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The British Juggling Convention 2017 – Review

The 30th British Juggling Convention returned to Nottingham for a week of Workshops, Shows and General Shenanigans from the 7th – 13th April 2017.

I went along and lots of things occurred.

Arrival

We arrived on site at about quarter to 5pm after a less than exemplary trip up the M1. As we took the turning for the Harvey Haddon Stadium and drove up the drive towards the car park, I was surprised to not recognise the buildings at all. This lack of recognition plagued me across the car park and through the main doors, through the vast reception area overlooking twin swimming pools until we got to one particular wall opposite the onsite café (more about the café later… lots more). This wall was unchanged and took me right back to BJC 2007 and 2011, very memorable. Later I bumped into Amanda who was also exploring and she confirmed that the venue had undergone refurbishment in 2015 which included the new reception area and pools.

We found the reg desk and collected our pre-reg packs and got our wristbands fitted. For the first time in years I elected to have mine on my wrist rather than my ankle.

First impression: The hall looked much smaller than before. I don’t think this was really the case but one length of wall was taken up by the traders, another by the bar and board game area, the other by the reg desk / EJC / PWB displays and the far wall by an aerial rig and the balloon tent. This gave a smaller footprint for the jugglers to use but the major problem was that no one could put their bags at the side of the hall and instead large colonies of equipment developed and merged to create islands of unusable floor space. I developed the ‘BJC gait’ as the week went on which involved leaping from one clear section to another as I traversed the hall.

A view of the main juggling hall. Photo credit: Rosie Kelly.

Jenni moved the car into the 24hr car park whilst I followed Mark W to the campsite which was only a short walk from the venue but was surrounded by some very interesting fencing. Shortcuts are absolutely forbidden! It was sunny and warm so I lay about in the sun and watched Mark erect his tent, this amused me but not as much as Ed finding the ‘best’ spot and deliberating. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Dorothy although I hoped that we wouldn’t bump into each other again (as it turned out we nearly did on the last day, she was hanging around the entrance to the centre but I didn’t make eye contact and got away clean). She has a very penetrating stare.

The temperature dropped quite considerably so we fled to the hall and spent a good while chatting to various folks. When we got hungry we went along to the onsite café which looked pretty well priced (£3.95 for breakfast), we took the evening menu option (£5) for veg chilli & nachos. It was nice food and cheap, we could see the café doing well as the week went on.

Spent time chatting to various people before we hit the motorway back to Peat HQ for the night. I had not booked us into the hotel for the Friday night which necessitated the commute (camping in April, stuff that).

Saturday

I arrived early for my Performance Workshop which was held in the ‘dog leg’ stage area. This is a narrow length of running track down the side of the main hall which was filled with wooden bleachers with a floor level stage area. A large aerial rig had been constructed which restricted the available floor space of the stage whilst a horizontal beam, 5 metres up, ran across the centre of the stage. Possibly a challenging stage for any numbers jugglers or performers requiring more room. This turned out to not be a problem, most of the shows were held on this stage and I didn’t once see a prop hit the beam.

I think the workshop went really well, a nice group of about 15 came and we had a lively and interesting discussion. I hope it was useful to those who came. It was interesting to hear people’s different points of view and examples.

I talked to a few people after the workshop which meant I was late for Ron’s Tichu workshop. This involved an introduction to the cards and gameplay followed by a large open game where the merits of each play were discussed. It was a bit too noisy in the hall and Ron was quite softly spoken so we found it difficult to hear all of it. We were going to stay for a few games but we were hungry so went along to the café for lunch.

Café

Begin rant.

Now, I am aware that this is a leisure centre café and is not used to having a high throughput of customers but I thought that they might have been better prepared for a captive 500+ customers living onsite and wanting food. I can understand the first day coming as a bit of a shock but I would have expected them to gear up a bit as the week went on. This didn’t happen, they remained inept and inefficient (experiences may vary!) throughout the rest of the week. There was a large queue when we arrived and as we got closer to the till it became apparent why: there were no signs detailing the different menu options. The board simply read ‘paninis’, ‘jacket potatoes’ or ‘toasties’. This meant every time someone got the front of the queue they had to ask what flavours were available. Hmmmmm, surely after the 20th time the staff might have considered putting up a sign…? Also most orders were not given a number so that when a food order was ready it was hard to find the correct person. This was especially hilarious at breakfast time when the staff would shout “one breakfast” to the room of 10 people who were waiting for their breakfast. I am told they took on extra staff as the week went on, which just meant there were new staff who didn’t know where anything was or how to operate the till.

Rant over.

Afternoon

We made our way back to the games playing area just in time for the two player hour where lots of different two player games were available with instruction. Jenni and I chose Kahuna which we found interesting and enjoyed. I think it will take some time to develop tactics for this game as it is finely balanced between expansion and aggression. Jenni thrashed me.

We took a trip round the traders and spent loads of money. I bought all kinds of wonderful toys and a few DVDs. I was very interested to see that Oddballs have taken on lasso and trick roping equipment and even more so that people were using it in the hall. Excellent!

Rasmus, Ieuan, Heydar and myself then played a splendid game of 4 person headbounce passing, occasionally recruiting passing children who thought it looked fun (correct) and easy (incorrect).

Jenni and I got hungry and again and decided to give the café a miss, mainly because we didn’t fancy mushroom stroganoff, but also because I didn’t want to give them any more money. We went to the veggie burger van outside and it was very consistent with previous years. The burgers are pretty good but it does frustrate me because they never have any burgers ready. Each time you order you have to stand and wait while one individual burger is crafted, and if you have ordered two then you will get one ages before the second one arrives. It is a veggie burger van, at lunchtime, at a juggling convention, on the main thoroughfare between the hall and the camp site. It is a pretty fair bet you are going to be asked for a veggie burger (while we waited another 4 people ordered). Where is the harm in having 2 burgers on the go during these busy periods so that you can quickly serve the waiting customers? I made a vow that I would not be visiting the burger van again this convention.

It was another case of the food being nice but the efficiency just not being present.

The British Show – 8:30pm

The Dog Leg Stage which featured uncomfortable seating and an aerial rig. Photo credit: Rosie Kelly

We all crowded into the dog leg stage to see the British Show, crowded being the operative word.

Tiff played host to the evening’s entertainments and displayed a variety of skills and made some cracking jokes.

Brook and Becky opened the show with their excellent robot passing routine which premiered at the Leeds Juggling Convention just before Christmas. This version was upgraded with a new app rather than remote control and had a back-to-back passing section. I love the robotic juggling and serious expressions and also the little robotic arm. Superb malfunction at the end, they brought the house down.

Tiff eluded to kicking people on stage and then proceeded to do football kick-ups whilst playing match of the day on the violin before booting the ball into the audience and scoring a winning goal.

Louis Duncan took to the stage and performed a very calm and collected (also mesmerising) 3 ball routine. Lots of mills mess tricks and flourishes and some nice original shower/yo-yo-esque tricks. All it needed was for some applause points to be shoehorned in to give the crowd chance to applaud. Very nice routine, good bow.

Tiff gave another rendition of his Jalapenis song which once again brought a tear to many an eye.

Will Borrell took to the stage in a very sassy outfit and performed an eye opening routine. Great character and audience interaction throughout although I was waiting for some good juggling tricks to come out. I was kept waiting but I was very impressed by his splits.

Next up was CJ Carnell who performed an aerial rope act. I didn’t feel very at ease watching the performance as she wore a very concentrated expression throughout the routine. I felt that the poses could have been held longer to increase the preparation vs pose ratio. Aside from that it was a good routine, no bow at the end.

Can Tiff do the 3 golf club balance and juggle 4 balls beneath it? … Yes, of course he can.

Next on stage was Børre Isac from Norway (ran out of British performers) performing his brand new triangle jugging routine. It was a good routine filled with some interesting and original tricks although a bit droppy. Great confidence on stage, finished with a 7 triangle flash and a strong bow.

The final act was Jay Vatra performing a Contact Poi routine entitled ‘Love Story’. Aside from some kissing of the poi towards the beginning of the routine the rest of the love story was a bit lost on me. Strong skills on display with very good audience interaction, I particularly liked the backcross and under the leg tricks and I appreciated the 4 poi fountain. Good bow.

The final bow at the end was pretty good, I enjoyed Will and the robots remaining in character throughout although Mike may disagree with me. Then followed a pretty disorderly mass exit from the show venue, we survived the crush, grabbed Mark and headed out to the cafe where we had a really nice after show discussion which I always enjoy. It was a short show which held some strong acts but we agreed it wasn’t as good as previous years British shows.

We wandered around the hall for a bit and watched some 5 hat technique in the hall. I was suitably impressed by Rob Firey’s rocket start for 5 hats, don’t think I have seen that before.

I got tired and grumpy and so we retreated back to the safety of the hotel again.

Sunday

We elected for a full breakfast at the Beefeater attached to the hotel as word had reached my ears of mixed reviews of the breakfast at the café. Also Sunday trading laws meant a possibility of the ASDA not serving breakfast.

It was very overpriced in the restaurant and not particularly nice as many things had been out under the lights for a long while. It all tasted alright but would have been nicer fresh cooked rather than buffet. I did enjoy bottomless mug refills of milk and orange juice.

Back at the venue I ran my second workshop entitled ‘how to run a workshop’. It was fairly well attended, I ran the workshop based on a throwaway joke which I think Ed made to me at a previous convention, so I was interested to how much interest there was for a workshop of this type. There were about 8 of us in the end and, again, we had a really nice discussion and the attendees came up with some good points which I had not considered. At the end of the workshop we decided that I should have provided hand-outs so I will produce some for future renditions.

Jenni flashed 7 balls for the first time!!!

Spent some time inventing new props for Ball Spinning Pete, I really like his double ball spin mouthstick and I had the Norwicks conversation with Dave Kelly.

There were various announcements at this point as the buses were drawing up outside the venue to transport everyone to Nottingham castle for the games. Blacked out windows on the back of the bus in front of ours mean that I didn’t see Lewis waving until it had gone past embarrassing.

The Games

3 club gladiators in the sun in the grounds of Nottingham Castle. Photo credit: Nat Snell

It was another lovely hot sunny day and so we trooped up to the castle grounds to watch everyone running around and getting sweaty. I think the lack of late night gladiators manifested itself as a huge group was playing relentlessly. We found some semi shade and settled down to watch the proceedings.

3 Ball Simon Says was ended by continuous 1 up pirouettes until everyone was dizzy and dropped. Human Surfing took place and nobody was seriously injured. The 5 Ball Endurance was won by Christian Hauschild.

At this point I left the castle grounds in order to collect my parents, who were coming to see the show. I left my notebook in the care of Jenni so I can tell you the following things occurred.

Devilstick Propeller Endurance, Lost Child Announcement (he was playing on the slide), ‘Long’ Distance Club Passing (apparently not much room to get too far away), Hula Hoop Gladiators, Diabolo in a Box, Handstand Endurance, How Many Clubs Can You Hold At Once (under 7s game, great premise for a game, I would have liked to see this!), Very Strong Smell of Medicinal Herbs (not acceptable, especially not at the public games with children running around, for shame), Club Balance Endurance (Tom Derrick won of course), followed by the Balloon Dog Race.
I returned at his point with the folks in tow, we remarked that the Balloon Dog Race game could have a further hilarious dimension by having a ‘best in show’ competition at the end.

7 Ball Endurance was won by Christian. Balloon Ankle Gladiators was quite tame whilst the Unicycle Gladiators took a very aggressive turn at the end, excellent. Dan Wood won the Coin Juggling (again). Another interesting game was ‘Prop Mountains’, where teams battle to build the tallest tower of props within the time limit, fairly amusing. 5 Club Endurance in the wind was pretty entertaining, one particularly strong gust knocked out the majority. Felix Sürbe beat Christian and took the glory. This was followed by a big toss up and more games of 3 Club Gladiators. I watched with a sad faraway look in my eyes until it was time to go for food.

The Big Toss Up. (who threw a person!?!) Photo credit: Nat Snell

We gathered my parents, Lizzy and Jamie as well as Ian and took a walk through the city centre, watched some shenanigans taking place before getting a table at Peachy Keens world food buffet. We all enjoyed a good tuck in, I enjoyed a nice mixture of Indian and Thai cuisine and managed not to overeat, success!

Balance – The Gala Show

We queued at the wrong door for a time with the Milton Keynes contingent before finding the entrance to the theatre. We proceeded to queue for an eternity in the corridors waiting for the doors to be thrown wide.

Once we got inside there was a lot of mayhem and general hilarity. Ieuan mistakenly thought he was amusing at this point. A very large balloon octopus made its way around the auditorium, it was very well done and quite disturbing, bravo!

Bernie the Octopus. Photo credit: Allen Goldie

Rosie Kelly was our show host for the evening’s entertainments and gave an excellent safety and courtesy announcement before taking to the stage.

Gustavo Ollitta was first up performing with S-staffs (buugeng). It was pretty, I enjoyed the shapes and patterns although I had about 3 moments of ‘this is going on too long’ but each time he then did something different which took my interest again. I enjoyed it when the staffs went all floppy. Nice routine despite one falling apart towards the end of the routine.

Rosie introduced us all to Henry the club.

Kathrin Pancakes performed her new 1 ring routine with lots of balancing and meaningful looks at the ring. It was nicely put together and used a lot of the stage, some nice tricks in there but no pancakes in sight.

Paddy and Harry performed their duelling banjos hat battle which I have seen a number of times now but I love it! Super high energy, brilliant tricks as well as audience interaction, it proved to be the only high energy act in the whole show. It was pretty droppy but I am quite happy to overlook that because they are just so good on stage!

Paddy & Harry. Photo credit: Paul Silver Photography

Anni Küpper tied her hands together before performing an excellent routine with one club. Lots of impressive club rolls and balances, great character and lots of funny moments. Very strong performance. I liked the heel balance especially.

The interval took place.

Emma Hörnell opened the second half with a very odd hula hoop routine. I really enjoyed the tricks as well as the peculiar character but most of all I really enjoyed the sound effects! I don’t know if the audience on levels 1 or 2 could make them out but lots of tricks had accompanying sound effects which entertained me greatly. I liked it.

Asaf Mor performed an excerpt from his new show 9 to 5 (the full show would be seen later in the week). It was brimming with club manipulations: very robotic and creative style. I really like club manipulations and scissor variations and the way Asaf had linked the different sections was fascinating, it was right up my street. I was interested to see how this section would fit into a full show.

Rosie did a not very funny skit about Juggling Rock (a Facebook group) before doing a very funny skit involving feeding bread to children.

Nadia Lumley took to the stage with a cyr wheel and performed what I thought was a stunning routine. I loved the music, the energy and the breakdancing! It was really slick and was one of my favourite cyr wheel routines ever, very different presentation which I loved.

Guillaume Karpowicz with the same excellent routine he performed at Camvention last year, minus the numbers diabolo section at the end. It was wonderful to see again although I preferred the Camvention rendition as I was sitting so much closer. This is a solid and very imaginative routine with lots of clever robotic movements and elements of dance. Brilliant!

The final bows started off well but stuttered a bit towards the end. This was an odd show for me. Aside from Harry & Paddy and also Nadia all of the acts performed rather slow ‘moody’ or in the case of Asaf and Guillaume tight robotic / industrial numbers. There were no real high energy / comedy / traditional circus type routines which I feel would have lifted the mood a bit. All the individual acts were very strong but as a whole I thought the show could have done with being a little more varied in tone. Rosie did a fine job compering and restoring some of the missing energy between the acts, most of her skits were very funny and well thought out.

The final bows of the Gala Show. Photo credit: Paul Silver Photography

Monday

For lack of options we decided to have breakfast in the café onsite. It was a nice breakfast and fairly priced I thought, although it did take far too long to arrive.

I was called away from Snakeboarding to play a few games of Hive with Ed. I wasn’t blown away by the capabilities of the new piece (the Pillbug).

Nine To Five Show – Asaf Mor

I settled down with a fairly small crowd to watch Asaf’s new show, a section of which we had seen during the gala. The crowd grew as the show went on although I could see it wasn’t for everyone and a few people left early.

I enjoyed it, there were slow sections which were quite dull but overall it was an entertaining and interesting show. The premise appeared to be an office worker tied to his desk and trying to survive a full day in the office whilst being observed by the ‘evil boss in the sky’ in the form of a red light. This red light would flash whenever Asaf did something which displeased him. This was actually lost on me, I failed to recognise the red flashes coincided with misbehaviour so I didn’t fully understand this until we held discussions afterwards.

The character was very good, very nervous / frantic although this made me empathise and also feel rather nervous and awkward during the show. There was an interesting ball rolling section using general stationary (folders and suchlike) upon the desk and rolling balls off the desk lamp.

I enjoyed the ‘rubber stamping’ of the clubs and the club manipulation section fitted in well.

The piece ended when Asaf created a replacement worker at the desk using the lamp, some clubs and a coat, allowing Asaf to make good his escape. It was a nice show and well thought out and performed, I found it rather awkward / nervous to watch and also rather dark as well.

A Hard day at the office. Photo credit: Asaf Mor – Nine to Five Show

After the show I went along to Rosie’s ‘how to make a good juggling video’ workshop. I have no interest in making juggling videos myself but I do have an interest in cinema and in what humans find entertaining / pleasing to watch.  It was an interesting workshop and it basically came down to seeing that human connection with the characters, much like what makes a good stage routine. Food for thought.

I also went to Void’s Beginners Kendama workshop, having persuaded him to run one earlier in the week. It was poorly attended (only 3 of us) but that meant we got pretty much one to one tuition. I took my shiny new Kendama and successfully completed most of the moves. I really enjoyed how much technique was required in order for it to work, much like lasso it isn’t going to work unless everything is just right. I would have like some simple handouts which list all the tricks covered and perhaps a little graphic showing the different stages of the trick as well as top tips (‘use your knees more!’).

My final workshop of the day was a ‘Comedy writing workshop’ with Rosie, Russel and Marky Jay. I wanted to hear what methods or mechanisms were used for writing jokes or gags from scratch. The workshop didn’t really go into that but turned into more of an audience management and compering workshop. Still interesting but not really what I was after. I did hear a fantastic quote, which I will include in my performance workshop, apparently from the world of clowning: ‘When on stage, be beautiful’. Meaning no matter what you are doing on stage, be beautiful with it. If you are nervous or a nervous character, be beautifully nervous. I thought this was quite a powerful quote and performance mantra.

Played Hive with Jenni. Got absolutely bowled over when she did a stunner of a move with the Pillbug! Good grief, turned the game around and she thrashed me! I take it back, the Pillbug can be a pretty powerful piece, but only if it is in the right place, very impressive, I didn’t see it coming!

Vegetarian curry and beef chilli from the café was very nice and well worth the wait (in fact I don’t think we waited too long this time), great to have the café back on track today!

I snakeboarded around the hall and chatted to various people, I enjoyed being a consultant to Pan and Kiran on their 8 club pattern.

Open Stage Show – 7pm

The Magical Mark Watson was our host for the evening and did a superb job. I love watching Mark on stage and he didn’t disappoint. Very funny and confident and oh so professional! I even enjoyed the audience warm up sections.

First up was an act called 2 and a Half Germans with Felix, Christian and Theo. It was a strong act considering it was put together during the convention, a mixture of props and little linked juggling sections. Lots of energy, a nice crowd pleaser.

Esther and Leanne performed a really lovely club balancing routine. It was a little shaky at the start but then it came together beautifully, lots of really nice tricks and ideas and some pretty difficult balances. I enjoyed the costumes and socks especially. They should have run back on stage at the end and got another bout of applause.

Rob Woolley came on stage dressed in dark robes and hooded and looking rather sinister (with accompanying atmospheric music) but then immediately trashed this character by waving to the audience and grinning. I preferred sinister. I really enjoyed the display of connected juggling ring manipulations and thought it worked really well, it was pretty smooth. Nice touch performing to the side bleachers that went down very well. The music then changed to silly circus clowning music while Rob disrobed and jumped around changing his shoes before getting stuck in a hoop juggling rolling section with large orange rings. It was a good second song choice, better movement around the stage than I have seen before and far less tongue in evidence. The audience interaction was also pretty strong. I don’t think the connection between the two routines worked, I think it requires a slicker more in keeping transition between the routines or to just keep them separate. It would work for the routines to appear on different sides of an interval during a show but joined together needs more work.

Mark did a rather nice card trick at this point with Corrie, who was an outstanding magician’s assistant, very funny!

Greeny then performed his table top ball juggling routine with a box. I really enjoyed it, he has a lovely on stage persona and bags of confidence. I didn’t think much of his ball girl who returned the fallen props to him. I enjoyed the cheeky smiles. Front roll kick up into 5 balls was particularly lovely.

Mark spent some time killing balloon dogs which was utterly brilliant. I look forward to seeing where this is going in the future as Mark has alluded to some of his plans for this skit.

Closing the show was Lisa Ellipse who gave us a glittering 1-5 hoops performance. Nicely put together with some really cool tricks and especially nice rolls. Nice confident performance, the final kiss to the audience worked as a finisher.

The curtain call was pretty flawless. Again it was a short Open Stage show, and although fairly strong, I have seen better on previous years. Mark’s compering made the show for me and I thought it was the most at ease and slick I have seen him. (Hope that’s ok for your quotes page, Mark!)

We congregated in the main hall and Peter Bone and I compared teaspoons.

Tuesday

I had a very busy day ahead so we decided to tank up with breakfast at ASDA. It was cheaper than in the onsite café but you did get a proportionally smaller portion. I didn’t feel ripped off and the food was very nice. They couldn’t serve me a cup of milk though so I have to buy a 1 pinter from the store, shame.

Jane and Paul were very helpful and accommodating and made printing happen as I was worried after seeing the games that there might be more than 30 combat players wishing to take part in qualifications. I then mucked about with some toys in the hall before heading to a ‘cognitive juggling’ workshop.

I went with Mark and Alan. It was not what we were expecting and perhaps could have been better advertised / explained beforehand what it would be about. None of us three made any gains during the workshop and it was all a bit pseudo sciencey without much science. I’d rather hoped for a workshop which gave insight into the operation of the brain and how learning occurs but this focused more on stretching in order to ‘activate’ your body to improve juggling, while at the same time belittling stretching. I hate it when people say ‘you don’t see a cheetah stretching before it chases down an antelope’. True, but I have also watched the same nature programs and when the big kitty cats wake up in the morning they often have a great big stretch! I just don’t think it is a good way to illustrate the point. I have very strong views on stretching, and something useful which did come out of the workshop for me was the importance of engaging the brain during stretching and having brain as well as body exercises taking place.

I took part in the Fever group photo with sister dear and enjoyed seeing all the kiddies all grown up. It was then time to head over to the school hall for the fight night qualifications. I arrived early and ate my ASDA sandwiches whilst watching the whip cracking competitions taking place. They looked like really good fun, Pete Gamble was setting everyone challenges to complete including whipping rice cakes out of the air. I really enjoyed watching it.

I needn’t have worried about not having enough sheets as only 17 turned up to take part in the qualifications. I was disappointed, I thought there would be far more players this year. Despite that we had a cracking good time with lots of good matches taking place. Despite having a huge huge huge hall Callum and Orin still managed to crash into each other and go flying. I used the time whilst everyone was playing to work out part of the music playlist for the tournament to be held later that evening and to chat with Martin. Everyone seemed to have a good time and we ended with 12 players to take through to the tournament itself.

The combatants! Photo credit: Me (although Callum lent me his phone…)

Jenni and I went hunting for pizza but were unsuccessful and I needed to be back in time for the BYJOTY so we were forced to eat at the café again. We were served very measly portions of lasagne and veggie lasagne. I did take my veggie lasagne back, under encouragement from Tiff and Jenni, because it was a tiny portion they duly topped it up, but it was still not £5 worth. Very dissatisfied.

BYJOTY – 6pm

I settled down on the judges table alongside Rosie and Mike and prepared to watch the show.

Nat Lunatrick was the compere for the show and he was funny and entertaining. There were things which I wish he hadn’t done, bearing in mind it is a competition as well as a show: forcing acts to take a bow being an example. He handled himself very well and did a pretty good job, and he did give someone working in a call centre the prize for the weirdest cold call of the evening.

I will not go into detail on the individual acts although stand out performances for me were from Jules Cook (staff spinning with attitude), Heather (silky smooth aerial silks) Max Preece (pretty flawless diabolo), Georgina (amazing hat tricks and lovely smiles and interaction), Felix (high energy and good fun club juggling) and Max B Smith (strong technical 3 ball routine).

While we went outside to deliberate, the best trick competition took place. When we returned it was a faceoff between Max Preece and Felix. Based on the audience cheering it was actually won by Felix in my view, but it went to a coin toss at the end and so Max won the best trick.

We were pleased to award silver medals to Jules and Max Preece for their performances, and Max also took the audience choice award and the BYCPOTY(?) title.

It was a very good show and I really enjoyed seeing so many varied acts. The standard has improved massively over the years and I was impressed with all of the performers. I was delighted to have been asked to be a judge for this year’s event. I really enjoyed the experience although it does make you watch the show very differently!

The BYJOTY competitors final bow. Photo credit: Paul Silver Photography

Rosie, Mike and myself then found a quiet corner and spent a good hour or so completing feedback sheets for all the performers. This was surprisingly hard work!

Fight Night – 11.30pm

I hurried over to the fight night arena which was being constructed in the main hall. Mark and his team did a superb job in building the arena and setting up all the lights and sound, it was pretty spectacular!

There were some very entertaining matches and great points throughout the tournament. I was very busy marking down the scores, flipping the score chart and making sure the music kept going so a lot of what occurred passed in a blur to me. Golden Martin did a great job keeping the energy going and presenting the fighters.

I found Brook and Danny’s third place match very entertaining, mainly due to Danny’s chicken noises throughout the match. Cameron and Matty had a very hard fought battle in the final which Matty took with great style and humility.

Matty and Cameron facing off in the final. Photo credit: Paul Silver Photography

I apologise for the music but I was going off visual feedback which I was getting from a couple in the front row. They were singing along and dancing to pretty much every track so I kept playing songs which I thought would entertain them specifically. Seemed to work pretty well! I had no control of volume, apologies for anyone who found it too loud.

Joined in with a bit of clear up afterwards before calling it a night and doing a runner.

Wednesday

We returned to ASDA and bought all day breakfast sandwiches which we ate in the café at the venue as an act of protest. They tasted of pettiness and were delicious.

Mark joined us in the hall and we had a fight night and LED show discussion. I had missed the LED show, it took place while we were writing our BYJOTY feedback forms. Apparently it was pretty good although very short. I understand the compere introduced one of the acts incorrectly and told a very unfunny Brexit joke which went down like a lead balloon. As a general rule you should never mock your own technical team whilst performing.

Ieuan and Tom joined us and we had a combined BYJOTY discussion whilst watching Tiff progressing with the headbounce pole. Later I had a very interesting discussion about swords with The Void and downloaded all the fight night footage from Mark’s camera, thank you Mark! Jenni and I had a game of Duel where I opened a can of whupass. I whiled away the afternoon with some headbouncing, ring balancing and snakeboarding. Did manage to bang out a few 180’s and pirouettes with the headbounce which pleased me. Played Hive with Ieuan until it was time for the Open Stage.

Open Stage – 5.30pm

Harvey Cobb did a fine job of the compering. The sand in the cups routine to get the audience clapping was a great idea, very effective.

Callum Baker opened the show displaying some very fine hooping and hoop juggling skills. He had good presence on stage and a spiffy costume although the effect was ruined by having the label showing on his boxer shorts. Finished with a cool balance and 4 hoops on the arms. The music ran out ahead of time but he finished with a very snazzy bow.

Lukey the Box Monkey (pretty sure that was how the act was introduced…) came out next and performed a lively cigar box routine whilst dressed as a monkey. The monkey didn’t really tie into anything so I wasn’t sure why a monkey costume was selected. It was a great routine full of really hard cigar box ricks. I loved the 3 up behind the back turn combo and also the 4 boxes tricks with the centre two boxes turning 180 degrees. It was droppy although most of the tricks were hit on the second attempt. He ended by throwing bananas at the audience, an acceptable outcome.

Charlie entered the stage looking slightly bewildered. He moved very well around the stage and showed elements of dance whilst trying to pull off some difficult club balance tricks. It had great potential but was just a bit too droppy, I would like to see this routine again when it is more polished. He needed a better drop mechanism as shouting to the audience didn’t really work although by the end the audience was completely on his side thanks in part to his confidence and winning smile. The bow at the end was spectacular.

Harvey came on to do a skit with a lighted candelabra, it dripped on the stage (expensive running track) and so it was abandoned completely, well covered.

David Stone performed a contact ball routine with up to 3 large rubber balls to The Bare Necessities from the Jungle Book soundtrack. It worked so well. David projects a very serene performance style and just looks so calm and unperturbable. He just seemed to glide around the stage and make everything appear effortless. At the end he got a scattered standing ovation from the parts of the audience although I think the entire audience had been swept along, very good and modest performance.

Harvey then read out a thank you list for the organisers but this turned into a bit of a disaster due to bad handwriting. The situation improved when a member of the team was able to decipher the handwriting. I thought it was a bit of a travesty when the team had worked so hard and put together such a great convention, I felt they needed a better thank you than this (usually in the Gala show too).

The final act was Paddy (of Paddy and Harry) performing a solo hat routine. It was packed with some difficult tricks and a lovely nervous on stage character. Heel catch throw to heel catch on the other foot as well as a solid looking 5 hat cascade. Strong closer for the show, I enjoyed that the bow also removed the hat.

The curtain call was a bit shaky. The bows are generally best led by the compere from the middle of the line-up rather than one end.

After the show Jenni and I collected Mark and we went out to the Beefeater Pub for a nice evening meal before arriving back for the Le Lido show. Waitress: ‘Do you want spicy fries or normal fries?’ Me: ‘Are spicy fries more expensive?’ Waitress: ‘No, they are all the same price.’ Me: ‘Yabadabadooooo!’ (Disclaimer: What I actually said was, ‘Spicy please.’)

Le Lido Show – 9pm

I was pleased to see ‘pirouette’ was not catching on amongst the audience.

First off, I really enjoyed the show. I thought it was wild and funny and showed a lot of creativity and skills. At the same time there were some very bizarre sections and I couldn’t decide if there were deep meaningful messages in there or if it was being weird for the sake of weirdness. Regardless, I found it massively entertaining and engaging. Less so the poetry readings.

The first section was hilariously awkward. A birthday party for one until another guest, in the form of a corpsified man in a dress, tumbled out from behind a curtain. This guy remained completely lifeless and creepily corpse-like for the whole time, it was amazing. I may actually have nightmares because his dead eyes seemed to be staring straight at me! What followed was a duo acrobatic routine with the corpse character thrown around the stage. Hilariously creepy.

This was followed by a hilarious bit of improv, courtesy of Microsoft who decided now would be a good time to update the group’s master laptop. A mac was produced and the show was allowed to continue, I thought they coped very well. Very reminiscent of the Harlem Shake.

What followed was a very interesting handstand routine mixed with juggling as balls were placed into various placed limbs before being released to the waiting jugglers. The raincoats were lost on me.

Next was an aerial hoop contortionist (the birthday boy) in shirt and tie attacking the hoop with gusto. Ample skills on display, some amazing flips, not seen anything quite like it before.

Next three guys ran on stage in full matching running regalia and proceeded to throw clubs to each other whilst jogging around. The characters were brilliant, I love how they motivated each other, such sportsmen! They were hilarious and also very skilled jugglers. Fantastic club balances and manipulations topped off with a stunning awards ceremony upon a cardboard podium which duly collapsed.

This gave way to an aerial rope act, again very strong skills on display. Next up was a cyr wheel act which involved baking. Eggs were placed on the stage and the wheel left to roll amongst them, amazingly none of them broke. Another egg was placed on a teaspoon and launched into a waiting mixing bowl. It was a pretty good cyr wheel act as well, especially on such a tight stage.

You can just make out the egg flying through the air. Photo credit: Nat Snell

A makeshift Jesus arrived on stage and proceed to perform solo acrobatics and contortionist dance around the stage while ‘thought provoking’ passages were read out to the audience. I found it a bit pretentious. The show finished with the whole cast singing to the audience.

Again, I really enjoyed the show although I would not claim to have ‘got’ all of it, far from it. The characters were brilliant, the audience engagement was fantastic, the skills on display were very strong. As I was leaving I had hurried conversations with several people on the way out and deduced it had mixed reviews already. For me it was one of the most engaging shows of the convention.

Thursday

On the last day of the convention we headed to the café for a final breakfast. We waited a long time but I was very nice and we got to sit and natter with Lizzy and Jamie and Mark. We headed into the hall to see if we had won anything in the raffle. Apparently the raffle had been announced via a ‘bing bong’ announcement, these were pretty unintelligible throughout the convention. We just missed out on some flower sticks so that was lucky.

The hall was closed off around 10:30 so instead of going in for a final juggle we headed to the campsite and watch Ed expertly packing away his tent. After standing around and being sarcastic for a while we said our goodbyes and headed to Lizzy and Jamie’s tent just in time to not help carry anything to their car.

That was our BJC!

Thank you to all of the organisers for putting together another fantastic event. My own personal thanks go to the wonderful teching crew who managed to keep all of the shows running smoothly and built an awesome arena in the main hall to showcase the combat tournament. It looked awesome!

My only improvement suggestions for future years would be to bring back the workshop board for the week rather than having a daily one and more food outlets would be welcome (I miss Monte). Also the booklet contained a lot of incorrect information, such as the directions to the shops, so we stopped referring to it pretty early on during the week.

All this aside, the BJC continues to be a fantastic event and any negative aspects are easily outweighed by the joy it brings me every year. Thank you so much, see you in Canterbury!

Cheers Jon

Jon Peat

I am a juggler based in the UK. I enjoy attending juggling conventions and tend to write about them afterwards. Enjoy!

Comments 2

    1. Jon Peat Post
      Author

      Hi Marko,

      I do not think that there is a video of the public show. Individual acts may release footage of their performances from the show, but I do not think a full show video will exist.

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