The Manchester Juggling Convention (…On Tour) 2017 (UK) – Review

The Manchester Juggling Convention (… on Tour) took place on Saturday, the 3rd of June, 2017. This year it was held in Northwich.

Travel and Arrival

Not wanting to join the swirling horde of motorists on the Manchester ring road, and concerned for getting a parking spot, I decided an early start would be called for. I roused Jenni when dawn broke, packed her in the car with all of our juggling kit and set forth on the road to Northwich. The roads were remarkably quiet and we made excellent time… We arrived at the Northwich Memorial Hall with only a mere hour and a half until the convention start time of 10am. Jenni was delighted that we had arrived with so much time to spare and we were able to pick our spot in the vast car park which served the hall. I selected a space which had an excellent view of the small river and also benefitted from the shade of a nearby tree (it was very nice and sunny). The town centre was only a short walk from the venue so we went to watch all of the shops opening and have a bit of an explore. We scoped out a nice looking café for a spot of lunch and I found some nice headbounce balls for sale at The Works (I bought 3).

We made our way back the venue and met Dr Helen in the car park (she had a reasonable car parking space) and we all made our way inside.

Northwich Memorial Hall – the site of the convention.

The venue appeared to be very new and very clean. The hall was lovely and big, and my first impression was that we might have a problem with the lights being too bright / intrusive however they turned out not to be a problem. I liked the dark contrast walls; my props showed up very well. There was a nice big stage at one end of the hall but the evening show was to be held in a smaller church hall nearby due to cost. Understandable, judging by various posters and adverts it looks like the venue hosts a lot of pretty big music events.

In the Hall

I started off by warming up with some ring juggling, I broke off at various times in the morning to greet people as they arrived. Most attendees, it transpired, had been at Bungay the previous week so there was a lot of “lovely to see you again so soon” and “my, haven’t you grown?”s taking place.

I was thrilled to see Andy and Sandra there as it is rare these days to catch them at a convention. We enjoyed a nice catch up. Jamie showed me a marvellous prototype for a dual headbounce pole made out of Lego Technic. After a demonstration and a short discussion of how difficult we thought it might be, Jamie then did a Blue Peter and produced a fully working one he had made earlier! It was very heavy, very scary and very difficult to start off. We agreed that fewer wing nuts and bolts poking out of it would be welcome as it was terrifying when it fell towards your face. Great fun though.

The main juggling space. Plenty of room and a nice high ceiling. The lights and lighting rigs were not a problem.

Lunchtime

Having been up since the crack of dawn, Jenni and I ventured back into town for a spot of early lunch and found a table in the sun outside Charlie’s Café. We ordered the lunch special and got the biggest meal of our lives; it was superb! 2 sausages, 2 eggs, beans, chips and fresh buttered bread, and I didn’t realise they made plates that big! We spent a good while there slowly working our way through the meal and enjoying the ambience of the Northwich high street. Many things entertained us during the meal including Lizzy and Jamie out on a secret shopping trip to buy something for that evening’s show… mysterious.

Afternoon and Games

Once back in the hall and fuelled to the max, I did a nice spot of passing with Ed. We worked on some 8 club 2 count the wrong way as well as swing. It went better than Ed was expecting although I have a better memory of our previous session before the BJC. This passing morphed into a Scrambed V with Jo and Kiran, which was excellent fun. I was particularly amused when we all swapped places and Kiran was completely unaffected (as he concentrates on what he is supposed to be doing) and I fell apart completely (as I take my cues from the other passers and they had all moved round). I had a solo club session and managed to video bomb Andy. Ed and I tried to pass while bouncing a ball between our heads, it actually went pretty well, I think we managed 4 bounces with a 5 club pattern.

The games took place in the afternoon, I think I won 5 and 7 balls but I cannot fully remember… Combat definitely happened and it was very funny. There were also some funny games like ‘the biggest height difference between two people’ and some association games which I didn’t fully follow.

There were quite few workshops throughout the day which seemed to be well attended. I enjoyed watching everyone taking part in the foot juggling workshop.

Foot juggling workshop.

Evening Food

A small group of us left the venue and started making our way to Bombay Quay, a new Indian restaurant which had received positive reviews. After a lot of wandering around, referring to maps, referring to phones and collecting quite a menagerie of lost souls who were also wandering around looking for the place, we found ourselves in the restaurant. We were offered a table on the understanding that we would be gone by 7:30pm. This fitted our plans perfectly so on those terms we settled to dine.

I ordered the Moducash Murgh as it contained mango pulp and it was very fruity and delicious. If I went again next year I might choose what Ed ordered as that was also delicious. Somebody had opened a can of waiters before we arrived, the place was swarming with them, however they did all vanish when we needed the bill… Overall a very enjoyable dining experience, I especially enjoyed seeing Jamie’s face through a bubbled glass partition and being scared for my life.

The Show

We took a more efficient route from the restaurant back to the car park, collected some props, and then walked on to the evening show venue. The evening show was held in St Wilfrid’s Parish Centre which was a nice little parish hall with a bar area, comfy seating, some long games tables and seating at one end facing a small stage. It was really cosy and made a great after convention chill out space.

Ian did a good job of introducing the acts and sorting the music.

First on stage was the Amazing Jonathan (not this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoygH4h45jM) who demonstrated some nice sleight of hand as well as a prediction-based magic trick with members of the audience. I found it amusing and light-hearted, there were some very funny heckles and I enjoyed the ‘it’s all going wrong’ presentation. Was it an act… who knows.

Dave Kelly brought out the tennis rackets and showed us an array of ridiculous tricks and sequences. I giggled like a child and heard Magic Matt say ‘How does that help?!?’, I cannot remember what that quote referred to, general ludicrousness I assume.

Next there was an open slot for anyone to get up and show a trick, Void showed a 3 ball box with a lid variation which had caused some comment at a workshop earlier in the day, Magic Matt did a card trick which involved a fish and Steph (sorry if your name is wrong, my handwriting was illegible in places) showed us his new buzzsaw poi trick.

There was a great raffle which included lots of old vinyl for an unknown reason. After a short break the second half of the show commenced. I was asked to perform earlier in the day so after 10 minutes of rigorous preparation I produced a very serious and moving 3 ball routine to an exceptionally appropriate piece of classical music. It went OK, considering, although I worry that nobody took it seriously and I worry that the deep underlying message may have been lost…

Jamie was hilarious and ridiculous and had us all laughing ourselves silly. He brought out his Olympic Solerno ring and managed to get it going despite it being distorted out of shape due to being left in a car in the hot sun. Very entertaining. A plucky, and very appropriately dressed, ‘volunteer’ (Lizzy) came to the stage to assist Jamie with his next feat of landing a small radio controlled UFO onto his headbounce pole whilst balancing it on his face, all to the tune of Airwolf. It made quite a spectacle, I loved it!

Thomas Bounce closed the show with another excellent display of his bouncing prowess. A really lovely clean performance yet again.

That marked the close of the show. It was a lovely cosy little show and had a really great atmosphere; everyone was there to just have a good time. It felt like the first Cumbria convention show where everyone packed into the little village hall to watch the show, it was lovely.

Convention close and the journey home

After saying our farewells, Jenni and I took a leisurely stroll back to the car and began the journey home. It went very well until the junction which we needed in order to get on the Manchester ring road was closed. This keeps happening to me after conventions, so much so that I almost expect it. We decided that we would plough directly through the centre of Manchester in a straight line and pick up the ring road on the other side. I didn’t realise Manchester was such a green city. It seemed like a huge tree had been planted in front of every major road sign which pretty much obscured it entirely. I ended up having to look behind every tree as I drove through the centre in order to snatch a glimpse of the sign to find my route. Despite this (and an unfortunate episode of Jenni getting carried away whilst singing along to Jive Talkin’) we made it through to the other side unscathed. It added another hour onto the journey but otherwise meh.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Manchester Convention (on tour). I hope that it returns to Northwich as the venue was excellent (I even found a water cooler upstairs!). The town was very convenient and I want to try what Ed had at the Curry House.

Thank you to the Ians and the Northwich / Manchester Team for putting together such a good event. Regardless of where the convention ends up next year, I am sure I will see you there.

Cheers, Jon

#MJCOT

Jon Peat

I am Jon Peat.

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