people, but seemed like a satisfactory outcome to me.
Comments for the future:
1) Please stop pulling numbers out of nowhere. "The main hall is about 2/3 of the size of the hall here, and with the other halls it's at least as big" or similar is not really accurate, and people are invariably overly optimistic about hall sizes. Tools exist to give a much better idea.
The area of the Appleby sports centre building is about 1300 m^2. How this is split between the different halls is not easy to say, but maybe 2:1 is how I'd guess from satellite pictures.
The main hall in Canterbury is 1100 m^2.
Excluding the dogleg stage area, Harvey Hadden sports centre is probably about 1800 m^2. The dogleg stage area is another 600 m^2.
2) Please try to keep meeting sections* succinct. I know it's rare for multiple proposals, and I'm indebted to all idiots willing to organize a BJC, but I'm not convinced that you can say much more in 30 minutes than you can say in 10 minutes. Notes will help. Don't spend 5 minutes explaining that you won't be speaking for very long. Questions can also be answered accurately and succinctly.
3) The feedback section of the BJC meeting (thankfully very short this year) could be more usefully replaced by a comments box either before, during, or after the meeting. If before, then they could be collated during/at the beginning, and read out rapid-fire. Overly specific points are really not necessary to report. Written comments are also easier to make sure that they are archived, as it's more difficult to write up a rambling point into the minutes.
(* bids for example, but this applies to pretty much all items -- reports from past BJC, future EJC/BJCs, etc).
Overall a thoroughly enjoyable BJC. I'd say there were too many shows, but at least it cleared out the main hall.
This short comment has turned somewhat long. Happy Easter!
Finally, my highlight of the convention was the floodlight in the corner of the hall.
 - https://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-area-calculator-tool.htm
 - I should say that I may well be focussing largely on the negative. That's in part because it started as a comment, and was never intended to reach the proportions that we have here. I have no real complaints about the BJC, but that doesn't stop me having my opinions.
 - From the Japanese words Kuru, meaning stick, and urin, meaning falling.
 - I think it was Mark T who decided that we needed some technical terminology. "Stonker" (noun): a kururin roll which comes to rest on its end. "Flopper" (noun): a kururin roll which, either due to too much force or other reasons, slips and slams down onto its belly.
I thought it was time to get into the convention review game, so here goes my first one.
This was my fourth BJC, my first being the BJC 2014 at Darton College and I haven’t experienced much of the convention scene. What’s new to me has probably been seen a thousand times by the regulars.
I arrived at about 5:30pm having walked from Nottingham Station. At the halfway point I stopped at Lidl to top up the supplies so I was ready to get rid of my bags. Registration was quick and there was no queue for the pre-registered line. I was handed the tshirt I bought in advance and a recycling bag and a standard rubbish bag (which I promptly forgot which was which). Other people from Glasgow Juggling Club were already practicing in the main hall so I hurried off to get my tent set up and join them.
The huge camping space was great, the lack of appropriately placed gates was a bit annoying but nothing the organisers could do anything about and some extra exercise is no bad thing! The lack of any kind of scullery is a bit awkward for people like me who prepare almost all their own food but don’t have a huge tent with everything including the kitchen sink. I can’t see an easy solution to this and I think when you have a venue like Darton College with a proper place to wash dishes you just need to be extra thankful.
I usually attend quite a lot of workshops because a lot of it is still new to me and it’s nice to try something you’d never get the opportunity to do elsewhere. In no particular order here are the ones I can remember attending:
Held on the first evening and organised by Allen Goldie this was a great start to the convention. He maintained good humour throughout, despite the PA system conspiring against him. We also found out who put the rama lama in the ding a dong. I am terrible at pub quizzes but Jim from our club is a local quiz master so we managed second almost entirely thanks to his efforts.
I bought two lassos from Oddballs, it’s about time a juggling supplier started selling them in the UK! I also got some saddle advice from Roger a unicycle.uk.com, although I didn’t actually buy anything I will probably make use of the 10% discount.
I am a total cheapskate and only ate out twice, once at the local chip shop (excellent, huge portions) and Wok ‘n Go in Nottingham (just OK). I highly recommend bringing a sandwich toastie/panini maker suitable for a gas stove (https://www.amazon.co.uk/RidgeMonkey-Toaster-Silver-FREE-Utensil/dp/B01N4Q6149) Seriously, buy some bread and fillings and keep them in a cool bag. You’ll be eating like a king for the rest of the convention!
I’m not going to through all the acts, other reviews have done this already. Overall I really enjoyed it but it wasn’t my favourite Gala show that I have seen. Rosie’s humour didn’t crossover mine for a lot of her gags, the duck/children just wasn’t funny to me (but others loved it, so each to their own!), however her sarcastic pre-show announcements were excellent and primed the audience well before she even stepped on the stage. Iain from GJC injured his hand trying to catch a long range club as we returned to the hall. There was some impressive swelling. The convention organisers and Harvey Hadden staff managed the situation well.
I thought the technical level wasn’t quite as high as previous years but I enjoyed every act. I’m not sure about aerial acts being included because they are so hard to compare to the props traditionally permitted and I think that will have some behind the scenes discussion. I particularly admire those who haven’t performed before, the first act wasn’t a high level of technical ability and he was quite droppy but he still got up there and gave it a go when I wouldn’t dream of stepping on the stage! I just wish he didn’t have his mouth full for most of the act, I don’t like watching people eat!
One of the best I have seen. It was lovely to see a member of GJC on the stage. Louis Duncan did an excellent 3 ball act and I can’t believe that’s the first time I have seen him perform after watching him practice for the past few years. Matthew Tiffany is possibly one of my favourite characters on stage (and off of course) so it was a joy to have him compere. The British Show really was excellent and the perfect way to kick of the convention.
I hated the introduction, it was a rambling disjointed spoken word thing made from quotes which for me epitomised pretentious artistic stuff. It just doesn’t do anything for me. I get that other people enjoy it so I’ll live with it. However, once the show got going it was generally pretty good. Highlights included the 3 clubs with 3 guys and the cyr wheel vs eggs. I didn’t appreciate the loud volume of the “Oh my God” song. I covered my ears for the entire thing because my I care about my hearing and music that loud just hurts. The ending with the dancing Jesus man was… different. Probably not my cup of tea but better than the introduction. This show was definitely one of the most polarising acts I have seen but that is not a bad thing, art should push the boundaries... and if people don't like it then they are within their rights to bash it!
I spent most of them juggling with Pan but managed to watch Kev win the balloon gladiators. I was relieved he did because his foe at the end evaded all contact and didn’t look seem to pop anyone else’s balloon throughout which I thought was contrary to the spirit of the game.
I did get a timelapse of the entire games which can be seen here: https://youtu.be/Rmzl3e3zJ0Y
The huge spinning balloon chain rotating above the blower was cool. It was even cooler when two people passed through it. Perfect convention antics. I also thought the octopus that was made for the birthday which had props in his hands was adorable.
It ended too soon. So much fun.
I had chatted to Duncan about Kururins before the convention and gave him two of the tools I have made to assist in the making of them (http://jonathanjamieson.com/projects/kururin/). I didn’t get to play with the ones I have made as much as I’d like but I think Duncan did a better job introducing the wider juggling community to them.
Scottish Juggling Convention
I missed the Glow Show to attend a get-together to discuss reviving the Scottish Juggling Convention. Ron did a brilliant job with the 2016 BJC and I think the time is right to bring back the SJC. Watch this space.
The lasso workshop - yes, that's me.
I went to my first lasso workshop at Birmingham BJC 1993, led (if I remember correctly) by Ed Meredith and by the end of the hour I had failed to get damn loop going. No reflection on the leader - the other 9 participants all worked it out. He was selling ropes, so I bought one and practised at home. Next year at BJC '94 (Manchester) I rather expected another lasso workshop. When I discovered there wasn't, I offered to lead a beginners session. After a few minutes, someone discovered a couple of 6 foot high foam rubber cacti somewhere in the hall and "decorated" my workshop with them - if there are any photos out there, I'd love to see one.
I've done (at least) one workshop at every BJC ever since then. I'm not particularly good - I'm lazy and I don't practice, but I can generally get a squash-courtful of beginners started in an hour. One of these days I'll actually put some hours in and get a reasonable trick solid.
All the best,
Peter (who finally signed up to jugglingedge today)
Welcome aboard Peter, glad you could join us. That's quite a service you've put in on the workshop front. Thank you very much for your efforts.
Is that a record-length review from you, Orin?
Thanks to you, ^Tom and Unigamer for your in-depth reviews. I enjoyed reading them.
I'm afraid I won't be joining you, but here's my H:
Dr Alice's comment just before BYJOTY that ended "...so one drop should do it". (No, I don't think I'll quote her in full here, thanks. She can elucidate further if she likes. ^_^ )
I believe it is, by quite a large margin too. I'm going to have to start being more concise & less rambly1.
I would also like to echo the thanks to ^Tom & Unigamer, it's always interesting to get a different perspective on the same event.
1 Hahahahahaha! Had you all going there didn't I?!
Yay, I really enjoyed reading everyone's different accounts of the week (especially the long rambling ones..! ;-))
I have finished writing my own extensive review (takes ages with only one hand!) and it should appear online within the next few days. I have allowed myself to read your reviews now my own is complete, it has been difficult holding back. :-)
Keep the reviews coming!
(did anyone get excited thinking that this might have been my review post..? Sorry...)
I just read your BJC review on the IJA magazine. I'm not sure how much of a stickler you are for spelling but it is "Louis Duncan" for the 3 ball guy in the British show. The proof reading in my review could have been better (and I will improve it for the version on my website) but I hold your reviews to a higher standard since they are the ones I see and read most often :)
I agree that the neuro workshop should have been better described, it wasn't what I was expecting either. Not sure he belittled stretching, I think it was more of a let's look at something that probably should be investigated more.
Your take on Le Lido is definitely closest to my opinion from the reviews I've read.
I am a stickler for speeling and I do get my reviews proof read before posting.
I logged to change spelling but it had already been edited... Someone else has the power and already did it. :-)
Fair comment on the neuro workshop. Standing in solidarity for the Le Lido show.
Keep the reviews coming!
Never fear, the review post is here: https://www.juggle.org/british-juggling-convention-2017-review/
Enjoy, Cheers Jon
Cheers Jon. I always enjoy your reviews. V interested to hear your opinions re stretching. I'm very much in the "stretching doesn't really do a lot in the vast majority of cases" camp. Would love to hear more about the cognitive juggling workshop too - love picking through stuff like that. Cheers again.
The Box Monkey was "Lukey".
Having the words "proportionally" and "portion" so close together in a sentence was a bit of a curveball. After some consideration, I have decided that it is acceptable.
Sorry about the lack of handout at the kendama workshop. I would make an excuse that I wasn't planning on running it, but then I've never given handouts anyway. To mitigate myself, for a decade I've been running a website and forum with loads of info. Head to http://kendama.co.uk/first10.html for basic descriptions of the tricks I taught in the workshop. But watch the linked videos for much detail. Feel free to stick your head in at http://kendama.co.uk/forum/index.php?action=forum too (beginners are welcome), or prod me for refreshers/further tips at Lestival. And if none of that is satisfactory, you can wield your falchion at me. Or scimitar, or seax....
Thanks for the review!
Great review, I hate to be annoying but you mispelt Christian Hauschild every time. It's Christian not Cristian.
Thanks Jon & well done. & I thought I was obsessed with food!
I'd already heard poor reports about the on site cafe on the first day so never used them. I did hear a rumour that they were told by the organisers that there would be 500+ hungry jugglers looking for food, but they didn't believe them! If you had walked round the corner from Asda for 20 seconds you would have found the cafe TWJC monopolised for the week. Great food, great price, very efficient & very friendly staff. You would not have gone anywhere else.
I'm glad your hand injury didn't stop you from enjoying the convention. You had an appointment to see if you could have the cast off today right? How did that go?
Jon was out of the cast on Wednesday but only ran three balls for a short while - the arm still has to recover lots of muscle mass and tendon flexibility by the look of it. He seemed very happy to have it off though!
First time I've ever been able to run higher numbers than Jon, I think...
Just getting sorted after an amazing time at BJC! Thanks to the organisers and everyone involved in making it a fantastic convention once again!
I really enjoyed compering the Monday Night Open Stage, and have received kind comments from various people. If anyone else has feedback, good or bad, I'd love to hear it!
My Learn to Juggle 5 Balls workshop seemed to really help a lot of people. If you missed/lost your handout from the workshop, you can download a copy here: https://www.dropbox.com/…/LEARN%20TO%20JUGGLE%205%20BALLS%2… Be sure to let me know how you're progressing with 5 balls, I love to hear success stories!
Finally, forgive the self promotion, but if anyone wants updates on my performances then feel free to like my new Facebook page... https://www.facebook.com/ManOfMischief
Crawley Circus Festival 2016
You are probably reading this for one of three reasons:
You read all my stuff (love you!).
You've seen a picture of me half naked facing off against Hannah & want to know what that's all about (hi Kim).
You heard about Saturday night & want to know what happened (that'll be at the end).
Here we go then:
I arrived on site at 6.30pm. My arrival coincided with SJC, Dave & Carolyn & others simultaneously passing the TWJC encampment which pretty much wiped out my stock of chocolate brownies so sorry to those who turned up later! I erected my tent in a brief dry spell & settled in to watch the debacle that is the TWJC pizza run, which aside from having to phone through & ask for the same half price offer available on their non-functioning website went surprisingly well. That's two years running that we've achieved the level of 'not farcical'. Everyone usually buys the largest pizza available where ever we end up buying from with the plan to save a slice or two for breakfast the next day. Papa John's XXL pizzas proved bigger than expected for pretty much everyone.
The ready availability of some of Paul's lovely home brewed porter & wines coupled with some people's inability to pace themselves led to a pretty early night for most of the TWJC camp, so I joined the huge SJC contingent who were very big on a game called Psycho. It's a large group game where one person plays a psychiatrist who gets to ask questions to the rest of the group. If you are asked a question you have to answer it as if you were someone else in the group determined by some formula or trigger (eg. answer the question as the person to your left, or answwer as the person with their legs crossed) pre-agreed by the group while the psychiatrist was absent. The psychiatrist has to work out what the formula or trigger is. If a patient answers incorrectly someone (usually the subject being impersonated) calls 'psycho' & all the patients shuffle themselves around. It was a lot of fun to play & reminded me a lot of Spyfall that we enjoyed playing at Bungay. As the psychiatrist you can work out the pattern by asking questions like 'what are you wearing?' but the game is a lot more fun if everyone knows each other well & you ask about personal smutty details.
Later on numbers dwindled to just Hannah, Jack, Bungle, Glyn, Ieuan & myself so we ended up playing would you rather? Which saw some alarming pragmatism as we each determined the least worst option.
After I could take no more I wandered back to my tent in the light of a beautiful full moon leaving Jack wishing he hadn't drank so much Red Bull. I checked my phone when I got back to my tent which reported the time was 4am. I promised myself I'd call it a night earlier the next day.
I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, then I woke up a moment later & it was 9am. I finished off my pizza for breakfast then spent most of the morning chatting to people. I was tricked into doing a little juggling by hippy Kevin who I only seem to see at Crawley & always asks me to show him some new three ball tricks. After years of this he surprised me when he handed me his 3 clubs. My dancing is obviously doing me some good because I pulled off a very respectable 3 up pirouette first time despite hardly juggling anything this year. Henry Weston caused me to miss the obligatory stealing workshop in the afternoon. Our Kevin enjoyed Jon Udry's workshop on performance & Archie made good progress after attending the 5 ball workshop. The afternoon passed quickly because somehow it was time for...
The Kettle of Fish Show
Our compère for the night was Jon Udry who did a great job with lots of silly skits in between acts, juggling with 5 helium balloons being my favourite. He also did well to handle the heckling kids in the front of the audience. It's great to see just how far he has come in the few years since I first saw him perform in BYJOTY. His confidence is now getting close to his considerable ability.
Simone Riccio opened the show with a German wheel routine then followed it up later in the show with a diabolo spot. Both were nice turns that were well executed with no mistakes that I could see, although neither act offered me anything I haven't seen before I enjoyed Simone's pleasant personality which showed through his style & the way he engaged the audience.
Just when I thought I was becoming desensitised to contortionists Claudia Hughes took things up a level. This act featured the Marinelli Bend where the performer places her chin on the floor, rolls her body up over the top of her head & *kneels* either side of her head. That move & the poses while supporting her whole body with her mouth really made me feel queasy as a good contortionist should. It was a wonderful act, she made the grotesque look beautiful.
Regular favourite Rod Laver showed us his new routine involving trickshots with playing cards. Having recently worked on the UFO floating card trick myself I can appreciate tha skill required to flick a playing card consistently. Most tricks were a series of rapid fire throws but unfortunately I'd estimate the drop rate was around 40% to 50% which meant I just couldn't get into it. I think Rod struggled with the lighting which he has said has never been a problem with his style of ping pong ball juggling. The dropless sequence of behind the back throws then behind the neck throws into the hat looked fantastic & I hope show the promise of where the act will be in the future. Rod returned later in the show with his trademark ping pong balls which I have seen dozens of times, & hope to see dozens more. Still top notch skills & I still laugh at all the gurning.
Ian Marchant performed an act consisting of a lot of his signature pieces including the golf club trick performed with walking sticks while spinning 4 rings on his arms, flipping 5 spoons into 5 tumblers on a tray & pulling a table cloth from underneath a teapot & vase of flowers on a table balanced on his chin. Most of us had seen this earlier in the year at the BJC in Perth, but Ian is one of those performers I'm happy to watch again & again.
One of the most talked about acts of the night were the acrobalance duo whose name I sadly didn't catch. It started off with the lady being awkwardly manipulated by the man to the sound of some 50s pop song about running to your man when he comes home that was so excruciatingly sexist I was desperate for it to stop. So I was very pleased when the music was cut short, the lady walked to the front of the stage & began a short monologue of statements about not having to conform to society's stereotypes while peeling away the layers of her clingfilm dress, & removing her high heels while holding a handstand. Removing a wig while saying, "I like having practical hair" was a powerful surprise that I had no good reason to be surprised at. It didn't sound forced or scripted, threatening or self righteous. It sounded genuine, honest & personal, a perfect example of how to challenge preconceptions. After this the man also shared his thoughts while stripping off his suit. This was followed by the real acrobalance act with genuine cooperation between the pair featuring lots of rock solid hand to hand moves with slick transitions.
Closing the show with a gorgeous visual feast were Feeding the Fish. Stunning 2 to 4 person club passing set pieces, including one with the performers gliding around on hoverboards while performing various running (gliding?) feeds which was new to me. Of course they finished with their stunning pixel poi which if you haven't seen yet then I pity your vaccuous life.
I think Feeding the Fish were most people's highlight purely because they are hard to beat the size & impact of what they do. But for me, my favourite performer of the night was the sensational Jess Love who first performed a storming hula hoop routine featuring some surprising moves such as a very slick backward roll into a handstand while spinning the hoop around her ankle, plus throwing the hoop up, diving into a handstand then trapping the hoop between the back of her neck & her ankles. Another point that stood out for me was when she went from spinning 5 hoops together around her waist into 5 split in stages from her ankles to her upstretched hand. Instead of letting the hoops fall or stopping them with her hands as is usual she manipulated them back to 5 together around the waist. This looked so much cleaner & controlled, a subtle touch that I think many would miss, but I appreciated the show of mastery. As if that wasn't enough she returned later in the show with an even more storming skipping/tap dancing routine. I know we've had issues with tap dancing acts at Crawley before but Jess was an unstoppable ball of energy bouncing all over the stage with moves such as an alternating cross skip with one hand hooked under her right leg from front to back, inside to outside. She threw in blasts of tap dancing without noticeably slowing her jump rope, let go of the rope with one hand but continued with some lasso style rope spinning & had the audacity to keep smiling through tough sequences of double (triple?) skipping which was quite frankly sickening. Wonderful stuff.
After the gala show I successfully avoided the fire show while I had something to eat before working on finishing off my cider collection. I went for a walk & ended up going through the forest & over the playing fields to discover that there is a nightclub on the other side which I'm surprised we've never invaded in all the years of Crawley festivals, I didn't go in because the party goers seemed to be looking at my tramp-like appearance in disdain.
I wandered over to the Renegade tent just in time to catch Ieuan getting 4 volunteers to do the everyone lies back onto the lap of the person behind you thing, I was also asked to help with the harder high speed version by whipping out one of the 4 chairs when the stunt was performed to the high speed count of, "sit, lean, pull". For this year's how-can-Bungle-hurt-himself? act he set up a path of lego on the stage to walk across. Before making the walk he gaffer taped himself over the eyes. Ieuan ran on stage & slapped him in the face to prove its effectiveness which I thought was both very uneccessary & very funny. I think most people appreciated that walking on lego is worse than walking on hot coals so kudos for stopping mid-way to tell a joke. Glyn had to bow out of this year's zen wrestling title fight with Hannah due to injury so I was called upon to take his place. I ended up fighting topless because you know, cider. For those that don't know Hannah comes up to just above my shoulders in height but she is able to produce an incredible amount of power for one so small & is able to bend over backwards an unfeasibly long way without falling over which makes her a formidable opponent. We commenced battle, according to Kevin I managed to survive for 3 minutes or so successfully absorbing her thrusts but unable to push her off balance. As the crowd got restless Matt called out for us to stand closer so we edged to within a couple of inches of each other which is not a position I was familiar with & makes the game much harder to play. Hannah adapted quickly, I didn't. I think I was toppled by her second push. The number of times I have beaten Hannah is still a nice round number.
After renegade I participated in a number of kangaroo courts, which is a ritual performed by Southend Juggling Club for dealing with infractions to the various games they play. This year there had been three cases of people allowing the plunger to hit the ground (I know, but stick with me). The first to be tried was Jack. Despite being a jury member in one of these courts a few years ago I am still none the wiser about how they work so I was the ideal person to act as Jack's defence. In real courts the defendent has the option to defend themself, in a kangaroo court the defendent has the option to prosecute themself as well which Jack bizarrely chose to do. I thought I was doing pretty well particularly when I insisted that the entire jury experience sitting on Paul's lap to demonstrate that the key witness couldn't possibly have been concentrating on the event in question. However, the guilty verdict is always a predetermined one & as punishment Jack's bottle of wine was gaffer taped to the outside of his forearm meaning taking a swig was an uncomfortable contortion manoeuvre.
I joined the jury for Izzy's trial which was much shorter mostly due to the prosecution going as follows:
Judge Twig: Would the prosection please make their case.
Nathaniel: OBJECTION! The prosecutor is a vegetarian.
Judge Twig: Sustained. Would the prosecution please be seated.
Her punishment was to have her finger taped across her face in such a way that in order to drink she had to fill a bowl formed by the tape & let it drain into her mouth. Debbie was the final person to be tried & for her punishment she had to sit in a bucket of water, which we called the arse bucket challenge.
The bit you want to read about
The partying continued well into the morning. I noticed Izzy was on the floor in obvious pain holding her leg, being comforted by a few people. I didn't see what happened but she seemed to be in good hands. 5 minutes or so later she still wasn't up & Haydn appeared to be applying his first aiding skills so I wandered over to see what was going on. Apparently she had dislocated her knee while she was dancing causing her to crumple to the ground. It had happened before & she has a condition that makes it more complicated. She was certain it had popped back into place but she was still in an extraordinary amount of pain. I helped Haydn & Nathaniel lift her off of the floor onto a chair & get her leg up. I fetched my bottle of water for her to drink, gave my hand for crushing/gouging purposes & tried to gently restrain Izzy from hitting herself in frustration while Haydn applied an ice pack & sourced some ibuprofen. After another 10 minutes things weren't getting any better so it was suggested that we should call an ambulance, but Izzy was adamant that we shouldn't, she said it had happened before & there was nothing they could do, so reluctantly we waited a bit longer. Another 10 minutes or so & still the screams & tears. Debbie joined us & tried as best she could to encourage her to let us call an ambulance to no avail. At this point various cocktails of painkillers started turning up which was the turning point for me, thankfully there were several of us who clearly voiced this was getting out of hand. Debbie was the first to demand that we should ignore Izzy & call an ambulance, I buried Izzy's head in my arms before she could start protesting & gave Haydn the nod but he already had his phone out & was making the call.
It seemed a long wait but paramedics Heidi & Gemma turned up pretty quickly. They asked a few questions (When asked her age she replied, "twenty one & a bit", I loved that the 'bit' is still important!) & prodded about a bit. They gave us the options that Izzy could be taken to hospital to be checked out or they could only give her some paracetemol & leave her to it. Izzy did the very British thing of not wanting to be any trouble & insisted that there was nothing they'd be able to do. This is where Debbie really stepped up, she got in Izzy's face & stayed there, she did not stop talking until she convinced Izzy that going to hospital was the only option. I was in awe of the intense determination & care she showed. Izzy inevitably conceded & asked for someone to come with her who would boss her about & tell her what to do. That'll be Debbie then. At this point I think a lot of people shrunk away from going to hospital, it's a big responsibility but it was never any question that Debbie would go along. I said I'd come too, I just felt I needed to support Debbie because she seemed so focussed on Izzy that she wasn't going to look after herself, & I didn't want anyone to bear the burden alone. I had a bottle of water on me & I had cash for a taxi back. The only upside of holding a girl who has been crying & screaming in pain for the last half hour is that it sobers you up very quickly.
Heidi & Gemma loaded Izzy into the ambulance & gave her an initial examination while Debbie & I waited outside. We then got on board with Gemma driving & Heidi in the back with us. Heidi pulled out the nitrous oxide gas for Izzy to breathe & told us that she'd probably pass out which was fine. The gas took about 30 seconds to kick in, Izzy relaxed noticeably & lay back on the stretcher. Shortly after we started moving though the pain kicked in again. I provided the hand to dig her nails into, Debbie held her shoulders & kept up the encouragement while she took more of the gas, breathing much harder & deeper than before. I watched her face ease & her eyelids drop as she told us how wonderful everything was before she passed out. I'm not sure who was more relieved, her or me. I thought that would be it for the rest of the journey. She was out for less than a minute before she burst back to consciousness screaming, I had to stop her from hitting her leg with her flailing hand that I wasn't holding while Debbie retrieved the gas mouthpiece that she knocked aside & got it back to her mouth, again more deep breaths while Debbie kept up the reassuring chatter. Again she went back down on the bed. I glanced a question at Heidi who indicated that that was ok. & so it went for the whole journey, in & out of consciousness from pain to deliriousness. Keeping someone restrained gently is not a skill I've had much experience with but I learnt quickly. Halfway through the journey Izzy started retching, Heidi quickly retrieved a cardboard bowl from one of the ambulance's many cubby holes for me, Debbie supported her torso while I held the bowl while keeping my right arm between her arms & her legs braced for any flailing & held her hair out of her face with my left hand. The retching passed & we got Izzy back down again.
I'm very good at suppressing my emotions, but inside it was terrifying. I spent most of the journey worrying whether the next return to consciousness would see Izzy delirious or in pain. Unfortunately most of the time she was in pain. Being good at suppressing emotions I think I'm also pretty good at telling when other people are doing the same, I don't think Debbie was scared at all, she was too busy relentlessly working to keep Izzy calm. She rode the entire roller coaster. She played with Izzy during the delirious spells, then was right there with her taking the pain when it came back. At the height of the pain she was bold & aggressive with clear instructions. As the pain eased she'd subside too all the way down into a soothing hushed lullaby to send Izzy to sleep. When she was asleep she never took her eyes off her, ready to jump back in at a moments notice. I think Heidi was doing the same thing as me & letting Debbie do the comforting, meanwhile she got on with monitoring, filling out paperwork, handed us apparatus when we needed it, adjusted the bed when we needed her to. She joked with Debbie during the short periods when Izzy was unconscious. She obviously knew how important it is to take care of the carers. During one particularly soul wrenching scream, Gemma called from the front, "Everything ok back there?" & Heidi calmly replied, "Yep, keep going". I was glad of their calm professionalism, it gave me something to emulate.
I think we arrived at the hospital at about 5am, Heidi & Gemma wheeled Izzy into the corridoor & waited with us for triage. Debbie & I stood at Izzy's side & comforted her as best we could, the pain seemed much more bearable now that the motion had stopped. Izzy was clearly exhausted & her blood must have been full of the gas & air at this point. It was much easier for us to keep her calm. I found I could send her to sleep by stroking her hair which proved to be useful. After 5 minutes or so Izzy was then wheeled into triage & briefly looked over, this session included the inevitable exchange:
Doctor: What's your date of birth?
Izzy: something something 1994.
Me: 1994? I hate young people.
Heidi: So do I.
When the transfer was complete Heidi & Gemma wished Izzy well & we all thanked them for their help. Izzy was then wheeled into a holding bay where we waited to be seen. Debbie & I kept constant watch. There was no signal inside the building so Debbie disappeared for a bit to make calls & send text updates back to family & friends on site. Izzy was pretty spaced out & gave me a running commentary on how many noses I had at any given time. For a long while she'd ask where she was each time she woke up, so we made sure at least one of us were the first thing she saw when she opened her eyes to give her something familiar. A nurse came to take some blood. Another doctor came round & checked her leg, after a few exercises he seemed satisfied the knee had gone back into position but couldn't rule out a fracture so insisted on getting an x-ray. Izzy was taken away at around 7.20am according to the text I sent at the time. Debbie & I had a very welcome cup of tea for me & coffee for her before collapsing in the waiting area. We took turns to send commmuniqués back to site & just chatted while waiting for Izzy's return, which was only a few minutes. Then 40 minutes later the doctor returned to confirm that nothing was broken, he did a little more prodding & then said he was happy for us to go. We picked up some crutches which Izzy seemed determined to zoom about on at high speed to prove she was ok.
No one was awake to answer their phone on site so I ordered a taxi. The ride back to the theatre seemed to take forever, I couldn't believe we'd come all that way a few hours earlier, but of course we were somewhat more occupied on the journey there.
A lot of people have thanked me for going along, but honestly I didn't really do much. I provided a scratching post, lent a little muscle, provided Debbie & Izzy with water & paid for a taxi ride back to site. Debbie did the hard work, that's what heroism looks like. It was an honour to stand beside you Debbie.
Here's Bungle walking across the lego. Scream along if you like:
I do read everything you write, and this post is a good example of why. Glad everything's okay with Izzy.
I can't believe people born in 1994 are already in their twenties. I mean, the math's there, but the intuition of time is not!
"the golf club trick performed with walking sticks while spinning 4 rings on his arms, flipping 5 spoons into 5 tumblers on a tray & pulling a table cloth from underneath a teapot & vase of flowers on a table balanced on his chin."
WOW - that's one hell of a combination trick!
Jokes aside, thanks for the excellent and concise* review.
*neither the pizza ordering time, nor a full list of pizza flavours (ordered, considered, or available) was provided. Without such details, I had to rely on my imagination.
The pizza ordering commenced at just before 19:00. We decided on Papa John's this year thanks to an offer of 50% off if you ordered over £30 online. The shopping cart was down, but I phoned (at ~19:35 because they advised a 45-60 minute delivery time which prompted me to set an alarm on my phone for 20:05 to make sure I was round the front of the building 5 minutes before the earlier estimate) & asked nicely so they agreed to honour the offer over the phone. Pizzas available can be found here, we decided on the following:
4 * All the meats
1 * The Greek
1 * BBQ Chicken
1 * Garden Party
1 * Hawaiian (pineapple does not belong on a pizza)
Delivery arrived 20:10.
Pinapple on a Pizza seems very reasonable to me.
Olives / Anchovies / Sweetcorn = Do not belong on a Pizza.
Olives / Anchovies / Sweetcorn barely belong anywhere.
You're wrong about pineapple though, it doesn't belong on a pizza.
Pineapple belongs on little cocktail sticks, with a nice strong cheddar, served on half a grapefruit covered in foil.
Pineapple does belong on a pizza that's why I order it every year. It also is excellent cold for breakfast and is one of my 5 a day.
"Pineapple does belong on a pizza that's why I order it every year. It also is excellent cold for breakfast"
Kev, you're a sick bunny.
FWIW my favourite pizza topping, which bizarrely I've never seen offered at any pizza restaurant, is black pudding.
I had one of the All the meats. It was very good, the dough was sufficiently stodgy & very consistent, the toppings were plentiful & evenly distributed. My only complaint would be that it was very unevenly sliced, & it wasn't cut all the way through so there was a lot of tearing to do.
When I make my own I'm a six slicer, but I only ever make mine 12" or so in diameter. The XL is listed as 16" on their website, so I would guess the XXL is 18" & I believe was cut into 10 slices, which I think would've been about right but because of the unevenness I can't be certain.
An 18" pizza is approximately 20% bigger than a 16" - so would warrant a 20% increase in the number of slices.
So 10 slices seems about right
The Unicycling Monkey Pizza Slicer would have been a welcome addition to your camping cook bag:
On another note, I browsed the archives and found a post by you where you recommended the Kuhn Rikon Paring Knife for camping use.
I also endorse this knife. Super sharp and a very usefull sheath to prevent accidental amputation!
I've never got on with pizza wheels. Instead of cutting I find the resistance caused by dragging the wheel over the pizza just makes the wheel turn. If I wasn't against kitchen utensils that are only useful for one type of food I'd get one of those curved knives that have a handle on each end that look like an inverse bat'leth that you use by rocking over the pizza.
Surely the wheel is supposed to turn. It prevent the cheese being dragged across the surface.
Full sentence should've been, "makes the wheel turn without cutting the pizza." I can only see them working well on crispy bases, I like a soft doughy base.
You need to press down harder.
Although I share your dislike for single use kitchen gadgets.
Gert big chef knife ftw
Quick Izzy update. She's still on crutches but out of her splint & now strapped up with webbing & her leg now looks like a lattice pie. She had a good session with a physio yesterday & has a host of painful exercises to do to get her back to normal. She's definitely a lot happier than when I last saw her.
Sheffield Circus Skills Convention 2016 (UK) – Review
Saturday 9th July saw the return of the Sheffield Circus Skills Convention, here follows my convention review and ramblings of the day.
I did expect to get thoroughly lost as we navigated the centre of Sheffield, but surprisingly we managed it without a problem.
We chose to arrive early in order to bag a parking space as judging by the maps provided before the event the parking looked a bit sparse. As it turned out this was not a problem as there were a number of car parks within a short walk of the venue. I got a spot on free on street parking on Brunswick St next to a fairly large university car park which attendees of the convention could use for free on the day. I would head there next time.
When we arrived the convention crew were in full swing getting things organised so we kept out of the way and chilled out in the lounge area (sofas and little tables) where Ron was to later have his Lazy Juggler games area.
The passes were very swanky, plastic tokens of many colours with SCSC cut out on them. I always like a good pass and these scored pretty highly!
I had never been to this venue and a Like it a lot! I did spend far too long counting the walls to make sure it was eight sided (it is!). The main convention space is a very large octagonal hall with a large stage set up against one wall. The lighting and sound in the hall is pretty good. Overhead lighting was a bit bright in places but there were plenty of gaps to juggle in. I need to find a good way of measuring the hall sizes for my reviews, but it was a great big hall! Nice and clean too. The angled walls made it difficult for me to orient myself to juggle, I am one who insists on juggling at right angles to the walls...
The workshop board was well populated with beginner workshops across a variety of disciplines and some other interesting looking workshops.
I spent the morning enjoying a good ball juggling session. Lots of my harder tricks were not feeling as hard as usual so I was very encouraged and made the most of the session. I broke off to speak to various people as they arrived including magical Mark who Me and Jenni then convinced to come out with us for lunch (11.30, we had got up early and were v hungry!). I was hankering for burritos so we headed out to the burrito place and found it to be closed on weekends! Very sad!
Mood improved when we found a fish and chip shop with some exciting meal deal combos listed on the window. Just a point of note, a ‘+’ in Sheffield actually means ‘Or’. I had to restrict my choice to mushy peas OR gravy OR curry sauce with my meal. Again sad times. Also strangely the server boasted when handing over the food that I had a chicken sausage rather than a pork sausage, “you won’t get them anywhere ese” I was told. This caused a lot of discussion amongst ourselves especially when I found it tasted identical to traditional fish and chip shop sausages. More questions than answers…
After lunch I sat and chatted with Brook and also Jenni’s brother and watched Mark and Callum playing 3 club gladiators. Mark retired and then Brook joined in, then I joined in and we played for a long time until we were all pretty shattered. I didn’t expect to play any gladiators at this convention but as it turned out I ended up playing more than at some conventions where there has been a tournament! Funny how things turn out.
We all sat outside and cooled off in the breeze and chatted before heading inside where the games had just started. We had missed 3 ball Simon says but saw a nice range of games and took part in a few. I royally sucked at hoop gladiators and laughed during the balance endurance which took me out. I won juggling limbo which was great fun, I normally make a simple drop early on and crash out of the running but I managed to hold my cool and keep it together and was awarded with a mini twix. To the victor the spoils!
Me and Brook did a tiny bit of one count passing between games until the gladiators started so we both joined in and played that for another hour or so…
The hall closed at 5pm for show tech running, although the other workshop rooms were open and free to use for more juggling. We elected to go out for some food. There are lots of places to get food within a short walk of the venue so we gathered up Mark and set off to a nice Indian restaurant a sort walk away which we had espied earlier. Turned out to be pretty good, although there were some unusual choices on the menu. I won the joke meal award again (chicken sausage fiasco) with my strange flaky bread served with my curry. Never mind.
We waved Mark off after our meal as he couldn’t stay for the show and we made our way back.
Lots of seating arranged in front of the stage, professional lighting and sound, pretty impressed.
While everyone was taking their seats Rachael sang us all a song whilst doing cup percussion as accompaniment, it sounded very nice and I would have liked to have heard more.
Miark sat with us and introduced us to a great variety of people who were sat around us who Miark hadn’t met before either. He was also invaluable in helping me with my notes on the show, so thank you Miark.
Ross did a good job of compering the show with lots of energy but someone needs to confiscate his joke book.
Shaun and Amanda opened the show with some nice club passing and some good club stealing all performed with smiles and little gags. It was slightly droppy which was a bit of a shame although they coped very well with the drops and performed well.
Jenny Collins performed a bicycle themed hoop routine with bicycle tyres. It was great fun, I really liked it. She broke on of my cardinal rules of performing which is that you should never perform to a Queen song as the music should never be better than your routine. HOWEVER, she did a great job and I need to rethink that rule of mine. I would have liked to have seen her performing in either full cycling attire or a Freddy Mercury eske outfit to bind the routine together, but even so it was good fun and well performed. Miark marked her down for not putting her cycle helmet back on when she cycled away from the stage, safety first!
We then had to turn in our seats to back of the room to watch Doris perform her unicycling routine but this time as a green alien! It was very entertaining and she hit all of the big tricks. It was a good ending having Ross as a Man in Black shoot her down with a ray gun. Good fun.
The interval was long and contained a really drawn out raffle (geddit?).
The second half opened with Tom Crosbie performing some Rubiks cube feats as well as performing some magic. I enjoyed his patter and presentation very much as well as the numbers trick he did, that was my favourite.
Thomas bounce performed a really nice bounce routine. I think I enjoyed it more than I did his routine from the BJC this year. Very solid and smooth skills, a pleasure to watch.
Cindy Steele performed a fantastic mix of robotic dance and contact ball manipulation. So smooth and amazing to watch. I always desperately want to see even more footwork though as I love watching the gliding across the stage along with the manipulations.
The finale act of the show was a poi juggling routine performed by Keith Marshal and Antonia. Having tried the poi juggling at Cumbria convention and seeing how hard it was I really enjoyed the routine and was very impressed. The music choice was right up my street as well and I especially enjoyed the fact that Keith sang along to most of it. Good routine!
After the show I chatted with Tomas Bounce for a long while discussing marble slabs and the perils of various venues, before collecting Jenni and piling into the car for the journey home.
Of course no convention would be complete without a necessary section of the motorway being closed forcing a long detour through Wakefield city centre…
I enjoyed SCSC much more than I thought I would. The venue was excellent, the hall was large and clean. The team seemed well organised and knew what they were doing. The games ran smoothly. The show was very good despite some last minute drop outs from the line-up.
My only real suggestion for next year would be having a ‘day only’ ticket in addition to the other ticket choices to allow for people who were unable to stay for the show. Saying that there were around 70 people through the door during the day with 100 or so turning up for the evening show.
This was a good convention, there is lots of room at this venue for even more people, you should come next time and see for yourselves.
Thank you to the organisers for putting on such a good event, I hope to see you again next year!
(My goodness, what a long review, I hope you enjoyed it. If you did or didn’t then join the discussion. If you attended the event add you own review of the day too!)
Cumbria Convention 2016 – Review (UK)
Yesterday was the 2nd Cumbria Juggling Convention held in Appleby in Westmorland.
Here follows my review of the convention and meanderings of the weekend in general.
We gathered Ed from the station and grabbed a spot of food at home before bombing it up the A1 to Appleby on the Friday night. Last year I took a more scenic route to avoid the traffic. Turns out that on this stretch traffic was not a problem and in fact it was far more scenic than going the pretty way! Shaved 40mins off the journey. Ed was particularly taken with the fine views and scenery on the way across the country on the A66.
We had time for a mini car tour of Appleby before heading over to our B&B and having a very good game of scrabble. Our host was quite surprised and refreshed when we said we wouldn’t need the password for the WiFi!
The following morning we tanked up with a great big full English breakfast before heading over to venue.
The convention is held at the local sports centre in the large main hall. No water coolers, lost points there, although there was a small cafe which sold essentials.
The convention started with a bit of awkwardness as half the hall was being used for a karate class and so there was a lot of awkward silence in-dispersed with various death shouts from the karate group. We filled this time warming up with a hand/ball hackey sack game with some of the Yorkies which was really good fun.
The warriors left at around 11am, the curtain was drawn back and we all spread out and filled the hall.
Me and Ed did lots of passing, I spent more money at Lazy juggler and even bought some nice new numbers balls from Butterfingers. I liked Ron’s sales pitch to me which consisted of walking past and saying ‘that’s a good game!’, I was looking at Hive at the time. I don’t need much more than that from Ron as he knows his stuff so I bought it.
I stopped every now and then to watch Emil Dahl practising in the hall. I particularly liked 6 rings with a ring head balance, 8/9 rings and some really lovely hand balancing tricks (rings balancing on hands). Super hard and super smooth (more seen during the show).
I avoided watching Masa practising in the hall as I wanted his show to be a surprise, more about Masa later!
The hall never got full. In fact it felt very empty this year. I was surprised that after the success of last year the numbers didn’t shoot up this year. I can only think that everyone must have been busy watching the Eurovision? The hall needed some music to be played to liven it up a bit at times as it did feel a bit quiet.
It was a nice sunny day outside so we had our lunch in the sun until we realised the wind was actually quite cold and strong, so we bailed out and ate in the hall in the end.
Me and Ed then started playing with some of the ball poi which had been abandoned by the BMP crowd. It was way harder than I thought it would be… There are timing issues as well as judging the throws and adding in the swings on the down stroke. We both really enjoyed it and spent quite a while messing around, also tried a 5 ultimate’s pattern with mixed success. I got 20 odd catches solo but it required some serious attention to keep the pattern going!
Games time! The games were well attended. Me and Ed tried our hand at the long distance passing but were short about 10 foot, I came 2nd in 5 prop endurance. Apart from that we didn’t pay much attention to the games this year as we were messing around with toy planes…
Combat tournament time! We struggled for numbers initially but eventually rustled up the 8 players required for the tournament. The first prize not only received 200 points but a rather fetching Golden Apple Trophy!! All conventions should offer a special combat tournament trophy as it fired everyone up! The tournament ran pretty smoothly except for unruly children playing in the danger area. I finally managed to win a tournament (no Brook!), Rob came second and Callum came in third place. Full results have been submitted and should be online soon.
After the tournament we gathered our things together, collected devil stick Matt, and we all piled into my car and went off into town in search of food. We ate in a nice Indian restaurant, same place as last year, and all the other tables were also jugglers from the convention which was really nice.
We were the last to finish and leave and we then walked through the town to the arts centre where the show was held last year. It was locked and no one around… looked in the window and the entire floor was up being refurbished!! Quick speed walk back to the car as well as quite a few phone calls (no signal in Appleby) resulting in us rushing back to the venue and finding hall the hall had been turned into the show venue. Completely missed that announcement of where the show was! Ooops.
Never mind, we were actually in plenty of time for the start of the show. This was another moment when we looked around the hall and were shocked by how few people there were… It didn’t matter as far as the show was concerned as Tiff was compere and managed to keep a great level of energy and enthusiasm going in the room.
First act was Masayuki Furuya performing his plate spinning performance which I hear he did at the EJC last year. Very cool plate spinning and juggling combinations, beautifully presented, I loved it!!! He was my perfect performer, excellent performing skills and audience engagement. Why are the Japanese such good performers, where does it come from!?! I grinned throughout the whole routine and especially loved the cheeky third plate!
BMP performed the routine which they did at the BJC this year, minus one performer from the troupe. It was very good again, I enjoyed it much more this time having spent the afternoon trying to juggle their poi and seeing how hard it is. I appreciated a lot of the tricks a lot more too.
Greeny performed his cabaret club juggling routine. I really enjoyed it as I like very techy 3 club stuff but I can see that it might not have been everyone’s cup of tea. I liked seeing his character coming through the techy stuff as well.
Claire performed her hula hoop routine which she performed in the Open stage at BJC this year. It’s a good routine but I desperately want to see more happy smiles and audience engagement.
Doris performed her Dracula esk unicycle routine. I love the routine but this is the first time where I have seen her miss some of the big tricks. Such a shame but nether the less an outstanding routine.
Emil Dahl was too good. He made everyone very upset by being too good. Amazingly hard ring balances and combinations done very smoothly and without any grandeur. I sat open mouthed for a lot of it, very inspiring. Again, I loved it!
I was sad to hear that Ameron was unable to make the convention and perform in the show due to illness, I hope he recovers soon.
The Cumbria show was excellent! It was a tall order to beat the show from last year but the very high standard was definitely maintained, well done Rosie!
Juggling was had in the hall again following the show so myself and Ed did more passing until we roped Kiran into doing some roundabout. I really enjoyed the roundabout once I realised I had been turning the wrong way and then corrected it. Funnily it ran much better once I stopped messing up my turns.
We said our goodbyes before returning to the B&B and playing Hive (Ron was right of course, it’s a great game!). Breakfast the following morning, another scenic drive across country where we saw castles and the Lloyd’s TSB horse. We played Catan before dropping Ed off at the station. Good weekend all round.
Cumbria Convention is a great one dayer which is well worth the journey! The show has been of consistently high standard, higher than the majority of other one day convention shows.
It was very poorly attended. I do not know if the convention made much money (although the raffle must have generated quite a lot) but I really hope it did. I am looking forward to attending again next year so please; come to Cumbria convention next year, I do not think that you will disappointed!
Thank you Rosie and your team for running another great Cumbria Convention!
P.S I remembered the Hastag!
I and Heydar experienced, enjoyed, and endorse this review.
Good enough, that if a convention is too far away, I figure more fun to read your review than bother sitting in a car for 3 hours.
My reviews are meant to encourage more people to attend the conventions rather than encourage you to stay at home and read them instead!!! ;-)
It has been pointed out to me since the convention that Cumbria actually achieved way more bodies through the door compared to the previous year. My memory is letting me down but that that just means that there is still plenty of room for everyone to come next year!
It should be remembered that Cumbria is a new convention on the circuit so will take time to build up (as well as being rather remote) BUT, it is well worth the trip. Make a special effort to attend next year because it is worth it (That includes you Brook!).
Lestival IX Convention Review (UK)
Saturday the 30th April saw the return of the Leicester juggling convention held at Brockington College, Enderby. Here follows my account of the day!
I think it is remarked every year how great the venue is. It is still great! Large and light atrium, comfortable games / chill out area, large ‘pit’ area which doubles as the show venue, the café and seating area where you can watch the main juggling space. It is basically perfect for the convention and I think possibly the best one day convention site on the UK circuit!
The workshop board was full of workshops when we arrived but we added another workshop area backstage so that I could do my ring juggling workshop.
I spent an hour or so doing some club juggling and breaking off regularly to chat with various people as they arrived. It was nice to see a good crowd of people who I had missed at BJC so hadn’t perhaps seen since York juggling convention at the start of the year.
Me and Jenni headed over to the Lazy Juggler stand to sample their wares, came away with our own copy of Dual which we have become a bit obsessed with!
Oddballs were also trading and had a huge stall set up in the atrium. They had masses of stuff! I found myself wondering if it was worth it for them and hoped that they managed to shift a lot of stock.
Workshop time. My workshop was entitled Ring juggling - technique, tips and tricks. I was slightly put out when only two people had arrived so I asked Jay to make an announcement, following the announcement that number then jumped to about 12 which was way better! I guess most people don’t bother checking the workshop board which is a pity when there were so many on offer…
I think the workshop went quite well and we covered a huge amount of stuff. I am slightly worried that we covered too much and people might have been overwhelmed, but I think everyone got something from it. We actually overran by half an hour because we kept uncovering more tricks which people wanted to learn.
I left the workshop starving hungry and headed to the café with Jenni and had a very tasty (and affordable!) baguette. There was just time to sit for half an hour and enjoy my food and chat to the Northwich jugglers before I had to rush off for the combat tournament qualifications.
About 14 people took part; mostly the usual crowd and we managed to race through the qualifications in an hour and get the semi-finals done. I only lost one match during qualifications and that was against Brook so I was quite happy with that. I seeded third behind Danny Cooper and Brook because I gave too many points away in my matches. That seemed a bit of a theme of the day for me… Anyway, the final and third place matches were to be held at the end of the games to make a bit more of a spectacle of the tournament.
So, immediately following the qualifications was the Games. All the classic games took part; I elected to avoid the ones where I normally get badly injured such as hopping gladiators and the knights, damsels and cavaliers game. We did enjoy sitting and watching the action unfold. I was very disappointed with my 5 club endurance run which ended after about 15 throws, I realised I hadn’t actually properly juggled so far during the convention. A well-deserved win from David Haslam (BYJOTY 2016) though, such a clean pattern. My balance endurance ended by me attempting to recover the balance and ploughing into Bungle where we stood and hugged for quite a time (longer than was strictly necessary, but it was funny!).
No 5 ball endurance which was a shame as the 5 clubs and 7 balls feels a bit elitist. 7 Ball endurance went better than expected; I finished in the top 5 although it was a bit sloppy.
Then it was combat time and the third place match between Danny and Cameron.
There were some nice fights and exchanges as well as some long points, Danny secured the third place finish in the end. Me and Brook faced off for the final match. I dropped too many silly points and lost to Brooks consistent playing style. There is no shame losing to Brook, but I would very much like to beat him, it seems like ages since I won a game against him!
I think it worked quite well holding the finals during the games, I hope the audience enjoyed it. The venue really made this work as the pit area is lower and surrounded by steps which can be sat on (bit like an amphitheatre) and I think this really helped, I am not sure how well it work at other conventions where the games are just held in the sports hall…
Free for all gladiators then took place which was again lots of fun.
Following the gladiators I hooked up with Ed and we worked on our 9 club ultimate’s and achieved some quite long runs. I felt that my throws were letting the pattern down a bit. I should really have warmed up more before trying big patterns.
Me and Jenni then tagged on the back of the Cambridge posse and we all went to the Toby Carvery which is a short walk away. Not surprisingly half the convention seemed to be there. There was a long wait for the roast potatoes and some amusing stories told.
Back at the venue me and Mark started some ring passing and quickly got up to 11. My problem is throwing them too short or narrow which them forced Mark to start dropping them too long. Even so, we did manage some good runs.
Tiff compered the show and did a good job especially at shooting down hecklers (or rather, Rob and Simion)
Lisa Ellipse kicked off the show with a moody Hula Hoop routine. I thought it was nice and I liked some of the clever shapes which are being made these days although it was bordering on having too much spinning on the spot.
Tom Bennet-Davis performed his first stage routine and showed some good skills with diabolo. I particularly liked his confidence on stage and enjoyed his one liners.
David Haslam performed his BYJOTY winning routine from this years BJC. It wasn’t the near dropless performance from the BJC but it was a very strong technical routine. I missed it at BJC (had to leave site and come back on the Sunday) so I was really pleased to see it!
I spent the interval doing some more ring passing with Mark before it was raffle time. My Dad won a set of 5 Oddball bouncers. I won a crate of mini beers, but as I don’t drink I neglected to go and get my prize. To my utter delight and disbelief I won the BJC full ticket!!! I am especially delighted as Jay had to pay for it out of his own pocket and moaned at me, haha (sorry Jay)!!
Max Hodgkinson opened the second half with a diabolo routine. The significance of the hat was lost on me.
Ed performed with his contact cigar box routine which was a bit too droppy on this occasion.
Pass Go (AKA James and Elanor) gave a fantastic club passing routine. This was a snazzy upgraded version of the one they performed at Bath convention a couple of years ago. Super slick and also very snazzy costumes. I wasn’t blown away by the passing patterns but I loved the transitions and some of the short sections between passing bouts. Nice routine.
Greeny closed the show with a cheeky clowning / odd character routine. I was delighted that he maintained the character throughout the entire routine whereas a lot of snap out of character if there is a drop or when it’s time for the bow. Pretty good routine, especially when the other acts came out and got involved.
It was a strong convention show overall. I have a major gripe with performers for not bowing properly at the end of their individual routines. Most simply nodded at the audience and perhaps dipped slightly before running off the stage. Let’s have some good bows please; it is part of the routine and should be rehearsed as such!
After the show there was just enough time for a spot more passing before we were all kicked out and sent home.
Where did the day go? For me the day passed in a blur and it was over before I was ready. I would have liked to have done more solo juggling, but the day was just over too soon.
Lestival was once again a great convention, thank you to the organising team. I’m pleased to hear that the organisers are keen to run another so I look forward to seeing you all again next year!
The 29th British Juggling Convention, Perth
My BJC started at the stupid time of 4:30am at Kev's house. I'd followed him back to his place from TWJC the night before navigating an excessive detour due to road works. The late night combined with pre-BJC excitement meant that I had almost no sleep. Pretty much everything was already packed & in the car so we were away & driving within 10 minutes of the alarm going off. After a short trip we left the car with APH who then ferried us via bus to Gatwick North Terminal. We met up with John Shearing who had caught the train in & checked in early. Strangely my rucksack was deemed 'oversize luggage' but Kevin's monstrous bag that could possibly contain two of my bags was ok. I later learned that it was the straps that was the problem, not the size. Shame I forgot that my rucksack is actually a Transformer & the straps can be cleverly zipped away.
We had a cup of tea in the terminal while Kevin went to double check our return flight information at the BA help desk because we had some confusing changes to our flight times. He was gone for quite a while due to a problem with the computers but he managed to return to us just in time for our names read out in a stern voice over the public address system telling us to get to the gate immediately which was thoroughly satisfying. A quick sprint through the North Terminal labyrinth & we made it to the gate just as they were starting the disembarking process. We pretty much fell into the cabin puffing & wheezing, me wearing my heavily patched up convention coat looking like a tramp & Kevin wearing a black & white polka dot top hat with a bright pink feather & a pink BJC logo on the front. Glaring back at us were a lot of serious looking middle aged business men in sharp pin-stripe suits. I think we made a lot of friends with that entrance. We weren't the last ones to board though & we didn't delay take-off.
I've never flown with British Airways before, having always used the low budget airlines. It was a comfy flight with excellent service, the better baggage allowance & much more accommodating attitude of the company in general is definitely going to make me consider using them more in the future. The very welcome in flight breakfast was satisfying too, even if I did keep burning my wrist on the hot container.
We were pleasantly greeted in arrivals at Edinburgh airport by the lovely Dee. I'd worked out a bus & train combination to get to site as cheaply as I could, but Dee had managed to find a couple of buses that worked out a fraction cheaper so we ended up all travelling together. It was great to get a few tips from an obviously very experienced traveler!
It was a 2 hour-ish bus journey to Perth through some beautiful countryside with Dee being an excellent tour guide. After a 10 minute walk from the bus station we found Bell's Sports Centre just after midday. On the fields outside the centre a very small area between two rugby pitches which would be in use during the festival had already been fenced off, we immediately knew camping space was going to be an upcoming problem! There was still a lot of set up work to be done so we dropped our bags in the reception area & got on it. I ended up unloading barrels of beer from the wonderful people at MòR Brewing. Speaking to Jak, he said one of the reasons he chose them was for the puntastic names of their ales (MòR tea vicar, MòR Calm & Wise, MòRticia etc...). The brewers were surprised & very glad of the volunteers on hand to help with the grunt work. Naturally I mangled two of my knuckles lifting a barrel off of the trailer.
On a tip from Gandolph I commandeered an abandoned shopping trolley to help with unloading more drinks & supplies from Ron's van. Fundamental rule for site setup: if you see a set of wheels going spare, grab them!
Kev & I then helped with carrying tables & chairs for the bar & board games areas before making a quick sortie into town to pick up some supplies from a supermarket for the week. We came back & assembled on the sofas with a number of other volunteers waiting for any calls to action which strangely never materialised. Odd to see everything so in control!
After a while the registration desk was declared open for volunteers so I picked up my welcome pack & then went to set up camp in the glorious sunshine. I picked a spot just off of one of the fire breaks & pitched with my tent entrance facing the security fence so that I could use that to help me clamber out of my tent in the morning. I think my 3 man tent took up about a third of the available space. We'll be extending the camping area shortly then… By the time we'd finished a growing crowd of non-volunteers had grown outside the campsite entrance & were being kept at bay by Jon Peat. Jon can handle anything so we left him to it & went into town to get some fish & chips.
We returned just before a brief rain shower & I had a quick nap before toddling off for my scheduled reg-desk stint at 8pm which turned out not to be the case due to a bit of shift confusion so I signed up for a shift the next day instead before proceeding to the bar & enjoying a few drinks & chatting with friends. After sadly missing last year's BJC it was lovely to meet up again with a lot of people I haven't seen for two years. It was a long day though & I was severely flagging by around midnight so had an early night.
I had a good night's sleep & woke around 7.30am. I wandered over to the main hall & had a quick snakeboard around the handful of other early risers. I then picked up Kevin & we went for a walk along the beautiful River Tay. Fak blitzed past us on her morning run which made me feel ill. We enjoyed exploring the statues & the alarming high water marks & dates carved into the stone bridge. It is an impressively wide & powerful river evidenced by the rather large tree currently wedged against one of the bridge's piers. We then met up with Paul & Louisa (not Laura) for a tour of many closed cafes around the town before finding a Wetherspoons & digging into a massive Scottish breakfast with my first experience of haggis which was very tasty. Paul spread hot butter on his crotch.
When I got back to site I reported for registration desk duty. I've never sat on a reg-desk before but I was given ample training from Steph & was superbly supported by the wonderful Fak. We answered a lot of questions, I have to say most of the answers to which were already in the info booklet. I probably could've been more helpful as one poor guy was subjected to:
Him: "What's the best way to walk into Perth?"
Me: "Have you seen the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch...?"
I cocked up our first transaction with the till due to the decimal point confusingly not being displayed until after the transaction has been entered. I was initially nervous about reg-desking but it turned out to be a lot of fun.
After being relieved of duty by Susannah & Guy I found Kev mopping up the aftermath of an exploded fizzy drinks bottle in his tent. We then went for another jaunt into town so Kevin could buy a duvet & Paul could buy another set of trousers so he could make a sandwich. I think we took every wrong turn possible & managed to take 20 minutes to get to a shop 2 minutes walk away. We did find a nice looking noodle bar for later use though.
Back on site I had my first juggling session of the festival which was also my first bit of juggling for almost 2 months which felt great. Working on my handstands did me the world of good too.
Anna presented me with a complete set of volunteer badges for work I'd done with pre-reg before the festival. Six standard round badges each featuring a performer from the Gala show & one large square badge featuring everyone. These will make a nice addition to my bundle of passes, badges & other juggling festival memorabilia.
In the evening we sat down for the Open Stage which was the first show of the festival. Tom Derrick was our compère for the evening who in between introducing the acts supplied some truly awful puns, a useful rundown of Scotland's surprisingly strict drinking laws & performed some of his stringless tennis racket material which was lovely to see again. He also looked stunning in a corset.
First on stage was a young lady whose name I can't remember in a splendid polka dot outfit who performed as a puppet character with poi. She maintained character beautifully from start to finish while presenting a clean routine which included some nice moves particularly the contact body rolls with the trailing string whipping round.
Cat Learmonth & Cai Lear performed a Punch & Judy show which contrary to expectations was laugh out loud funny. The routine was true to the traditional characters but the story was tailored to us jugglers & easy to get caught up in. Also included a nice burst of some rock hard 5 ball juggling from Cai.
Tiff blew the roof off the hall with an epic rendition of Gina G's 'ooh aah, just a little bit' on the banjo. I loved his, "Stop it! You're putting me off!" outburst. Everything works better with a flat cap & a Yorkshire accent.
Ieuan performed a ring juggling act that was a bit droppy in places but nicely put together with a lot of variety balanced well throughout the routine.
Callum & Lisa performed a glow hoop act. There were some nice moments where for example they would be performing an isolation with the hand travelling around the hoop in one direction, but the flashing sequence of the LEDs made it look like the hoop was turning in the opposite direction which made for a pleasant visually confusing effect. Unfortunately this sort of effect was limited so for me it still falls into my 'unnecessary glow' category. But still nice to watch.
Tiff returned with his jolly 3 ring juggling & spinning routine that I'd already seen at Crawley earlier last year. Still enjoyed it on the second sitting.
Claire Stephens sported a high-vis waistcoat & hard hat for a slick, fast paced hoop routine again with a lot of variety. I heard she was suffering from terrible nerves before the performance, but I didn't pick up on any sign of that at the time.
Closing the show was Ed Cliffe with his signature cigar boxes & contact ball work which he has really made his own. I was a bit non-plussed with the drawn out ball on head build up but once the routine got going I was thoroughly absorbed. As usual his routine contained lots of intricate cigar box moves with the ball balanced & rolling around on top & interesting dynamic spins of the boxes on his finger tips using the weight of the balanced contact ball to hold everything in place.
Top act of the show for me though was Doris from Germany with an ace vampire themed freestyle unicycle number complete with red silk lined cape. The look, the music, & all the cape flapping combined with ridiculously high level tricks had me transfixed throughout. Years ago when I started writing festival reviews I used to focus on lists of tricks that people were doing, then I stopped really caring & started writing on how people performed & how acts made me feel. However, for this act I'm going to have to return to my roots & point out a very long & controlled hand walk, bouncing while standing on the forks with legs crossed around the back of the frame & (I think this is what I saw but I'm still not 100% convinced I believe myself) throwing the unicycle tire first at the ground so that it bounced & flipped over 360°, jumping & catching the unicycle mid air then landing & bouncing while standing on the forks. This trick left me agog. Well deserving of the standing ovation.
After the show I spent a long time chatting to people about the show, & to Matt in particular about workshops. Matt also tried to educate me on the finer points of high end whiskey but I'm afraid I think I'm a bit of a lost cause. From the sample bottle we had to work with I managed to pick up on the smokey taste but beyond that the only thing I could detect was, "Holy shit my mouth is on fire, let me cool down with some chili vodka".
I went back to camp to fetch my juggling kit but after chipping my way through the ice to get into my tent I decided to turn in sooner rather than later.
I slept very soundly which was just as well because it was set to be a busy day for me. I started by packing in another big fried breakfast (haggis is awesome!). I spent all morning in the main hall juggling & hand standing. I also had a long & interesting chat with the ever lovable Max Oddball mostly about the Oddballs Empire. We then picked up some clubs & did some 6 to 8 club passing. I feel that most of his tricks are designed to fool his passing partner which certainly kept me on my toes!
I also managed to pick up a load of Juggling Edge stickers from LP printed by Gravity Outlaws which I would enjoy giving out over the coming days (still got lots left, grab me at a future festival if you want some).
Throughout the week the puppet making workshops kept many people engrossed as they lovingly brought their creations to life. Anna & Susannah especially were very much in love with their final creations which was lovely to see.
After a quick bit of snacking I attended a meeting to discuss improving the BJC's online presence. It was attended by a good variety of interested parties & there was a general consensus that we need to clean up & coordinate the various online BJC promotional & educational efforts better. We also identified two audiences which I don't think are served at the moment (suppliers & press). I'm one of a number of people assigned tasks that we agreed would improve the situation. It's going to take a while to get up & running but stay tuned for an announcement in the next couple of weeks for more detail about what's going to happen.
Following the meeting I made my way to the coaching hall for the Fight Night Tournament qualification rounds. Not for the first time I started off the process by incorrectly writing Jon Peat's name on the top of my score sheet. I know everyone wants to be Jon Peat a little bit, but my fixation is becoming a cause for concern. We had 26 players sign up, many of which I had not played before which was good to see. We were split into 2 groups & everyone in group 1 had to play against everyone in group 2 so 13 matches in total. Jon Peat steam rollered me 3-0, but everyone else I scored at least one point against. I even managed to score a point against current world number one, Luke Burrage which I was delighted with. Closest match of my qualification run was with Cameron Ford who I'd never fought before. It seemed to go on forever because our styles tended to cancel each other out pretty effectively. It was one of the last fights of the session so both of us were already very tired. Every point was closely fought & consisted of dozens of attacks & responses each. My right knee was screaming at me with every lunge. I managed to scrape the win 3-2 & my legs genuinely gave way at the end. I didn't want to go through that again.
Once I'd finished all my matches I totaled 7 wins & 6 defeats which I thought was pretty disastrous. However, I still managed to qualify as the 11th seed which I think is an indication of how much closer the competition is now. Brook Roberts went through as the number one seed with a perfect qualification run.
I then had a quick snack before joining in the Ceilidh dance which was hastily organised last minute by a number of attendees. Instead of a band we had recorded music some of which was edited onsite into the required measures & managed by Andy behind the sound desk & our caller was BJC 2005 organiser Graham Benson. Knowing that I needed to conserve energy for the Fight Night finals immediately after the dance I thought I'd join in, but I'd take it easy.
Did I fuck.
I had great fun dancing & being ridiculous with Nicola, Jamie & Lizzie mostly, all of whom danced with exuberant enthusiasm which obviously I had to echo. There were times when the calling wasn't exactly in time with the music so there were several occasions where the people keeping time & people following the caller collided which was good fun.
Straight after the Ceilidh it was back to the coaching hall which was now fully set up with a ring complete with umpire's chair ready for the Fight Night tournament. My first fight was against... Cameron Ford! & it was more of the same, we had the longest fight of the tournament at over 6 minutes. I think it was clear how tired both of us were because we each made a lot of mistakes. I was a tiny bit disappointed with the result because I believe I was up 4-2 at one point only for Cameron to grind out the win at 4-5. I thoroughly enjoyed the battle though, I think the best man won on the day & most importantly I think we put on a good show.
For the rest of the tournament I enjoyed mucking around & cheering on the other competitors especially fellow Jon, Jon Peat who suffered a full on body slam from Ian & took a club to the face from Luke. This was on top of the swollen cut lip he picked up during qualification! The final saw the top two seeds Brook Roberts vs Luke Burrage going head to head for a very closely fought bout which saw Luke take the win 5-4. Props to Brook for donning a headband to really look the part.
It was a good fun tournament to compete in but I felt it needed more loud, rocky music (or even Rocky music) throughout to boost the atmosphere for the audience. See the FNC website for the full results.
After licking my wounds in the shower I spent the evening chatting with Nicola & Helen mostly for as long as I could keep my eyes open. Which wasn't all that long.
After another sound sleep I woke early at 6.30am with a chilly nose (I haven't successfully worked out a method to keep my nose warm yet) so relocated to a sofa in the warm hall & spent some time writing while relaxing to some chilled tunes from the sound system. Some kind chap gave me a Magnum ice cream which was very welcome & a lovely thing to do. Around 8ish I met up with Kev again for a genuine breakfast. During the walk to the pub we were both surprised by how much the water level of the Tay had risen since the day before.
I decided not to join in the parade & spent pretty much the entire day juggling, hand standing & snake boarding in the main hall instead. I managed to make some good progress with fixing a minor annoyance with my left hand when doing 423 lazies which was satisfying. In the afternoon I noticed the security team & Dr Alice dealing with a guy who appeared to have passed out in the hall on one of the acro mats. I later learned that my sympathy was perhaps misplaced as his condition was self inflicted & drugs related. He'd also been involved in earlier incidents that could have jeopardised our festival. But very well done to the security & the organisers for dealing with the situation exceptionally professionally & taking good care of him.
In the early evening Kev, Paul, Louisa (not Laura) & I went off in search of the noodle bar we spotted earlier in the week. True to form we completely failed to find it, so we sat down for a meal at Jade's Garden Chinese restaurant instead. It was a very beautiful setting, the staff were friendly & very helpful & we all stuffed ourselves with delicious food. It was a welcome change of pace & set us all up ready for…
The Gala Show
After another short walk (not having to faff around with buses to get between venues this year was fantastic!) saw us at the Perth Concert Hall for the public show, titled iJuggle. In the atrium before we took our seats Jon Peat & I were entertained more than we should've been by the network of screens showing a looped video of a group performing a Mexican wave. A few minutes later we were in the auditorium with comfy seats, good leg room & a nice uninterrupted view of the stage.
Ian Marchant guided us through the evening interspersing acts with a variety of vaudeville era skills such as flipping five spoons into five tumblers on a tray, the golf club trick with walking sticks & also Michael Pearse's table cloth trick, which was a lovely tribute after the very sad news that Michael (aka Pearse Halpenny) passed away earlier in the week.
I was very surprised by the large number of non-jugglers who cheered when Ian was gauging who was in the audience. I'd be interested in the numbers but it definitely sounded a lot more than any other BJC show I've been to. Good for you Perth.
The first act of the evening was Thomas Bounce showing off his signature bounce juggling with 3 to 6 balls on a flat surface with two 'V' shaped surfaces either side. There were a couple of unfortunate drops but I loved his low & tight patterns & the smooth transitions between the different angled surfaces. His act went down a treat helped in part by all the fans he'd picked up earlier in the week in the main hall. There always seemed to be a flock of people around him whenever he was practicing & Thomas was talking to all of them. Thomas is friendly & professional way beyond his years.
Next up was Cai Lear who's act started off with an odd soundtrack of a radio tuning in & out of disjointed news quotes which I didn't really get, but then the music cut in & he showed us a routine combining shaker cups & bounce balls with lots of tennis ball & can style tricks. I thought the technical skill was superb, but I was a little frustrated at losing the white balls against his white jacket.
Following Cai were Gemma & Stephen with a duo silks routine. I was underwhelmed by this act. I think it suffered from unfortunate rotation, I never felt I was being presented with the best view of the act.
Closing the first half was Gail O'Brien. There was a very brief moment when I was worried that I was going to see a generic hoop routine but I couldn't have been more wrong. Gail performed loads of interesting off the body moves that I had never seen before, I particularly liked the body rolls where the rolled hoop was collected ring grind style in another, then flipped back into another move. I also thought I was immune to gimmicked props but Gail's powder filled(?) hoops created lots of neat effects. My favourite was when she'd aggressively whip a hoop sideways from an isolation temporarily leaving a cartoon-like smoke ring hanging in the air. A wonderful act full of surprises, a real joy to watch.
After the interval we returned with a spectacular poi swinging & passing routine from six person troupe Alba Circus. The act featured good humour, lots of nice synchronised movement & some really big passing set pieces that filled the whole stage. Very Gandiniesque I thought. I also think this might be the first time I have ever used the words 'spectacular' & 'poi' in the same sentence.
Holding a BJC in Scotland meant that Donald Grant was an obvious shoe-in for the show. His act may be older than most people in the audience but it is still exciting, high-level & full of cheeky up-kilt moments. I've long since lost count of how many times I've seen Donald perform, but I know it won't be the last & I'm very glad of that! Of all the volunteer badges the Donald was the most sought after!
The headline act for the evening was the excessively multi-talented Matthew Tiffany showing us all the tricks. Five balls with a head balance while standing on a rola-bola, spinning a ball while spinning one ring round the arm while spinning two rings round one leg, while balancing a pole on the forehead while juggling two balls in the other hand, & the best trick of the night for me: juggling while keeping three balls going in a triple Salerno ring. All with a constant stream of very juggler specific jokes.
Well done Emily & Sam for putting together a great show, sorry you couldn't be there to see it Sam but congratulations on the new baby!
Back on site in the juggler's bar there were many toasts in Pearse's memory. I spent time with Matt & The Void trying to recall past BYJOTY winners. I also popped over to one of the arts & crafts tables to see what all the fuss is about 'adult' colouring books. Disappointingly it turns out they are just more intricate pictures. They are supposed to be a great stress reliever but I found myself getting wound up as I raced to finish as much as I could before Renegade started. We had a nice chat with Jane about running a juggling club & various festivals. I have never seen her looking so relaxed! We also met Hermione who was creating the most beautiful psychedelic elephant I have ever seen. Andy interrupted my zen state of mind by hawking raffle tickets which resulted in the traditional argument about how much I don't like raffles. Inevitably I bought a strip of tickets anyway & gave them to Hermione. Well mugged that man.
I went & sat in on the Renegade for a while. It was being hosted by Logi who heroically stuck to the 'free backstage hugs' story throughout the night. He also had the most wonderful high pitched Irish, "What?" response to any heckle he didn't catch that made me chuckle every time.
Act wise Tiff & Paul did an epic performance of, "t'devil went down to Yorkshire" on the fiddle & guitar which was sheer genius. Again, everything works better with a flat cap & a Yorkshire accent. Young Molly also sang a lovely song accompanied by her dad on the guitar which I really enjoyed too. Graham whipped a toy bunny off of a pedestal while standing on a rola-bola with a spinning plate in his mouth & juggling two clubs in his free hand. I stayed for most of the night into the wee small hours, other stuff happened but to be honest I was just waiting for Logi to tell the over-excited young heckler in the back row to, "shut up ye stupid eejit" but it sadly never happened.
I'd like to apologise on behalf of Tunbridge Wells Juggling club to anyone on the camp site who was woken by the sound of Kevin falling over & crashing noisily into the fencing as he exited his tent on Sunday morning. & to anyone woken by the sound of me laughing at him. After the usual breakfast ritual & confirming the return bus times I had a nice long juggle in the hall before attending the BJC meeting (I thought we were going to call it something else to make it sound more accessible?). The increased publicity of the meeting & blocking off all other events for the time slot obviously worked because the attendance was easily double what we usually get. There were lots of very positive comments that were well articulated. I think a lot of the praise was a result of this year's team really focussing on doing the basics as well as they could & allowing the attendees time & space to organise their own entertainment.
Looking to the future we had a proposal to return to Nottingham for 2017. The team did well to weather the far too many inappropriate questions about micro details. We don't need to know the colour of the door handles at the proposal stage. There was also interest from two possible teams for 2018 & a possibility of an EJC in 2019. Full minutes will be appearing online in the near future.
British Young Juggler of the Year
The final show of the festival was the BYJOTY competition. This year's event was hosted by 16 year old Harvey who did a great job of keeping the show moving for someone of such a young age. He spoke clearly & confidently with enthusiasm which maintained the atmosphere throughout the show.
The first competitor of the night was Adam juggling 3-5 balls. It was his first time ever on stage & was clearly terrified of the experience but I think he did very well to not let his nerves affect his juggling noticeably. His act would have been boosted immeasurably with a bit more confidence which will come with experience. There were some uncomfortable moments where he was gingerly tip-toeing around his props as if he were walking on egg shells. Don't tip-toe! Stamp! I've talked about moving on stage before & I'm still right.
Next up was Lucy, with a nice freestyle unicycle act. She performed lots of impressive feats with a good deal of variety, a controlled 3 ball cascade while wheel walking being my favourite. Unicycle acts have traditionally been excluded from BYJOTY (with the exception of Sam Goodburn & Lucy the drag act, but they were more juggling on a unicycle than tricks with a unicycle), but I think they make a good addition to the competition as a show because the nature of the prop means the performer has to use all of the stage, which is something that many young performers neglect to do.
Nathaniel did some technical club & ball juggling. This to me seemed more like a practice routine than an act. His juggling was very impressive but nothing really jumped out at me other than wondering if Pete Gamble might whip him to death for using his catch phrase on his t-shirt.
David Haslam provided a more rounded performance. Wearing neutral clothes he let his 3-6 club juggling do the talking, demonstrating extraordinary spin control by juggling some complex four club siteswaps & a very long run of five all on singles with clinical precision. Would a non-juggling audience appreciate the subtleties of his technique? Probably not. But for us jugglers it was a real treat.
We then had Max with a one & two diabolo routine. This was the act of the show that showed the most character in that he used mime to show that his diabolos were stuck to the floor if he used his hands but he was able to pick them up using his feet. This allowed him to make the most of his unique method of starting where he'd use one foot to roll the diabolo up the outside of the opposite leg to flick the diabolo up onto the string with spin. Speaking to Mike Armstrong in the bar later in the evening he noted that he respected Max because he stuck to his guns & never once picked up the diabolo with his hands, maintaining the premise of his act despite the number of drops. I didn't notice at the time, but I also appreciated it once it was pointed out to me.
Closing the show was the cool new kid on the block, Luke Davies with a very high level club & ball numbers routine during which I only remember one drop. He made nine balls look like it wasn't important. Some people I spoke to found his on stage persona a bit too arrogant. I quite liked the cockiness because it suited the difficulty level of the material. However, I didn't like the way he threw away the wrapper of his chewing gum. I do not approve of littering.
I was a bit underwhelmed by the best trick comp as a spectacle, the pace & excitement simply wasn't there. Harvey needed to be much more bullish to keep the competitors moving so that there is always a trick being attempted with no dead space on stage. Trick wise though I was very impressed with the girl taking her socks off with her feet in a handstand & turning in circles while holding four balls clamped between her legs. The fact that she managed to force a draw against the cuteness of young Leo who on any other day would have runaway with the audience vote stood testament to her skills.
After the votes had been counted Luke Davies picked up a bronze award, & Nathaniel & David both collected silver awards. The audience vote & the BYJOTY title deservingly went to David Haslam. Well done to Claire Stephens for organising, judges Natalie, Donald & Tiff for judging & to Harvey & all the performers.
Then the rest of the evening was taken up with juggling & socialising at the bar. I introduced Little Paul, Luke Burrage & Mike Armstrong to the live action version of Where's Wally? which is a great game to play in a crowded juggling hall at a festival. One person has to name someone that the rest of the players know & the winner is the first person to find the target. I particularly liked the moment when Mike called, "Donald Grant" & the rest of us immediately turned & pointed in the same direction with the synchronisation of a boy band.
The final day was a flurry of activity because we had to have the hall empty by 10am & be off site by noon. I first helped clear the main hall of left over debris. We managed to clear out pretty quickly which the cleaning staff at the centre were very appreciative of. Then I joined the fencemonkey crew to take down the camp site. The only ones I can remember by name are my partner Ollie, Adam, Lizzie, Jamie, Tarim, Richard & Ian but there were many others too all working hard in unpleasant weather conditions. I'm very proud of the lot of you, thanks for all your help. The free cake for the fencemonkeys was very welcome too! After all that there were a few minor tasks before we joined the handful of people winding down in the cafe waiting for various planes, trains & automobiles for their journey home. Our return trip was pretty uneventful & I managed to get home just before midnight where I collapsed into bed almost instantly.
Sadly due to running around on the last day I missed most people as they were leaving & I didn't get to say many goodbyes. So if I didn't catch you before you went, thank you for your company.
Finally I'd like to say a huge thank you to the core team Ron, Duncan, Ewan, Steph, Anna, Jak, Carrie, Emily, Sam, Lorri, Graham in particular & to the pleasingly growing army of volunteers who helped put on the event. You rock.
A good read, Orin, thanks.
Seconded on thanks to all the BJC crew. Hats off.
I didn't watch the open stage, but I'd guess the poi performer was Antonia May.
And speaking of Fight Night...
Hot News! FIGHT NIGHT AT BUNGAY! Wednesday night! Official! #fightnightcombat @fncombat pic.twitter.com/I1Juo4WJ2R
— Bungay Balls Up (@BungayBallsUp) April 3, 2016
The young lady who you couldn't name in the open stage was Antonio from Germany. She was also part of Circus Alba in the public show.
Nice work as always Orin, but:
I particularly liked the moment when Mike called, "Donald Grant" & the rest of us immediately turned & pointed in the same direction with the synchronisation of a boy band.
That was LP. It's always good to see tradiations being maintained!
I just started this off:
I may come back to it later, but feel free to chime in there.
Belfast Juggling Convention (Ireland) 2016 - Review
This weekend, 12th – 14th February 2016, was the annual Belfast Juggling Convention which is held in the student’s union building of Queens University Belfast. Myself and Lewis were invited to the convention to perform our passing routine in the Gala show.
I intended to make notes throughout the convention but I didn’t manage to be that organised. There was just too much going on. I am sorry if I have missed anything or anyone out!
There is never a dull moment when travelling with Lewis and we already enjoyed a few good scenarios before even leaving Leeds Bradford airport.
I have never had a problem with having juggling clubs in my hand luggage. Just before Christmas I flew from Manchester to Berlin and back with 5 clubs in my hand luggage and no comment was raised. Unfortunately this was not the case on Friday. All of our routine clubs were packed in hold baggage but Lewis’s own clubs (4x) were refused at security and not allowed to be taken on board. There was the option to squeeze them into the hold bag etc. but they wouldn’t fit. Lewis donned his running shoes and sprinted a mile and back and dropped the clubs off with Jenni at work. Disaster averted.
TAKE NOTICE – be careful about having clubs in your carry-on baggage! It depends on your flight carrier. I will not be taking the chance from now on…
It was an interesting flight in a plane with one working propeller and a very educational taxi ride over to the union building. Nicest taxi driver ever!
We wandered into the union building and found our way to the juggling hall. It was empty of jugglers and filled with tables and chairs, we stood around for a bit looking confused until someone else came in… turns out we were in the right place but on the wrong floor! We went up a floor and found the convention in full swing. The hall is bright and airy with a deceptive ceiling. It looks quite low, but actually you can easily fit triples in (as long as they are not too floaty). The hall is nice and big with some seating around the outside.
There were a few familiar faces and good Scottish contingent who had been at Leeds JC, so it was nice to catch up with a few folks. It was funny to be identified as ‘crap juggler Jon’ from Lewis’s practise logs from the Edge.
I did some ball juggling to warm up, later on me and Lewis did some fun passing and enjoyed messing about with some tricks we haven’t touched for a while.
That evening half of the hall was curtained off and became the venue for the Friday night Open stage.
Graham and Creamy Joe (as he will henceforth be known) did a funny ice cream inspired routine complete with puns. These guys perform so well together and were also comperes for the Gala show. You can just tell that they love performing together, it was a pleasure to see.
There was a bit of straightjacket escapology to Queen’s ‘I want to break free’ with lip synching and suggestive dancing, which greatly amused me. Also some classic whip paper cutting, thank you to Aaron for providing translation for me, I struggled to understand some of the quick fire Irish accent patter!
There was a juggling ball routine with some knot tricks / rope magic thrown in, I really enjoyed the juggler’s character on stage.
Then there was a fantastic hula hoop routine, performed by Laura, I was enthralled and I think everyone else was too! It was really well put together, bursting of really hard tricks and just delivered so smoothly. I loved it, best hoop routine I have seen in years. Outstanding.
There was a lovely rock and roll cigar box routine performed by Logy. It was pretty droppy but the presentation was superb and we all loved the performance and the drops really didn’t matter at all. There were some rock hard tricks in there and I would love to see the routine again.
Then there was a Burlesque ‘circus’ act. I don’t really understand Burlesque and haven’t seen very many Burlesque acts at all. I just found it a bit awkward and wanted her to do more hat tricks… Nether the less it seemed to go down very well.
The Belfast JC audience is one of the warmest audiences I have ever experienced. You really got the feeling that everyone was simply there to have a great time, no matter what!
Audience warming up was not necessary as the crowd was raring to go from the onset.
Me and Lewis went on a walk and found the local take-aways which were only a short walk away from the venue. We ate back up in the hall and chatted to various folks.
The convention then retired to a bar downstairs where there was live music and plenty of glow props and drinking. I was shattered by this point and I was achy and sore from sitting on the floor to watch the show. I also don’t drink and the music made it very difficult for conversation, I sat in the corner being a bit of a party pooper but enjoyed watching the glow props.
Eventually we gathered together Lewis, Ed Cliffe, Tim Schulze(a diabolist from Germany and Gala performer) and piled into Grahams 3-seater van. Lewis and Ed were loose in the back so we had a hilarious ride across Belfast, dropping Tim off on the way at a different house, before arriving at Romy’s Mums house which would be our home for the weekend. After Graham performed a spot of midnight housebreaking we eventually found the right house and Graham let us in. Everyone pretty much crashed out straight away.
Julian from Norway had joined us during the early hours and so we all had breakfast together. We also spent some time admiring Origami before heading back out to the convention site.
It was much busier in the hall on the Saturday morning, lots of workshops taking place. I did some ball juggling in the morning and struck out for the supermarket to grab some lunch.
Came back and ate a leisurely lunch whilst watching lots of 3 club gladiator’s players slowly taking over the bottom end of the hall. I was running the qualifications for the tournament at 3pm so at 2.30 I went over to warm up. Five minutes before the start of the qualifications I took a very unlucky club to the eyebrow, which immediately started to swell massively. I ran down to the reception to get an icepack but none of the first aid kits had one, so I settled for a bag of ice from the café. We started the qualifications slightly late and I might have put a few players off slightly by introducing the qualifications with a massive huge black eye. 17 players took part in qualifications and I think everyone had a really good time. I had the best qualification result so far by winning all my matches and only losing 4 points, I think that I intimidated a few people with my evil looking eye which was still swelling up. Between matches I applied ice and by the end of qualifications it didn’t feel too bad.
Once the paperwork was done and the qualifications completed I went over to the Gala show venue to rehearse and do some teching.
The show venue is a 1 minute walk from the front door of the union and is in a nice church hall which has floor level seating and a tiered balcony.
I didn’t see any of the show as I was performing my solo 3 ball act in the first half and then performing with Lewis in the second half, all the intervening time I spent in costume changing and warming up / keeping warm.
I did see some of the acts during the tech runs, but I saw nothing of the actual show although the lineup for the show looked great!
Asaf Mor was performing a very elegant and brilliant technical club juggling routine. Florence Huet performed an equally beautiful multi hoop routine. Tim performed a very slick diabolo routine. I missed Ed doing his contact box routine but I know the audience loved it. Julian closed the show with a lovely and highly technical ball routine which included 7up pirouettes and a 9 ball flash (done super cleanly as well). It made me laugh when after his performance he can backstage and said something along the lines of ‘Wow, I can’t believe I got the 7 up pirouette on the first try that never happens!’ to which we responded, ‘but, you got it first time during the tech run too’. ‘Oh, yea.’ It was a great performance.
My own routine was very droppy. It felt really good during the last few weeks and even during the tech run and my pre-show warm ups it felt great. When I got onstage it turned into a bit of a dropfest. BUT, the Belfast audience struck again and really was such a warm and giving audience to perform to. I received some lovely comments afterwards about the routine. I am very lucky again for having a forgiving performance style where the drops tend to go fairly forgotten. Even so, I was disappointed as I know I can run it much cleaner.
When me and Lewis ran out onstage for our routine in the second half I was surprised to see that half the audience had gone… I couldn’t understand this until I saw that most of them had migrated to the balcony to get a better view of the stage. The energy was fantastic! Me and Lewis gave a good performance with just a couple of drops in non-important places. We were also delighted to get the 6 club back to back kick-up to 7 perfectly on time with the music which drew a huge reaction. It was a good performance and we were both really happy with it.
We enjoyed after show pizza and listened to Julian’s Kebap Rap.
The show was really well organised, the lighting and sound guys were professional and very easy to work with. Gail was in charge of corralling the performers and setting the stage. The whole thing was super smooth and went down a treat with the audience who gave the impression that they loved every minute.
Once again, the convention moved sites to another venue in the city where the after show renegade and party took place. I didn’t see much of the renegade except for Asaf showing some insane club tricks and I used the time to chat to Tim and Hannah (we will definitely pass at BJC!)as well as filling out all the qualification data from the fight night and working out the seeding’s for the tournament on Sunday.
It got horrendously late and I got horrendously tired so I bailed out of the party early (about 2.30am) and made my way back to the house where I slept uninterrupted until I woke about 10am. I think everyone else came back to the house at about 5am after various house parties across the city. I just can’t take the pace!
We got into the convention hall at about midday on Sunday so I spent some time drawing up the brackets for the tournament. A couple of players had already had to pull out due to injury and by having to catch ferries etc. Mine and Lewis’s flight was at 2.50pm so we had to leave the convention site at 1.30 to give us enough time at the airport. As quite a few of the combatants and organising team were missing in action from the night before I pulled out of the tournament and passed along all the information to Caoimhim to run the tournament in my absence.
We said our goodbyes, got to the airport and headed home. Had some more scenarios at airport security (seriously Lewis, how often do you fly to places?) before taking the sunny flight back to Leeds. The weather got grimmer and grimmer as we came into land. About 30 seconds after we had touched down and were taxiing to the terminal it started to snow really heavily, so we were lucky not to be delayed!
Thinking of heading over to Belfast next year? Do it.
The convention was great fun and held in a nice venue. The vibe was fantastic and the energy around the convention was addictive. The organisers put a lot of time and effort into organising the show and the line-up was very strong.
The only downside I could see was that there was no camping or crash space at the venue, so the majority of convention goers were in hostels or friends’ houses all over the city, this isn’t a major problem for the convention at all, but if I went again I would definitely get a good quiet B&B to relax in after all the partying.
Overall, a great convention! Thank you to Romy’s mum for putting us up for the weekend, Graham for being our host and Caoimhin for stepping in with the combat tournament.
Thank you to the Belfast Convention organising team for putting on a great event and inviting me and Lewis to attend.
Hey Jon. Would you mind if I posted this to the Belfast FB event page or the Circus and Juggling Ireland page.
I'm sure people would love to read it but it's cool if you'd rather I didn't.
I don't speak for Jon, but generally it's fine to post *a link to* some other content, rather than copy-posting stuff. In case you don't know, the hash symbol in each Juggling Edge post (top right) is a link to that post.
Oh yeah. I just thought that he might only want the people on JE to see it. No harm being sure ya know
Yep, true. But (again, in case you don't know) all JE posts are publicly visible - you don't have to be logged in to read them. Anyway, juggle on!
Chocfest 2016 – Convention Review (UK)
This Saturday was the 21st annual juggling convention held in York (UK).
Me and Jenni rose early and left without breakfast with the intention of getting our Chocfest tradition of breakfast in the ‘Red Bus Café’ on the A64. We were very upset to find the Café has closed and is for sale! :-( Called in at the next pub on the road but it was all locked up. We pressed on to York and went straight to the Beefeater near to the convention site.
I’m tempted to make that a tradition now. Superb all you can breakfast, I totally pigged out which meant that there was no need to stop for lunch, bonus! Pleasantly surprised to see Barnsey, Suzanne and little baby Bella who were also in for breakfast.
We headed over to the convention, agonised over which pass to choose and went to the main hall. I was surprised how empty it was but it soon filed up. Chocfest does have a lovely great big hall, a nice atrium area where there is usually a lot of game playing taking place and a nice show venue with raked seating.
I used the quiet morning time to work on some solo balls, headbouce and some club juggling. Lewis arrived so we did some club passing. We did some good stuff with lower numbers, when we got up to 9 and 10 we were slightly fatigued so called it a stop. Good passing session though.
I spent some time working on 5 club tricks and finished off with some 6 club half shower. Managed a couple of qualifies, once it is in the air it is not too bad, it is just getting it there!
2pm was combat tournament time. We struggled slightly for numbers but finally rustled up an 8th player meaning a full tournament could take place. It was quite a strong field, many of the players had made it through to the Semis at the BJC so it was quite tough going. Brook seeded first after winning all qualification matches, I secured second seed based on points as me and Dan had the same number of wins vrs losses. I met Brook in the final again and we had a good battle. I found a good tactic which seemed to work for a while which involved a lot of running around and making Brook chase me. I won that set, then Brook got wise to my scheme and destroyed me. The final point of the game was won by the ‘Brook classic downward sweep’ (which I really need to learn to avoid) which disarmed me completely. Well played Brook, very consistent performance again! Everyone enjoyed the tournament and there were some very good points and matches so it was a good success. Also kudos to slow motion guy who filmed some of mine and Dan’s match, I am looking forward to seeing that footage.
I decided to have a little lie down for a bit in a sweaty puddle on the floor before it was 4pm and time for the games.
Lots of traditional convention games took place. I lost my balance trying to maintain the club balance endurance. Basically crashed straight into Jenni (which was good otherwise it might have been awkward!) and ended up in a pile on the floor (I’m hoping that Alan did not film it). Me and Chaz exchanged some wordless communication and teamed up to win the stredging game. Awesome technique on the kick ups from Chaz and the best high fiving action ever seen. I managed to win the 5 ball endurance, I knew all that left handed half shower practise would pay off! Also managed to come second in the 7 ball endurance to Dan Wood. No shame there. The games rounded off with some 3 club gladiators. It was good fun to play in general convention melee.
I then abandoned the hall and went on to the show venue for teching for the show. I enjoyed watching the tech runs. Highlights of the show included Little Mouse, pretty hoops, robotic techno cigar box contact and ring balances.
I spent most of the actual show in the studio backstage where there was lovely lighting and high ceiling (York crew – get this room as the backstage green room for the show every year. It is an awesome place for the acts to prepare during the show!) I watched the cake eating bedlam but did not partake this year, I was a little bit full of fish and chips by this point. Had a nice chat with Alice in the interval and saw Jenni. I really enjoyed performing my club routine, I always enjoy performing in shows where Dr Ed is in the audience as I know exactly when I have done something he finds amusing. Gutted I missed the last catch of my finale trick, but to be fair that was quite fitting and I don’t think it detracted from the routine. It seemed very well received and I got lots of really positive comments afterwards which makes all the practise and hard work worth it, I was very pleased with how it went. :-)
That was the end of the day. Everybody packed up and went home. I wish that I’d had more time during the day. I didn't manage to pass rings with Mark, clubs with Brook or do any manipulator patterns.
There was a really nice crowd at Chocfest again this year plus a lot of faces which I don’t normally get to see at conventions (mainly because they hide out at Bristol and Bungay) so I would have liked to have chatted with more people.
Thank you to the Chocfest team for putting together another great convention. See you there next year!
The Chocfest Chocolate Cake Challenge was won (not at all suspiciously) by people from York. Em, Jake, Max, Tom & Elliot made a 24kg chocolate cake in the shape of a Rubik's cube, with stats like:
17.5kg of chocolate.
65 combined man hours of work.
24.1kg total weight.
4 tier chocolate fudge cake in the middle.
My highlight was probably actually the combat after the games - I must have played for an hour (or more? didn't really keep track) and burned off all of the calories. Good fun, and we kept playing some games with just four of us for a while, including a bit of team combat, which I always forget to suggest but actually really enjoy. Different things to think about and makes it a bit more interesting. I also managed to achieve by goal with only four of us of finishing the round with one club from each of the opponents, although I think after a while they realised I was repeatedly trying to steal clubs and made it a lot harder!
That point at the end counters the first point, where you knocked away my clubs before my brain had actually decided it was time to start playing combat...I always get punished if I'm not instantly alert against you!
That Rubik's cube cake was ridiculous. Does anyone know how much of it actually got eaten in the end?
Actually, my highlight may have actually been beating Dan in a knockout game of combat. For the first time. (he's beaten me in two previous tournaments in the knockout stages) I think the trick to playing against his weird style is just to run away for twice as long as you think you need to when he does crazy high throws...
It was my first chocfest in about 6 years or so, but as far as I can work out I think it was 20 years since the first chocfest I went to - although I remember more about chocfest 1997 than I do that first one.
I drove up from Bristol on Saturday morning, managing to get to the venue after only a 4 hour drive, the satnav telling me to turn left off a bride onto the road below, sriving through a section of york the satnav thought was a field - and then having to guess where the venue was because "you have reached your destination" was nowhere near a school. Turns out it wasn't even on the same road.
It's probably time I bought a new satnav, this one hasn't had any map updates in quite some time.
I made it to the venue for about 11am, and immediately bumped into loads of people I've not seen in ages. Having chosen a pass, I decided my priority was tea (as I hadn't had a cup in over 4 hours and that's Not Acceptable) - more chatting, greeting old faces, meeting a couple of new ones etc.
Eventually I managed to make it into the gym, where I met more people, did more chatting, and eventually yes - I managed to spend some time working on my list of stupid tricks with impractical props. Some times I wish I was an enthusiastic ball juggler, that would be much more portable than the salerno ring and golf clubs I seem to cart about.
Time was spent swapping construction ideas for props with various people, discussing how we're all learning the wrong trick with the salerno ring, catching up with yet more people, swapping anecdotes about second hand sewing machines etc.
All in all, not much juggling and a lot of chatting later, the hall became very noisy/hot/sweaty just in time for us to pop off to the pub for lunch.
Despite being warned in advance that we were coming, I don't think the pub were really set up for handling a table of 20 jugglers so service was slow and a little patchy, but still - we managed to get fed.
I think I'd happily go back there as my pie and chips was really tasty. Unlike a lot of pub pies, it actually was a pie being surrounded completely complete with hot water crust pastry. None of this "bowl of stew with a puff pastry lid" nonsense. Many thanks to Charlie for herding the cats on that one!
After lunch there was a bit more chatting, a bit more attempting to work on stuff I really should practice more than once a year, more chatting... and then Mamph suggested a trip to the chipshop for dinner. Which seemed like a reasonable plan, so another round of chips later...
It was then time for the show. I don't have much to say about the first half to be honest. I liked some of the compere's material, even if he does fall rather too easily into the magicians trap of "perform the trick as described in the instructions, patter included" which is a bit of a pet hate for me) - his magic square handling was impressively slick though, I tried to learn it once and gave up on it.
During the interval I watched people shovelling cake into their mouths, avoiding taking part myself. Partly because I was full of chips, but mostly because I have an alergy which makes eating "cakes where I don't know full the ingredient list" a bit like playing russian roulette.
That and chocolate cake is probably my least favourite type of cake.
The second half of the show was rescued by the last two acts, who really outclassed the rest of the show.
The venue closes shortly after the show ends, so it was time to disperse. I went back to sweavo/ami/jack's where ewano and I were crashing for the night - via a chinese because I hadn't had enough junk food for one day - and found Duncan, Lorri and Mikey sat around discussing lucid dreaming, slug sex, and all the usual post-fest conversation topics. I got to bed around midnight, which is probably fairly early as these things go.
In the morning, we were treated to a very welcome full fry-up by Ami (and an entertaining discussion about kitchen-aid mixers) Exactly what the doctor ordered, even if it was my 4th incredibly unhealthy meal of the weekend.
I headed back to Bristol around mid-day. The journey home was significantly quicker, despite the traffic being about the same. I'm not sure how that works, I can only assume that north->south is downhill or something.
I got home just in time to pop to screwfix and pick up the PVC sleeving that I'd ordered in, which was a prerequisite for getting my phone exchange back online.
High - seeing lots of faces I don't see very often
Low - probably having to drive all that way home
Crush - probably sweavo/amy for their hospitality, and jack for being one of the less annoying toddlers.
Bane - lack of ventilation in the gym
Goal - didn't really have one beyond "get to chocfest"
Surprise - seeing people I hadn't expected to see there, and catching up with some friends I've not seen in far too long
All in all, I enjoyed myself, even if I didn't do all that much actual juggling.
It was great to see everyone - which is mainly why we came, although I got a chance to play with the Dapostar a bit (everything's beginning to come together, very very slowly) and join in the club gladiators at the end of the games. Came 2nd a couple of times which was nice considering the other participants clearly take it more seriously than I do. Still working on a strategy to beat Brooke and his Inspector Gadget arms. The show was a little underwhelming for me but we enjoyed Little Mouse, the pretty light-up hoops and Jon being Jon.
Other things I particularly enjoyed were two evenings in the hotel that could have been rather lonely but were enlivened by chatting to Barnesy about babies; the pub lunch working out so well even with the unexpected increase in numbers; the kids enjoying a space where they could wang about their very bouncy balls without adults complaining for once; and the next day's visit to the Railway Museum, sadly lacking a Flying Scotsman although I hear it's on the way back next month.
See some of you at Bungay, no BJC for us this year.
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