Lestival X (The Big Birthday Bash)The Leicester Juggling Convention Review 2017(UK)

Saturday 29th April saw Lestival reaching its tenth birthday! I went along to celebrate and this is what I can remember from the day.

Arrival

Mark and I arrived early on site and found a cosy spot in the car park. A short stroll up the drive of Brockington College brought us to the main doors and within, the registration desk and atrium. Much of Fever was in attendance issuing passes, admiring the workshop board and turning away dancers. We selected our party hats and promptly applied some additional stickers which were provided in order to increase the levels of joviality. I deposited some additional prizes onto the raffle table which was already buckling under the weight. With this accomplished we found our way to our usual spot and dumped our bags next to our favourite pillar.

There were all sorts of birthday themed decorations in the atrium including balloons and decorations artfully crafted from leftover Lestival flyers. It was a really nice touch and brightened the already bright and airy atrium up even more.

I attempted to fill my water bottle at the water fountains but found they would only provide warm water. I got very bored of letting the water run through so I gave up and went forth in search of cold water, eventually settling for tap water from the men’s loo. Delicious.

I spent a happy morning chatting to people as they arrived and checking out the traders. Lazy Juggler, Oddballs, Gravity Outlaws and Poietry In Motion were happily peddling their wares. I did a spot of juggling and played with headbouncing and my little mini hoop which I got at the BJC. I also had a bit of a lasso session in the Pit area as there was some funky music playing.

Looking from the Pit Area up towards the main Atrium. Photo: Steve Thomson

Someone turned on the magic ‘Lestival time evaporation machine’ and quite suddenly it was lunchtime! I sought out Jenni and her parents and we decided to have some fresh baguettes from the kiosk. There were tons of different cakes on offer; it was pretty much a huge cake party. Kat supplied us with some tasty cheese and pickle baguettes (other flavours were available) and whilst we were eating I took the opportunity to apologise to The Void.

Jamie had arrived with his ‘Mark II’ version of the headbounce pole which I was very excited to try out. I achieved mixed success although I made a few clever corrections using a method Tiff had described to me at the BJC.

I went for a wander around the site and went upstairs to check out the workshop spaces. The huge hall was filled with exam tables but further down the corridor was the dance studio which was long and pretty big. Two workshops were taking place and not interfering with each other. I could see plenty of people engaged in learning to juggle five balls with Mark, and Paul was in the middle of his devilstick workshop. I stayed for part of the workshop and learnt some good tips, my devilstick skills are particularly weak but I feel I did alright.

The Games

The games were hosted by Christian who was aided (and abetted) by Kiran on the sound desk. The games were accompanied by a bespoke music mix and many games featured audio gags and references. As it was Lestival’s birthday there were a number of party games as well as the more traditional convention games.

The first game involved the participants forming a circle around a traffic cone and holding hands. If anyone let go and broke the circle they were then out, the same went for if anyone touched the cone. A lot of pushing a shoving occurred. It was entertaining. Janion won.

The next was a five club ‘endurance’ game but if you dropped you could pick up and continue. If you were not juggling five clubs when the music stopped you were out. This was funny for the people who couldn’t juggle five for long as they had to quickly pick up the clubs and start juggling again, lest they be caught not juggling when the music stopped. Brook won.

A couple of times Christian played ‘what’s in the sack?’ with members of the audience. There were no winners.

Another game involved Alun swinging a long rope in a circle, at floor level, and the participants having to jump the rope as it came to them. It started out fairly tame but quickly escalated into about five guys leaping 3 foot in the air with the rope turning at a fast pace. Very funny to watch with the added amusement that when the rope caught someone around the legs they were taken out quite spectacularly. Of course the soundtrack to the game was the Girls Aloud version of ‘Jump’, loved it.

Club balance gladiators also had its own soundtrack and I was honoured to find it featured yours truly. Blind juggling was very good, I put my poor performance down to my using very small balls instead of my usual ones.

Two teams of ten lay on the floor in a long line, feet to head, before passing a banana over their heads (feet only) to another waiting team member who then had to eat the banana before the other team. Very unsanitary yet amusing. This was followed by a carrot version of the same game with added peeling. Even more unsanitary and amusing.

5 ball endurance was going really well until we had to close one eye. Yet another thing to practise in secret…

There was a team game where the teams sit facing each other, when your number is called you have to run round the outside of the group and then through the middle to return to your seat again. This was made more amusing by the recorded voiceover of Mark calling the numbers.

Unicycle gladiators was followed by poi gladiators (butterfly only!) and also the balloon ankle game. This got slightly too serious and became awkward and more dangerous than usual. This was followed by 3 club gladiators but with the inclusion of zombies. I think it would have benefitted from a better explanation of the role of the zombies, some were quite zealous.

At the close of the games it was announced that there were free cakes for all the convention attendees to celebrate the birthday of Lestival, so we all sang (a version of) Happy Birthday and gorged. It was obligatory to try every flavour.

Lestival spelt out in fairy cakes for all to enjoy. Nice touch! Photo: Steve Thomson

Combat Tournament

Earlier in the day the majority of the combat tournament had taken place. The two semi-final matches, the third place match and the final were held directly after the games for the audience to watch. Callum and Will battled it out before Will took the match 5-4. Brook defeated Ieuan 5-1 after some pretty exciting encounters. Callum & Ieuan then fought it out for third place which Callum snatched out of Ieuan’s grasp, 5-4. Brook and Will faced it out and although there were some really close points and double drops, Brook won fairly convincingly with a 5-0 finish. See the whole tournament here: http://fightnightcombat.com/tournament-Leicester-2017.html

Evening Food

This year we elected to go to the Toby Carvery for our evening meal and stock up on some limitless vegetables. As we were leaving, Plumsie mentioned to us that the Carvery had been closed the previous week for refurbishment so may not have reopened yet. We decided to take a chance and we went anyway only to find that it had been revamped into a posh steakhouse. I wondered how this would sit with the hordes of vegetarians I expected to arrive looking for their evening meal. We decided to be decadent (it was quite pricey) and try it out. Jenni’s steak was very nice although the half lettuce with cheese was peculiar. My BBQ chicken needed more cheese but the sweet potato fries were scrummy. No need for desert.

We arrived back to the college and found that ‘eau de juggler’ had been replaced with ‘eau de fish and chips’. The folks had just arrived so we chatted and hung around with them for a bit and then I chatted backcrosses with Becky and Felix.

The Show

The pit area had been transformed into the show venue via the application of folding chairs and the rolling back of the partition door which revealed the stage. A lower level stage was erected just below the main stage to give more of a gradual drop to the floor rather than a freefall.

After a shaky start involving the selling of raffle tickets Nat Lunatrick took to the stage to be our compere and guide through the evenings entertainments. He was great, I enjoyed him much more than during the BYJOTY show. There were a couple of moments where the flow could have been better or more energy was needed from the audience (such as the start of the interval / close of the show), but overall he was a great compere.

It occurred to me during the show that I had not been at a 1 day convention show for a while where there is an announcement telling of where fire exits are, this remained the case. I was concerned about this but even more so when it emerged that the main doors to the convention site had been locked for the show. A number of people were detained in the lobby until a caretaker could be roused to let them in.

I understand the need for security but could a possible solution for latecomers to the show involve some signage directing people to the fire exit behind the sound desk (that’s where the fire exit is!), latecomers could then be admitted between the acts. A mere suggestion.

Back to the Show.

The first act onstage was Austin with his first ever performance. You couldn’t tell, it was outstanding! He did an excellent character piece with setting up his fold out chair and ‘fishing’ equipment before settling down for the wait. It turned into a pretty strong staff routine but with added duck killing. Clever, funny, I liked it a lot, didn’t understand the cat mask though. The costume change was not very smooth but it was a great first performance.

Max returned to the stage with another rendition of his BYJOTY winning routine from this year’s BJC. Still with no discernible costume but with some very discernible skills. There was much better audience interaction this time, the music cues were hit and it was virtually flawless. The bow at the end was excellent, a very strong performance.

Felix brought a new ball juggling routine to the stage and performed a very happy and smiley routine to a jazzy number. No costume this time but excellent audience interaction and applause points. The technical 3 ball section was very clean and also entertaining although a few drops crept in during the 5 ball section. The 7 ball finish was collected right on cue to the music. Lovely routine.

Raffle

The raffle was run by Cedric who went at an unforgiving pace. Despite the fast pace the raffle did go on for ages due to the sheer weight of prizes. Jenni won a little game called ‘Iota’ which we have not played yet. I won a gigantic chocolate Easter bunny and a cuddly toy bear with fetching gold wings. This being the self-same cuddly toy bear with fetching gold wings which my Mum had explicitly forbidden me to win as she had donated it to the raffle in the first place! Coming soon to a convention raffle near you…

2nd half

Nat opened the second half with a newspaper skit, which was very reminiscent of classic Buster Keaton, until he turned it into a terrific alien monster (complete with googly eye!) and rampaged around the stage to a very appropriate piece of eerie music.

Will Borrell performed a club routine which was packed full of clever manipulations and fishtails. He accompanied the juggling with one handed cartwheels and a handstand. It was a nice routine but it started very droppy and took a while to settle down. Very strong bow, warmly received by the audience.

Jay Vatra performed his poi routine for us fresh from the BJC stage. Not so much was made of the ‘love story’ this time round which I feel worked better for the routine, there was still the prop kissing (which was fine) but it just came across better somehow. I enjoyed his routine a lot, it was very smooth as well as being varied. The audience interaction was excellent. That 4 poi fountain at the end of the routine was solid! That’s really hard!

Closing the show was Arthur Hyam with a new intro to his classic relaxed reggae diabolo routine. A few people I spoke with after the show thought he was playing the ‘drunk’ after a party character and although I do not dispute that he was back late from the ‘party’ I do not think he was the drunk character. I would say jolly and cheeky but not drunk as he still moved in a composed way. It was nice, I liked the drop mechanism of having the party blower ready, successfully diffused the drop moment. Classic Arthur tricks and flowing diabolo routine, a pleasure to watch. He bows well.

There was a curtain call. I can’t remember if it went well or not.

After show

The venue was open for about an hour after the show for last minute juggling so I spent some time playing with my toys until it was home time. Said plenty of farewells before piling back into the car, causing some car park confusion and driving home again.

Thank you ever so much for the organising team for running yet another Lestival and letting us celebrate the 10th birthday.

Twinkle ended the show with a message confirming that Lestival would be returning again next year. I for one am looking forward to it already.

Cheers, Jon

Jon Peat

I am Jon Peat.

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