Search posts


Orinoco -

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...

British Show

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...

Old Skool

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...

Renegade Stage

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 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.

#bjc2017 #conventionreview

Rosie - - Parent

great to read

thank you for the kind words

^Tom_ - - Parent

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[3]: 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"[4], 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[1] 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[2] has turned somewhat long. Happy Easter!

Finally, my highlight of the convention was the floodlight in the corner of the hall.


[1] -
[2] - 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.
[3] - From the Japanese words Kuru, meaning stick, and urin, meaning falling.
[4] - 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.

unigamer - - Parent

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:

  • “How to run a workshop, workshop” - Jon Peat. He had prepared a few notes but the workshop took the form of a discussion and was definitely full of useful hints. Much of it was common sense, but workshop organisers (including myself in previous years) fail to do the basics well. My personal bugbear is when the difficulty level is not clear. For instance, I can do some basic passing stuff and enjoy learning more but I don’t want to go to a passing workshop were I let down my partner(s), nor do I want to miss one that I could do.
  • “Low Numbers Ball Passing; The Chipmunk Series” - Katie Struthers & Ieuan Evans. Four balls between two people should be an easy way to start the first full day? Well, the warm-up patterns were, the later stuff not so much. A brilliant workshop though, well prepared and demonstrated. If I saw a workshop by Katie and Ieuan on the timetable I’d attend almost regardless of what is was after that one.
  • “Tips on how to make a good juggling video” - Rosie Kelly. This wasn’t quite what I was expecting, I thought it might be a more technical discussion about what angles work, crazy techniques etc but it was more about the general ideas of cinematography. A good workshop though and I’ll refer to my notes from it in the future. Perhaps in future years have a creator talk about one of their videos? I believe Lewis Kennedy was the principal editor of “Corrections” which is the latest major video I can think of that was uploaded, it would have been nice to have him at that workshop.
  • “How to be a stage manager” - (???). Run by the stage manager for most of the past four years of shows. It was an interesting insight and gave me an appreciation to the difficulty of hosting a show. I just turn up and expect to be entertained!
  • “Prechac passing” - Pan. I first attended this workshop in 2015 and the crowd was much more interested and already into the mathematics behind siteswap than those of this year so it was quite different. However, he did a great job of introducing Prechac and his knowledge and enthusiasm to share his passion is excellent. I hope he runs this one every year!
  • “Lasso” - Peter Lister. He runs this every year I think. I really enjoy it and as mentioned below, I now own my own!
  • “Cushion spinning” - Thomas Bounce. He’s just lovely and one of the most approachable people I have met. Not enough people attended his workshop (there were maybe 6 of us) but it was a lovely atmosphere and there is talk of a world record attempt next year (he currently holds the record for longest spin). I saw him with Matthew Tiffany and Will (Scottish juggler based in Edinburgh) practicing in the main hall so maybe he has some competition!
  • “Improving Juggling Technique Through Functional Neurology” - Jame McCambridge. Wow, this was a strange one. It introduced me to the arthrokinetic effect (I am not even going to try and explain that here) and started with him demonstrating how you can compress someone’s ankle and reduce their strength. OK, there is no way I can begin to describe it all here but I don’t think it’s pseudoscience and Jame approaches the subject with a good, sceptical mind. If he runs this again or you meet him then it’s definitely worth taking the opportunity to speak to him. It was at this workshop I joked to Jon Peat that I was stalking him because we seem to share a similar taste in workshops.
  • “4 to 5 bal juggling” - Paul Donegan. Some interesting tricks and I put a name to a face that I have seen at every convention I’ve been to so far.
  • “Aerial Silks” - CJ Carnell. I have no grace whatsoever when I am upside down. During one of the drops I somehow managed to grab hold halfway round and stop my progress. It’s on video somewhere. I am not linking to it here.

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, 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 ( 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!

Gala Show
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!

British Show
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.

Le Lido
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!

The Games
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:

Balloon Tent
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.

Pool Party
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 ( 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 octopus this year is my favourite convention logo ever.
  • I only heard a whip being cracked once in the main hall, apparently there was a space dedicated to them at the school and they must have only been used there.
  • Organisation. I didn’t notice any issues at all so that’s testament to the great work being done by the organisers. Well done!!
  • Weather. The first convention I’ve been to which had proper shorts and tshirt weather.
  • Everything. I just love the BJC. There really is too much to list here. I feat that those who have been to hundreds of conventions lose sight of just how good they are and how lucky we are to have such a nice community.


  • It’s anecdotal but I think there were more thefts this year than usual. Some of it is probably carelessly taking stuff such as the missing Ugly after the big toss up but Callum’s phone was almost certainly deliberately stolen. Just not cool.
  • Rubbish. I wish people would just tidy up after themselves.
  • I slept very well and the campsite was well away from the sound systems but occasionally I was awoken at ungodly hours by people with the most inane chat. Seriously, it’s 3:30am, unless it’s important or actually interesting it can wait till the (proper) morning) when you’re in a camping area.

ropingfool - - Parent

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)

Orinoco - - Parent

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.

The Void - - Parent

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 " 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. ^_^ )

Orinoco - - Parent

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?!

JonPeat - - Parent

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!
Cheers Jon

(did anyone get excited thinking that this might have been my review post..? Sorry...)

unigamer - - Parent

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.

JonPeat - - Parent

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!
Cheers, Jon

JonPeat - - Parent

Never fear, the review post is here:

Enjoy, Cheers Jon

#bjc2017 #conventionreview

Al_Bee - - Parent

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 Void - - Parent

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 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 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!

Austin - - Parent

Great review, I hate to be annoying but you mispelt Christian Hauschild every time. It's Christian not Cristian.

Orinoco - - Parent

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?

John R - - Parent

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...

magicalmarkwatson - - Parent

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:…/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...


Subscribe to this forum via RSS
1 article per branch
1 article per post

Green Eggs reports