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Mïark -

London Juggling Clubs

(probably more words than necessary, but there is a summary at the end, if you want to just read that)

After seeing someone ask about juggling clubs in London, I thought I'd best investigate. Maybe evaluate them with objective criteria like; venue ceiling height, friendliness, turn out, club passing opportunity, quality of the tea and biscuits, after juggle drinkage.

Monday was University College London (near Euston), the ceiling height in the portico was great, the North Cloister the next week not so tall. The outstanding thing was how friendly they were considering I hadn't met any of them before, turn out was 7 or 8, there was a variety of props being used, did some club passing, They had a large bag of props you could use and lots more stuff in a cage by the gym. There was no tea and cake, but luckily I had brought a flask of tea just in case. Another stroke of luck was the after juggling drinks were at the student union where drinks are £1 on a Monday night. #UCLJC

could have been Spinning@, but I have been there before and found it to be one of the unfriendliest juggling clubs I have been to, maybe I had the wrong props or perhaps they don't like newcomers. The venue is quite cramped and has low ceiling, but I have read they are looking for a new venue so the space might improve. I decided I didn't want to go there again #spinningtheragfactory

Then I noticed that TWJC was the same distance away (time-wise) as Spinning@ from London so I decided to go there. I have for some reason read a lot about TWJC over the years so thought it might be interesting to visit it. There proved to be a few things missing on the TWJC website; like the fact that Tunbridge Wells Juggling Club isn't actually in Tunbridge Wells and consequently nowhere near Tunbridge Wells train station, there is no information on how to get to the club by public transport nor does it mention there is a car park accessed via Vale Road - to save you spending ages trying to find on-street parking nearby. If you were looking for faults with the website you could point out that the googlemap pointer on the site takes you the vicarage (100' away) not the hall, but as I am not looking for faults I will try not to mention that. There was a very nice TW Juggling Club sign in the hedge, which I am sure is easier to spot in daylight. Anyhow the venue is a good space, it is a friendly club, (I might have met one or two of the members before). There was club passing to be had. There was maybe half a dozen people, though they told me had I been there last week there would have been loads of people. I asked what time tea and biscuits happened and was disappointed to hear they didn't, my trusty flask of tea came to my rescue again. They had a case full of props you could use, some more fragile than others. After juggling we went to a Tunbridge Wells style pub, with delicacies such as home made jam and chutneys for sale and flowers on the tables.. #twjc

Wednesday is Oddballs Juggling Club in Camden, and they had Cake!! It may have been shop bought and yet again there was no tea, but this was a definite improvement. They had a good venue with high ceiling, about a dozen people there with various props. As well as the faces I recognised, they were friendly and there was kit you could use. Slightly unnerving was all the pins on the floor, maybe the room had been used by amateur acupuncturists or voodoo doll makers the session before. Did some very enjoyable club passing. On the way out I saw the police had taken my advice and lifted their blockade that had hindered my way to the juggling club, but no one was going for an after juggle drink. #OddballsClub

Thursday, I was tipped off there is a Juggling Club at King's College, London so I went to look it for it, not the easiest to find though the Student Union desk were very helpful. They do suffer the fate of many university societies that there venue is taken away from them at very short (if any) notice and consequently sessions get cancelled. The session is only an hour so not much chance to socialise, the venue is not huge and is upstairs. They had a turn out of maybe 10 people, many of them diabolists. Some fun club passing was made more exciting by having an open window just behind my partner, so any misbegotten clubs could find themselves falling to the road by London Bridge Station. They had a bag full of kit you could use and were planning society activities. There was no time for tea or biscuits, carrying a flask of tea was looking like being an essential part of juggling kit. Didn't appear to be any after juggling drinking happening, but I met a very good juggling friend there which was a definite bonus. #KCLCircusSkillsSociety

Friday according to some sources is Imperial Juggling Club, sadly I could not find them and the student union office closes on an evening so was of no use (I had been spoiled by the over helpful SU at Kings College). Luckily there are some museums nearby open late on Friday evening with splendidly high ceilings - sadly the security guards were not of the same opinion to the museum's appropriateness as a juggling space. They do have a café selling tea and cake, but is cheaper if you bring your own flask of tea. Considering their attitude to juggling in the museums I was not surprised to be the only person juggling there, didn't find any other jugglable kit to borrow.

I didn't go to All Saints Highgate on Sunday this time, but I have gone there the year before last, about 4 or 5 friendly jugglers, fabulous high ceiling and plenty of club passing. No tea or biscuits. #highgate

I did pop in to couple of juggling clubs on my way northwards to confirm this juggling with tea and biscuits/cake is not just a myth created by the Bristolian juggling community. And both Leeds Juggling Club (Hullabaloo) and York Juggling Club had tea, biscuits and chocolate cake (there was some discourse whether the cake was genuinely homemade)

So to summarise:

UCL: Monday Good ceiling height, very friendly, club passing, cheap after juggling drinks
TWJC: Tuesday Good space, friendly, club passing, posh after juggling drinks
Oddballs: Wednesday, good height, cake, club passing
KCL: Thursday, small space, short session, club passing
Don't try to juggle in museums or take your own tea into the café if you don't want to be asked to leave.
Highgate: Sunday, great height, club passing

If you are going juggling in London is best to take your own tea.

#londonjugglingclubs #clubreview

Al_Bee - - Parent

That's a great review - thank you. Not surprised about the Spinning Place being least friendly - it's all that cool they're trying to cultivate.

Brook Roberts - - Parent

No drink after Oddballs? It's clearly all gone a bit downhill since I was last there...

jamesfrancis - - Parent

Drinks were me and Karl and a maximum of one other every week until Karl went back to Germany. Not been able to convince anyone else to become a 'regular' pub goer. One of the hindrances to this may be the £5 pint price tag in our 'regular' pub.

Real shame really as I tried unsuccessfully for a while to keep this going. Numbers are good and the club is still very social until 9:30 when they just all leave and go home.

Sorry about the pins Miark. Not a usual occurrence.

Richard Loxley - - Parent

Interesting what you say about Spinning@ ... I have a friend who used to go to Spinning@, and after moving to Bristol tried out the Altern8 Monday night juggling club that I go to. She didn't like it, and said it was very unfriendly and cliquey, and found it to be the complete opposite of Spinning@. Whereas I find Altern8 to be very friendly.

I think the take-home message is:

  • Most clubs are cliquey
  • If you're in the clique they don't feel cliquey to you
  • We should all remember that, and try to welcome newcomers (even when we're shy ourselves and find it uncomfortable to do so)
  • Don't forget to provide tea and biscuits and invite the newcomers to join you in a cuppa :-)

emilyw - - Parent

This is so true. "Cliquey" is a thing that happens exactly because a group of people are being super friendly with one another, and for whatever reason someone else perceives themselves as being on the outside of that.

It's exactly the "super friendly" feeling juggling clubs have that makes it easy to unwittingly ignore newcomers, because it's so easy for non-newcomers to pass with regulars or drink tea with their friends!

But in fact people who show up that are beginners really do often feel on the outside of that super friendly environment, particularly if they are demographically unlike the existing crowd or if they aren't crazy outgoing people who just make friends with strangers the whole time for the hell of it. It's all very well if the committee or the one designated person spends a good amount of time teaching the newcomers, but they're still going to feel like a burden in general if nobody else makes an effort.

This is why post-club drinks, or during-club tea and biscuit breaks, are such a good thing. All the folks who are passing or training seven balls in the corner can stop it and make small talk about jobs or kids or beer or holidays for a bit, and help make "welcome" into a verb.

Mats1 - - Parent

I always make the effort of going up to newcomers and doing my most impressive tricks, then telling them I learnt that by lack of sociability at juggling clubs and conventions and if they too just keep attending and silently avoiding the trap of the 'clique', they too could stand in the corner practicing 7 balls like a cool motherfucker.

7b_wizard - - Parent

Why not do both .. socialize and cool mf 7b. I love it!
You get another smile of "Wow, i can do it too!" on pupil's faces when you're teaching them 3b basics as 7 baller compared to companion also struggling with 3-4-5b showing them. And 7b does take a lot of `work´ where you also have to practise alone .. you don't reach the stars without also stumbling over stones. But, yeah, don't do it at the club or on convos!

Mats1 - - Parent

Tea breaks? Biscuits! How can anyone get serious training done with such distractions on offer?

At Norwich juggling club*, you earn ten minutes conversation time** for every hour of serious practice you do. The only drink on offer is water (at room temperature or chilled); all an athlete needs. We use the room in the building with the most corners, to provide sufficient corners for all our 7 ball jugglers. There are also: Definitely no board games played***, definitely no club passing**** and no tom-foolery with things in the supply cupboard.

*A proper juggling club
**Fifteen if the conversation remains entirely about juggling.
****Especially large groups

Mike Moore - - Parent

I suspect this is satirical, but if ~80 % of my juggling club visits were like that, I would be so happy.

One tweak: I think I'd prefer something like 10 minutes of juggling yields two minutes of conversation time about juggling, as that's about as long as it takes me to show/get thoughts about a new pattern.

Brook Roberts - - Parent

I think this is why after juggling visits to the pub (or general social stuff) is a very useful policy, and why having a (probably on rotation) designated 'greet new people' person are both very good policies.
Otherwise there is definitely a bit of a battle between my desire to juggle and ignore everyone, and my desire for their to be a sustaining community.
Going somewhere where you can't juggle has a big advantage!

Mïark - - Parent

I do agree on going somewhere after juggling to avoid wasting juggling time, it sometimes seems daft to be hiring a space tall and big enough to juggle in and just sit around chatting, but some people can't go somewhere after and you risk not involving them.

Mike Moore - - Parent

Yes! We have a few people who I consider (and act well as) our greeters. Our president is really great in that regard.

Mats1 - - Parent

Current situation: 1 hour practice yields 10 minutes conversation time - Ratio 6:1
Proposed 'tweak': 10 minutes practice yields two minutes conversation time - Ratio 5:1

Convenient mathematical rounding there Mr. Moore.

Mike Moore - - Parent

Ah, but mine implied the conversation was all juggle-talk. So the closer comparison would have been 1 hour against 15 minutes. 4:1 in the current situation, 5:1 with my tweak.

7b_wizard - - Parent

Haha .. : "Go back to practise or passing now! You're chattering stint 's run off to zero again."

Mïark - - Parent

Spinning@ must be doing (or have done) something right as they had by far the biggest turn out of any club I have visited in London. Maybe they are a victim of their own success, and now have to deliberately discourage newcomers as I found them noticeably less friendly or chatty than the random people I met on the tube on the way there. Different style of clubs appeal to different people, I prefer friendlier ones where you acknowledge other jugglers admittedly I might have been the only one there with juggling props you let go of, but as an ex unicyclist I have never worried about having a less popular prop. Maybe it is a size thing, perhaps it is easier to ignore new people in a larger group.

At all the other clubs I visited in London (with exception of UCL) it turned out I already knew at least one person there, so is harder to determine how a complete newcomer might feel, but I think at all (except spinning) at least one person came over to say hi, welcome me to their club, say they had spare kit to use, etc., and other jugglers were happy to chat when not juggling.

Orinoco - - Parent

Spinning@ don't know how to use Twitter properly.

Orinoco - - Parent

Saying Southboroough isn't in Tunbridge Wells is like saying Westminster isn't in London! & just because we don't have sawdust on the floor in our pubs doesn't mean you get to disparage our chutney!

Maps now tweaked, public transport links now noted.

Orinoco - - Parent

Oh & we had chocolate buttons & chocolate orange slices last night.

Topper - - Parent

The TWJC does have a kitchen to use so you could bring your own tea or coffee.
Next Tuesday there will be a good selection of nibbles, last meet of the year.

Mïark - - Parent

Well that seems fair since the City of Westminster and the City of London are adjoining districts (without any overlap), besides if it wasn't a separate entity, why would a town to the north of Tunbridge Wells be called Southborough?

I didn't disparage your chutneys, I didn't have chance to try them as they were in glass cases. Shame I missed the chocolate.

Public transport info on website looks good.

Edwin - - Parent


I use to run Imperial college juggling and this year we moved to Tuesday's. If you want to visit us next term feel free, we do try to provide tea and cake so from what I can tell that makes us better than the other London societies...

Mïark - - Parent

It sounds like they would definitely win in the tea and cake category, though they might not score too highly in the publicity category as their Juggling Edge listing and website both say they are meeting on Fridays (though their "closed" facebook group does say they are meet Tuesdays).
Would you be able to persuade the people now running the society to update their Juggling Edge listing and website?
I will try and visit them next term.

Edwin - - Parent

At the moment we do not have access to our website, we are trying to correct this as also our logo looks awful/ slightly depressing. I will look into the juggling edge profile, I contacted the guy who set it up and will try and correct it soon. Yeah, our publicity is a bit awful. On a side note I found some of the points above about trying to make clubs not very cliquey very interesting and will definitely mention them to the people running the club this year.


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