This is my HLGCBS from the EJC 2016, from an organisers point of view.
EJC of course stands for the European Juggling Convention, which was held for this summer from the 30th of July until the 7th of August in Almere, the Netherlands!
HLGCBS stands for High, Low, Goal, Crush, Bane, Surprise, a structure commonly used to review juggling conventions. This game probably originates from the jugglers at Madison, Wisconsin, and has been around at least since the late 90s! Or so I was told at the Edge, which is the best place to ask around if you need information from long time juggling community members!
This was the 6th EJC I attended, and it was very special as I was part of the organizing team. Together with about 50 other volunteers, we’ve been making plans and doing preparation work for over 2 years. During the convention, all of our hard work came to fruition, and overall it has been a very rewarding experience.
I want to give you some insights of my personal EJC experience, as the events manager. I was responsible for over almost all the non-show events such as the tournaments, and a lot of special areas such as the fire space or stilt walking space. Perhaps it will inspire you to become a convention organizer too!
Unlike most juggling conventions, where I spend most of my time sitting in the big gym, I spent a large chunk of my time in the backstage and in the office. They were both awesome! The atmosphere was so good, and it is so exciting to be around a bunch of happily hard-working friends! Also, as the office was one of the few places where I could be guaranteed some quiet, I ended up spending my relaxing hours over there as well.
Though I met hundreds of old and new friends at the convention, the only ones I really spend time with were the ones on the team. I could not have wished for better! Many of my close friends were on board, and words fail me now to describe this awesome backstage experience!
Another absolute high was the “dream come true” feeling, which followed me every day! All these things which I had been fantasizing about for years, they all were happening around me right now! There is hardly a better feeling in the world.
I believe this was a shared feeling among all participants: the weather could have been a bit nicer. Although we didn’t have any terrible rain days, and all events could proceed outdoors, overall it was a bit cold, windy, and there were many rainy hours. As I am writing this, mid September in the Netherlands, it is sunny and 30 degrees Celsius outside! Too bad we couldn’t control the weather!
A more personal low was my free time. I had a lot of moments of free time, but they were unpredictable 30 minute slots which would be over before I knew what to do with them. Often I’d walk around, look for friends to relax with, but those friends were either busy with their own tasks, or doing fun stuff like juggling for which I didn’t have much energy. On the rare occasions where I was able to let go of my responsibilities, it wouldn’t take long until I got a phone call and had to solve problems again!
I had two goals during the convention. The most important being:
#1: Satisfying all event organizers.
I was the contact person for all of the events such as the Fight night, Fire space, European Kendama Open, etc. but I didn’t directly organize any of them. On top of 8 daily spaces, there were on average 2 special events per day. I aimed to visit all of them, and of course met with all the organizers beforehand. Luckily they were all very assertive, engaged and experienced, which made working with all of them a great joy. Nearly all of the required materials and work was arranged before the events themselves, which saved me a lot of time and stress! On the other hand, this made it possible for me not even to attend such events at all, or just for a few minutes. I’ve been excited about these events for over a year, and it is a pity that I have not seen anything of so many of them. Luckily the EJC TV recorded some highlights of the Jolleystick and Volleyclub competitions, but boy I wish I was able to see some more from the Diabolo battle and the Kendama Open!
But, coming back to my goal, I did not succeed perfectly. Most importantly I failed in making proper arrangements about food tickets, which could not be corrected during the convention itself and upset some of the organizers. I’m sorry for that, and I’m sure I’ll take lessons from this experience. I advise all future convention advisers to take good care of their volunteers meals; food is THE best means to create goodwill, haha!
Yes, of course I hoped I’d juggle. And I did. Perhaps a total of 30 minutes over the 9 days of the convention, does that count? On the contrary, I did spend 2 half afternoons doing acrobatics! As you require one or multiple partners to do acrobatics, it was easier to set a date and time as a group, and harder to leave. These were some of the few moments where I could zone out, and they were absolutely great!
My crush goes to Luis Hernandez, aka Wis. He was the organizer of the diabolo battle, and without a doubt the best person to ever work with! He made zero demands, yet pulled off perhaps the best event of the EJC! I’ve heard so many good things about it, and that video of the finale, wow! A lot of preparation went into this, too – prizes, judges, camera crew, host & DJ – all was arranged for. Yet I was unable to make it as easy for Luis as he did for me. Unbeknownst to me, the EJC games had moved to the day of the battle, which I discovered on the first day of the convention. Figuring out a replacement day wasn’t too hard, but it was terrible when we had to move the date around again very last minute, because I didn’t check the schedule well enough. Thanks to Luis for his flexibility and perfect planning, it worked out perfectly despite of the stress I put him through. Luis, if you’re reading this, you are the best!
Another thing which I absolutely loved at the EJC, coincidentally also had to do with something last minute. Half an hour before the Gandinis went on stage with their show 4×4 I was approached with the request to introduce them on stage! I enjoy hosting shows, and was lucky to have a costume with me. There were a couple of announcements to remember, and the short notice made it extra stressful to talk in front of 2000 jugglers, but I loved it! So much even, that I ended up announcing all of the subsequent special stages. I am so glad to have had this experience!
I already mentioned the struggles with diabolo battle above. The day before the battle, the day that everything had to be moved around, was the most stressful day for me.
Another issue which troubled me was the sound level of the fire space and the bar tent. We had a permit up to a certain sound level and stayed well under it, however it was the jugglers and not the city who were the first to complain! As the festival village was directly aside the camp ground, we had to lower the volume, and it is never fun to tell the DJ to tone it down. I had to tell the guys at the fire space, but they claimed most noise came from the bar tent. The organizers of the bar tent said exactly the opposite. This went on for a while, every day when we’d have arranged one of them to be quieter the other would be a nuisance, and this forward backward effort annoyed me for some nights…
The white and red bar tent is a tent which I know very well! I am typing this in my RV, which is parked about 5 meters away from the same tent, haha! Most of the year this tent is rented by CliniClowns, which I am currently on tour with as a slapstick performer. It was a funny surprise to see the same tent in use at the EJC! One of the poles still has a sticker on it, promotion for the EJC 2017 in Lublin. To see this makes me smile every day!
The biggest surprise, without a doubt, was the fight night light and sound system. I requested “some” light and sound from the technician guy, and he assured me he’d take care of it. While I was thinking of 2 microphones and a 4 speaker sound system, he interpreted this as building a mini stage with theater lightning in the big gym. In the morning I still assumed we’d roll in some of our left over material at around 23:00, but at noon I heard we’d get externally rented equipment and the gym would need to be closed for a while around 18:00.
Neither of us was prepared for what was coming… 10 guys rolled in with over a hundred flight cases from the rental company, and they’d be busy nonstop for 6 hours to put up all of their equipment! Over 80 lamps, I forgot the count of the speakers but there were even more… On the floor, on the trusses… Their own light and sound technicians, and sound engineer, and technical assistants, they would all stay during the event and take care of everything for us! At first we were a bit scared. Jugglers were disappointed that they couldn’t use the big gym all evening, fighters were worried that the new lights might do more harm than good… But it turned out great! The professionalism of the rental crew made this the best looking fight night ever, we had a blast, and this can all be seen at the many fight night videos!
Of course we still wondered how we ended up with so much equipment (which we did not pay for), it turned out the rental company is trying to impress the sports center and wishes to sell the whole set to them. Well, they could have told us in advance, but then this wouldn’t have ended up on my list of fun surprises 😉
The best surprise of all was the organization swim session. One afternoon I got a text on my organization phone, explaining that they were going to open the swimming pool for an extra hour in the night for all the members of the organization! We had so much fun together, being able to let go of everything else and spend some quality time with each other!
It has been an amazing week, and a very rewarding experience to take part in. If you ever consider organizing a convention, go for it!
Of course I’d love to know about your EJC experiences in HLGCBS format 🙂