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Orinoco -

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.
Matt: WTF?!

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.

#Crawley2016 #conventionreview

Orinoco - - Parent

Here's Bungle walking across the lego. Scream along if you like:

Mike Moore - - Parent

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!

^Tom_ - - Parent

"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.

Orinoco - - Parent

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.

JonPeat - - Parent

Pinapple on a Pizza seems very reasonable to me.

Olives / Anchovies / Sweetcorn = Do not belong on a Pizza.

Little Paul - - Parent

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.

Topper - - Parent

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.

Danny Colyer - - Parent

Topper wrote:

"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.

The Void - - Parent

*Stands in solidarity with the pineapple-on-pizza contingent* #juicy

^Tom_ - - Parent

Thanks. Out of curiosity, which one was yours, and how was it?

Orinoco - - Parent

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.

Little Paul - - Parent

Are you a six slicer or an eight slicer?

Orinoco - - Parent

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.

Little Paul - - Parent

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

JonPeat - - Parent

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!

Orinoco - - Parent

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.

peterbone - - Parent

Surely the wheel is supposed to turn. It prevent the cheese being dragged across the surface.

The Void - - Parent

Of course. I dunno, these modern god emperors, they're just clueless.

Orinoco - - Parent

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.

Little Paul - - Parent

You need to press down harder.

Although I share your dislike for single use kitchen gadgets.

Gert big chef knife ftw

Orinoco - - Parent

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.


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