Bath Upchuck 2018 – The Bath Juggling Convention – Review (UK)

Bath Juggling Convention 2018

Breakfast and Travelling

We awoke nice and early on Saturday morning (probably a little too early) and I enjoyed a nice bowl of nutty muesli and some granola with some natural yoghurt. I washed this down with a tasty fruit smoothie (green flavour). Jenni had some fruity wheats (or similar) which also went down very well. We did a spot of joyriding in Jamie’s car before scraping the ice off of mine. Lizzy and Jamie waved goodbye from the bedroom window and we made our way towards the M4. Absolutely nothing of interest happened on the M4 which I suspect tallies with the majority of other M4 users. We thought we had taken a wrong turning when we ended up in Transylvania (I think that is what the sign said) but we managed to make it through unscathed and arrived in Bath. We haven’t been to Bath for about 3 years so it was nice to see how much we remembered, we enjoyed waving at Ieuan’s birthday hall for example.

Parking and the Venue

Arriving at the university we found that pretty much the entire car park next to ‘The Edge’ was for permit holders only. We eventually found the pay and display section right at the very far end of the car park miles from anywhere useful. £2 for the whole day was deemed reasonable.

After our hike to the venue we went into ‘The Edge’ theatre space to collect our tickets and were nearly coerced into joining in the drawing convention which was taking place. Apparently tickets for the day event were available in the sports village and it was only the show tickets which were to be collected from the show venue. Makes sense but it wasn’t very clearly communicated before the event. We wandered round to the sports village and were wowed by the very snazzy sporty interior. Lots of people hitting balls at each other and pumping iron and marching about looking athletic, we felt that we were lowering the tone somewhat…

We had an amusing episode with a glass barrier / gateway (much more at home with a canvas tent flap, obviously) before we found ourselves in the juggling hall. As per tradition we had arrived a full 40 minutes before the event started but were allowed to juggle in the corner until the reg desk was set up for 10:30 (I thought all one day conventions started at 10:00).

I much preferred this new hall to the one that we used to use. For a start it had normal lighting, the other hall always felt a bit too orange for me. Nice big hall, very bright, didn’t smell funny, I liked it a lot. I stated the day with some headbouncing and was messing about with skipping when Ball Spinning Pete arrived. We had a good conflab about the technique before having a bit of a rope swap and play. I think we both came away with something new to think about, I know I did.

 

Nice bright venue. Photo Credit: Stephen Whitehead

The hall was filling up nicely at this stage. Oddballs were in attendance, as were Gravity Outlaws and a hat selling amusing animal hats. There were also some tables and chairs set up at one end of the hall which I think were for game playing, I didn’t head that way this time.

Workshops and Combat

I went along to Felix’s 6 club workshop which had turned into more of an ‘introduction to numbers club juggling’ workshop. I think everyone came away with a long list of warm up patterns that they needed to go away and learn and I had  bit of a better idea for what to look out for to make my own 6 club pattern work better.

I had time to eat my fajita chicken baguette, which was rather messy, before heading over to take part in the combat tournament. Tom organised the tournament and dispensed lots of pens and papers. I think most people had played in tournaments before, the format was familiar to everyone and the matches got started right away. I lost straight away to Rob (hate playing Rob, I find him difficult) but I managed to win all of my other matches. I really enjoyed Katie’s sneaky dodge that she did which just made me drop everything in shock, that attack normally works! I seeded in first place with Brook in second, Ieuan third and Callum in 4th place.

Brook and I made it through to the final which was to be played during the games as a bit of a spectacle.

I ate a very delectable flapjack with a yoghurt topping which had just the right amount of fruitiness.

The Games

The games were very well attended and run by a competent and amusing gamesmaster (didn’t get a name). They kicked off with 3 ball blindfolded juggling which was won by Janion and hoop gladiators which was won by Annette. The club balance endurance ended with Felix and Rob Firey having a cuddle, a far more entertaining ending than just turning it into gladiators. The next game was sponge gladiators, one of the more bizarre convention games which originated in Bath (to my knowledge), whereby competitors attempt to blow kitchen sponges off from each other’s heads with only the power of breath. This was followed by handstand endurance, where the competitors had to have a sponge balanced on one of their feet.

Only at Bath… Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography

Brook and I faced up for the combat final and we had a real good run around the arena. Some really good entertaining points but overall it was very disappointing, for everyone, because Brook won 5-4. I jest, a well deserved victory, I went easy on him…

The next game was ‘jellyfish’. Everyone stands in a great big circle and picks out a target. The aim of the game is to run 3 laps around your target person, BUT, everyone else has their own target to aim for. This game was hilarious, I was a bit sad that there was only one round. Shoe, sock and coin juggle took place, as did the 5 person pyramid competition with points for style and difficulty etc. Unicycle gladiators was pretty funny as Felix took out both Callum and Sam and himself in quite a spectacular way, leaving Hufflepuff to take the victory. Another round took place but this time with sponges on the head (of course…) which was a draw between Sam and Hufflepuff.

 

I won 5 club endurance as apparently I am the only one who practices turning in a circle. Handstand hula hooping endurance was over very quickly but was convincingly won by Iona. Felix and I took 3 rematches to decide the winner of 7 ball endurance. I was told afterwards that Felix had actually dropped a ball earlier than me during the first round but had continued with 6 for a time, naughty Felix! Diabolo in a box was won on the first launch, practically unheard of. Big skipping was a disaster as the rope was too long and bounced up off the floor to take people out, there were no winners. Neil quite rightly pointed out that a circular pyramid is in fact a cone! I came second in 5 ball endurance to Alex, I need to practice 5 up pirouettes.

The 5 ball endurance warm up. Photo Credit: Stephen Whitehead.

Evening Food and the Show Venue

After the games we quickly gathered up all our belongings and took them back to the car before heading on to the Parade Bar and Grill. I had a really rather nice veggie burger with sweet potato chips and Jenni had a steak. We were both impressed with the speed of delivery although I was still peckish after my main so had another portion of chips. It was quite quiet when we arrived but very quickly started filling with jugglers and students at a ratio of about 7:1.

We walked back to the show venue and had a nice chat with Fred before the doors were thrown open and we were allowed to take our seats for the show. I am not a fan (nor was anyone else I spoke to) of having allocated seats for the show venue. Plenty of people ended up being sat away from their friends simply for buying their tickets at a different time from their chums.

Another reason I wasn’t fond of the ticketing situation was that we had bought seats in row A which was at floor level but right at the front. Another row (AA) had been introduced in front of us which meant we had all of the acts and crew sitting in front of us. This wouldn’t have been a problem if we had been on the raised seating like everyone else, but as we were all on floor level we had to look at the back of everyone’s heads. They were tall, some had big hair, others wore big hats… this is heading towards a different show related rant, which I will save for another convention.  I felt for Mandy as her kids couldn’t really see a right lot and so were quite restless. I deliberately booked the front row to get a good view, next year I will just book anywhere on the raised seating, I don’t think there was a bad view from anywhere else in the auditorium.

It is a great show venue, just avoid the ‘front’ row. Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography 

The Show

I knew early on during the convention that Jon Udry would be our compere, as quite a few people asked me during the day if I was ready for the show and complimented me on previous compering gigs. If I do ever compere a show I am going to play a ‘spot the difference game’ with the audience. Also, it was definitely 2005.

Jon really was excellent. Very likeable persona, confident, well executed and very funny. Just my kind of humour! He effortlessly destroyed any attempts at heckling (BRAVO!) and had the perfect ratio of evil vs lovable (3:2).

Jon being upstaged (not for the last time…). Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography 

There was a very exciting looking contraption on the stage ready for the first act. It looked a bit like a cross (geddit?) between a surfboard and a windmill with LED hoops hanging from the arms. The arms rotated and various hoops flashed in time to the music which created a nice visual effect. Kat Collett emerged and dazzled everyone with a very good hoop routine. I was a bit disappointed at the end of the routine, which was a little unfair as Kat’s hooping skills and performance skills were excellent. I think it was that I was expecting the apparatus to feature more in the routine than it did. I wanted there to be some clever tricks which used the turning apparatus or it to launch a hoop to Kat at the right moment but after the hooping started it was a bit redundant. Still, a good routine.

Jon stripped and juggled at the same time, it was very expressive.

Poppy was next to perform with a ball juggling routine with the premise of the ‘soundtrack with the mind of its own’. By their very nature these acts are a bit disjointed as the music keeps flipping but this one felt slightly more so. I think the different music tracks needed to more obviously different genres of music which forced to performer to juggle in wildly different styles to match the music. With some well-timed ‘what on earth is going on here’ or ‘sound guy, you are going to get some grief after this is over’ expressions this could have been really good. Again, the actual juggling was very good, some lovely 3 ball combinations, tricks with 4 and 5 balls and a 7 ball finish, the routine just felt a bit disjointed really.

‘Mr Balls’ took the stage and juggled clubs just to confuse me. I loved the various kick-ups and there were some lovely manipulations. It was a smart slick routine, I enjoyed it. I particularly enjoyed seeing the triangle trick as I had forgotten about that one.

Sam Goodburn was totally hilarious. He enters the stage in his dressing gown, bleary eyed and eventually mounts his unicycle. He then gets ready for the day by getting dressed and having breakfast, all whilst still on the unicycle. It is painfully funny and excellently performed. Sam has got the character down and it was commented to me several times how you cannot always tell 100% what happens on purpose during the routine and what is unplanned. I suspect it’s all meticulously planned but I still wonder… Sam looked suitably apologetic for the mess he made on the stage.

Total mayhem. Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography 

Interval and Raffle

The raffle was well drawn out. There was a lot of amusing chanting. Not the best raffle I have seen and also £1 per ticket (N.B. the actual prizes looked good, I am rating the experience)!

During the first half I was slightly puzzled by the stage hand’s decisions to do all of the stage setting etc. after the compere had announced the act. This created an awkward gap between the applause and the act where you could clearly see the stage hand setting the stage. One of the many functions of the compere is to fill the gaps between the acts where stage setting is required to give the stage hands time to do the set up for the next act. This creates a more seamless and streamlined show, I would be interested to know the decision making process behind that one.

Sam must have felt bad, as he helped clean the stage.

Second half

At the start of the second half Jon showed us all his new juggling app which caused a couple of robots to arrive on stage and begin passing. Great passing as always from Brook and Becky. I like the improved exit from the stage for Brook and I always enjoy the robotic hand. I do love the routine and although I have seen it quite a lot I still enjoy it each time.

Jon introduced us to Harry (and Harry to us) which was quite evil and also very funny. Harry inadvertently became the star of the show (against his wishes) and received rapturous applause every time he made an appearance (and more often when he didn’t) on the stage.

Cai Lear performed with his trademark shaker cups and juggling balls routine using a mixture of flair and juggling to create some pretty baffling patterns and tricks. Cool routine packed with lots of crazy nonsense, I really enjoyed it.

Iona performed a very sporty hoop routine with matching outfit (even the socks!), music and character. It really was a very neat routine with lots of original looking hoop rolling around the legs type tricks. Clever stuff nicely performed.

Harry took over the show acts for a while, as he was upstaging Jon, and so announced Felix to the stage.

Felix performed a club juggling routine to his own backing track which he played and looped. I don’t know a lot about music but his playing sounded very good to me. He progressed from 3 to 4 to 5 and finished on 6 clubs with lots of hard tricks in between. I was impressed with the playing and also with the juggling but for the routine to really work I felt it needed more of a build-up. Perhaps start with a very simple tune for the 3 club section, embroider it a bit for some harder tricks. Then you could build it up or change it entirely for the 4 club section and so on and so forth. It felt like it was just a backing track whereas it could have been far better linked in with the juggling being performed and they could have changed together as the routine went along. Again regardless, it was a very entertaining routine and very confidently performed. You should always take the drop applause on the second attempt if it very nearly worked rather than try for nailing it on the third, what if the 3rd attempt is worse than the second..? Take it and move on.

Jon called all the acts back onstage one at a time to take their bows and each act performed a ‘mini trick’ before taking their final bow, I thought that was a nice touch. He did forget an act’s name, which got a black mark in my book. The final bow was very good, the ‘second final bow’ was weak as half the acts left the stage and the other half stayed to bow.

The final bows (with extra Harry!). Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography 

Homeward bound

We abandoned Lizzy and Jamie and the Ians, collected Nick and his belongings from Jo’s car (Nick wasn’t in the car, he saw the show too) and then started the trek back to the distant car park. This was the moment when Jo told us that we could have parked next to the venue. Far too late, Jo, far too late.

We took a nice drive through night-time Bath and back out on the M4 towards Newbury. True to form nothing even remotely exciting happened on the M4. We arrived back at Lizzy and Jamie’s mere minutes before they too arrived with the Ian’.  There was some after show discussion and late night chilli chocolate roulette before it was time for bed for me.

Round-up

I had a fantastic day at Bath juggling convention 2018. I love the new venue in the sports village, I do like the show venue, but not the allocated seating, the show was very good, the games were entertaining and the day was very well organised. Thank you to all the organisers, I very much look forward to coming again next year.

Jon Peat

I am Jon Peat.

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