The British Juggling Convention 2018 – Review

Tuesday – Breakfast and Travel

Jamie had very kindly prepared a Bircher muesli the previous evening which was ready when I came down in the morning. It was a nice change from my usual; I recommend having it warm. We waved cheerio to Lizzy and Jamie and struck out towards Canterbury via Basingstoke. The highways authority must have had a lot of complaints about the M25 being too nice to drive along so have decided to surface the road in three-metre sections. This creates a small ramp between each section which reverberates through the whole car and makes the drive seem even more hellish (they did a similar thing on the M42 a few years ago; I don’t know if it is still like that). The effect of the mini ramps combined with the road surface and other drivers elevated the M25 to the top of my ‘favourite roads’ leader board. Good effort!

I missed the turning for Canterbury as I am too cheap to pay for voice-guided navigation and so we enjoyed a quick 360 around the next roundabout and came off the second time.

Canterbury Town

We arrived in the city of Canterbury, which has no shortage of city walls and interesting old buildings but a chronic shortage of available parking spaces. Undeterred, we drove around the town for a while before finding ourselves in a multi-storey next to the high street. We managed to find a very nice place for lunch behind the Cathedral called ‘Smokeys BBQ House’ (or wording to that effect), which sounded right up my street. We took the lunchtime half chicken special with rice or chips and corn on the cob or salad. The chicken was delicious and my rice and corn were both lovely. Jenni’s corn was not very nice, a bit too watery, but the chicken was excellent.

My favourite shop window in historic Canterbury.

 

Hunger sated, we took a stroll around the town. I was disappointed that the Cathedral was covered in scaffolding, this seems to be the case every time I visit a Cathedral city. We went into a couple of charity shops in passing, I bought a hilarious-looking, fun-guaranteed head basket which you can wear and throw balls into. I thought a seven ball pattern collected into the basket could be quite funny.

 

 

We followed Unicycle.com up the road but we drove past the site to go to our rented house where we met the owner. We were given a quick tour of the house and given our very specific parking instructions before being left to our own devices. The underfloor heating had made the main living space far too hot (nicer problems to have at a BJC…) but we were brave and reminisced about the snow which had been falling when we left Leeds on Monday morning.

I stuck a pasta bake in the oven and Jenni and I settled down to a game of Barony. We were soon joined by Lizzy and Jamie so we set the board for another game. Mark and Mike arrived a short time later and I nipped to the BJC site at about 5pm to give Mike P his tent. The reg desk was pretty busy with the mad rush so I headed back to the house. We all had pasta bake together and put Mark through the inquisition.

The Site

The BJC was being hosted by the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys on the outskirts of Canterbury. The school itself was a bit tired and I think very worn out by the time the BJC ended. We registered and received our passes and booklets. I was very disappointed with the passes, which were small glass bottles filled with pretty stones and glitter. I really love the BJC passes which you can use during normal everyday life (I still use my buff and retractable keychain from previous BJCs, as well as the small torch from Karlsruhe). I suspect that the bottles were a quick and cheap solution to a pass-related issue.

The BJC site including Devilstick Peat and the Spinning@ tents. Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography

Heading past the registration desk bought you into the show hall. This was a light and airy assembly hall with a stage set at one end. Montegriffo’s Flying Circus had commandeered the school canteen which shared the show hall with an adjoining dining hall.

Heading down another corridor past the stage brought you to the gym. This was a room of similar size to the show hall but with climbing walls and a supervisor to make sure no-one used the climbing walls. We could see the veggie van set up in the car park and also signs for LoveWaffles, who had commandeered another building on the other side of the car park.

Round the corner from the registration desk was the main hall, and walking past that led you to the hard-standing camping area and also the main camping fields. There was also a knife throwing range and a performance arena for Devilstick Peat where he hosted childrens shows throughout the week. The main hall was relatively small for a BJC with not amazing lighting. It was not too busy when we arrived but I could see space becoming an issue later in the week if the weather turned bad. Looking out over the main hall was the Lazy Juggler bar area. This area was the sixth form common room so was filled with comfy chairs and it had a small kitchenette. Ron had left his board game library out for anyone to browse through and to play a game if the juggling all got a bit too much.

The traders were housed in some little bungalows behind the main juggling hall. Photo credit: Rosie Kelly

We settled ourselves in for a juggle on the first night and I spent some time messing about with seven club wrong way two-count with Ed. We found some silly backcross tricks to throw in which were pretty hilarious but also not impossible. We also broke off to say hello to lots of people as they arrived, including the large German contingent. We grabbed Jenny and Felix and together had a bit of a spider warm up with fourteen clubs. I can’t remember what time we decided to call it a night but I do remember unsuccessfully trying to sneak into the bedroom without waking Jenni up.

Wednesday

I was woken up obscenely early by the sun streaming through our wafer thin curtains. I tried to hide under the pillow but was already awake by then so I went for breakfast. It was very pleasant eating my muesli and looking out over the garden with the sun beating down on me and the underfloor heating warming my toesies (sorry campers, I will stop going about it soon). Back at the venue I explored the site a bit more and had a bit of a ring juggle before going on an expedition to Sainsburys with Jenni to pick up some food for lunch. After lunch Heydar and I did some headbouncing, including long distance throws to each other. I have got loads better at this recently, I think Lewis would be proud! I also had a play with my Borzykin and had a nice chat with Steve Mills who was interested to see how difficult it was. Later on I got out my ‘Bungay trick pole’ and chatted poles with Mike Armstrong but the ball fell off and nearly killed someone so I put it away again.

Ring Juggling Workshop

Lots of people came along to my ring juggling workshop and I was really pleased. I spent some time talking about a technique (which I consider very good) for throwing and catching the rings to avoid injury, before moving onto lots of different ring tricks. Spent time on all the classic tricks such as pancakes and flat fronts. I think it went down well and I hope everyone got something out of it.

Montegriffo’s had a very nice vegetarian cottage pie on the go and Jenni really enjoyed the pork loin. Lizzy’s brownie was too wobbly so it was kindly donated to Jon’s charity for unloved food. I found it a bit disappointing, didn’t taste very chocolatey. I then did a bit of social engineering by introducing Bungle to the renegade hosts for the Friday night.

The Spinning@ Show

We got ourselves excellent seats (third row back, centre) and spent some time before the show admiring the sixth form art students’ work which adorned the walls. Jenni activated her tall person magnet and immediately got a very tall person sitting in front of her for the show. At 19:37 there was an announcement that the show had been delayed and would instead be starting at 8pm. Steve, who was sat behind us, told us an unbelievable tale of when he smashed his jaw open on a sedgeway and had to be taken to France in a fire engine in order to have surgery. We lamented over the ordeal, it sounded dreadful! Dr Alice gave me a tablet which woke me up somewhat and a half hearted Bohemian Rhapsody began but didn’t really take off. It is possible that the delay was caused by there only being the one stage hand who was still getting things ready while we all waited. I also got the organisation of the Leeds Juggling Convention 2018 (17th November, subject to school exams) unceremoniously handed to me. If only it had started on time…

Finally our compere took to the stage in the form of Miss Glitterface (I am assuming this is a stage name), who wasn’t my favourite compere and spent rather too much time ineffectively warming everyone up. She had tons of energy and seemed very comfortable on stage. I didn’t really understand a lot of what she was saying so was glad when she announced the first act.

Rico performed his trademark hyper-vertical hooping. He had a lot of good movement going on and I enjoyed the integration of the juggling club into the tricks. I thought he performed well and used the stage well, all finished off with a nice bow.

Tony was next on stage performing a LED rope dart routine. Now, I enjoy rope dart because I like to see how the ‘dartist’ has to wrap and entwine the rope around their body in order to ‘shoot out’ the dart. LED rope dart just didn’t work for me because I couldn’t see the rope at all, only the LED blob on the end flying around. I also didn’t understand the significance of the bottle on the stage as it didn’t really tie in with anything. Also three songs is plenty for any act. I think some low level background lighting would have worked better or perhaps switching to an LED performance on the first music change and then scrap the third song.

See Ying Yip arrived on stage and dazzled everyone with her amazing outfit, I especially appreciated her shoes. She did a lot of very smooth tricks and combinations with double hoop and lots of isolations and body rolls. It was slick, I enjoyed it, nice bow at the end.

This was followed by a techy LED staff routine performed by the Lightning Keeper. LED props have come a long way since I first started juggling, his staff was so bright and pretty I was very mesmorised. Great mix of tricks and evident manipulation skills, nice cartwheel partway through followed up with a nice bow at the end. Good routine.

Pixie Patch used the Marianna De Sanctis Lestage (TM) approach to performing which involves climbing through the audience in order to reach the stage, which was followed up by throwing sweets to the audience. I intensely dislike it when acts throw sweets to the audience, it feels like a big cry out to be liked on stage but via bribery rather than earning it. She then blew up and popped a balloon which was filled with glitter, this was a lovely effect. The rest of the act was spent ineffectively tidying up the glitter. As a general rule, clowning acts do not work with dimmed lighting as you cannot see the performers’ expressions, I think she was eating a lollipop but it was quite dark. Jamie made the very good point that he thought she was spending ages tidying up and ‘clowning’ so that, when she was finally ready to hula hoop, the music could end and she had ‘run out of time’ and therefore never managed to perform. That would have been quite funny. However, she did do a very quick bit of hooping at the end before leaving the stage which made all the tidying up a bit pointless.

Our compere then announced that there would be a 20 minute interval before the second half. I don’t think an interval is strictly necessary for every show. I think that at the BJC most people are quite happy to sit for an hour and watch a tight / concentrated show without the need for an interval. People can then spend the rest of the evening doing other things (like juggling and going to the bar). I personally didn’t want the show to take up the whole evening, whereas at a one day convention there is no hall to go back to and we all go home afterwards so I do not mind it so much. Having the interval actually meant that a lot of people didn’t stay for the second half and instead went off to juggle or to go to the bar. There wasn’t even a raffle to keep everyone entertained, although the stage hand tried to be entertaining.

Ben Cornish opened the second half with a lovely spot of ball spinning. I loved his backdrop and hat juggling routine. It was very nice to see an old hand who is very comfortable on stage doing what he does best. His act was too short, we were up for more.

Sam showed us some very fast and tricky bar flair. I was especially impressed that he was using real bottles rather than the ‘props’ that you usually see on stage. There were some crazy catches and tap backs. He could have stayed on stage a lot longer at the end of the routine and milked the applause.

Alice Rose performing her hoop routine. Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography

Alice Rose was next on stage with a very fluid and moody hoop routine. I really enjoyed watching the routine, it had some dancey sections as well as some actually interesting rolling around on the floor. Hooping around the head was solid and there were some lovely back of hand balances. I enjoyed the whole routine very much. Great routine.

Boris performed a loop diabolo routine (no sticks, just a continuous loop of string) which was filled with a lot of tricks I had not seen before. It had a bit of a Spanish feel (at least for me it did…). I really liked the hand and arm movements, he created a lot of interesting shapes. Nice bow, winning smile.

Lukie (AKA Lukie the Box Monkey) brought the house down with his very technical and entertaining cigar box routine. It was high energy, filled with hard and original looking tricks with three, four and five boxes and was also pretty clean. Very strong presentation and stage presence which injected a lot of energy into the audience.

The tech crew had been struggling a lot during the show with missed music cues and some strange lighting. They accidentally played the song for the next act while Lukie was finishing off his routine with the big box stacking exercise. I really hoped that the tech would improve as the week went on as it felt pretty weak.

Callum and Lisa flashing their hoops. Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography

Our final act of the evening was Lisa and Callum with their LED hoop routine. This is now feeling like a very polished routine and feels very corporate and bookable. I like the new snazzy outfits. I really hate the song but still appreciated the routine even if it was a bit droppy in places.

 

 

The final bows were terrible. I don’t think the acts were expecting the final bows as Callum and Lisa didn’t make it back on stage after their routine. It was obvious it hadn’t been rehearsed and was a total shambles.

The final bows of the Spinning @ Show. Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography

The second half of the show was much stronger than the first. I think it was a shame for those people who left early because they couldn’t hack the interval. I was impressed with the show in general as it is not easy for a juggling club to host a full show using just its members. I thought that Spinning@ had done a good job in putting the show together and showed a good variety of skills (although missing a juggler), but the compere took a little too much of the energy away between each act. Also, the stagehand should have stayed in the background (and certainly should not have played with the performers’ props!) unless it was a planned interaction between the compere and the stagehand. This wasn’t clear and made the sections between acts not very entertaining for me. Overall I did enjoy the show and I was impressed with the amount of skill on display, just a couple of things needed polishing up.

After the show we returned to the main hall, I practised my German a little bit and taught a mini backcross workshop. I performed the conjure Karl incantation which involves throwing some flat backcrosses. Jamie and I tried some headbounce with passing five clubs and it was really hard on four count. Rasmus appeared and pointed out that the timing is much easier on to count, and suddenly it didn’t feel too bad. Then Rasmus and Jamie paired up and Ed and I paired up to warm up for the three person feed with a headbounce ball. We managed about four bounces between us, but I shave since seen a video of Andy, Sandra and Jason managing a two ball version (http://juggling.tv/16817). It was a good end to the evening.

Thursday

The blackout blinds which I had asked for were not terribly effective but were a lot better than nothing. I had breakfast on my own again at 09:00 while I waited for the others to wake up. I’m not good at having lie ins even if I do not get to bed till 3am.

While the main hall was quiet in the morning I used the time to practise my ladder (well, Tiff’s ladder) with a balance and ring juggling. It went quite well, I managed four rings for maybe twenty catches on my best run. I tried the headbounce but that was not working as well. I then did some skipping with the headbounce and that is coming on in leaps and bounds (hahaha, geddit?). I had a very enjoyable pass with Cameron where we took it in turns to do lots of body throws and weird tricks in two count. We also got six club ultimate backcrosses vs. single backcrosses working and it actually felt brilliant, the most success I have had with that trick by far. The through the legs jumping on the spot version felt super easy. Great passing session, wish we had had another later in the convention. I did hear a rumour that Mark PB had been spotted late at night juggling inappropriate objects, it turned out this was a fallacy.

I went off in search of Ben’s avoiding injury while juggling workshop and for the first time tried to use the map in the booklet. I was unsuccessful and ended up just walking round and round the venue. I double checked the workshop board and found it had been cancelled / postponed till later in the week. Instead I hunted down Jenni and found her in the studio at Ben’s (different Ben) pole workshop. She showed me her moves and I was suitably impressed. We went for lunch at Monte’s and had the vegan stir fry, it was super cheap, a nice big portion and was rather tasty. I like it when Monte’s comes to BJC.

After lunch we noticed how much nicer the stage hall was when compared with the main hall. The doors were open and light was streaming in and it was airy and nice. We decided to shift our kit into the stage hall and spend the afternoon in there. I broke my special head catching basket, apparently Gballz are too heavy for the head catch, and the whole thing exploded. I was a little upset but found it more funny than anything. I would potentially make one in future but would use sturdier materials. I then juggled clubs and wrote some notes for my club juggling workshop. I also popped outside and watched Lizzy, Jay, Jamie and pals playing Eight Minute Empire in the sun for a bit. I don’t think they quite got it, as they were up to forty minutes so far…

Ed decided to run a Dolby 5.1 passing workshop and so recruited Ruth, Toto and I to be demonstrators. We spent a good while practising the pattern which does look great and feels lovely when it is running. I got very tired and so went to Monte’s for lasagna, immediately felt loads better.

Beginners Club Juggling Workshop

A lot of people came to my workshop, which was very nice. I tried to make the point that the tricks in the workshop were not necessarily beginners’ tricks but that I was going to teach them from the very beginning. I think it went well and lots of people seemed to be getting into and were also doing the tricks with success. Mark W completely sabotaged the workshop as we had talked earlier in the day about how to teach people to throw flats. He uses the phrase ‘stroke the shaft’ when teaching the trick which caused a bit of mirth. Well, when I tried to teach flats at my workshop later in the day I just had a big flashing neon sign in my head saying ‘STROKE THE SHAFT, STROKE THE SHAFT!’ So thank you Mark, I did end up using that description but it threw me completely! We didn’t manage to get round to all the tricks in the list so I offered to run a ‘part 2’ follow up workshop later in the week to capture the remaining tricks. I went to the reg desk and wrote out about 5 different cards to describe my workshop with the help of Ben and Su. I eventually chose one which we all approved of and found a slot on the board. Annoyingly it clashed with Ben’s (other Ben’s…) juggling without injury workshop, so I was sad to miss that one.

The Open Stage Show

The auditorium smelt very strongly of grass. I can only think a lot of people had been rolling in it in the campsite. I thought it very inconsiderate to those of us who do not like rolling in the grass to turn up to the show reeking of it. It was a family show as well. Poor show by grass rollers there, especially as I heard a rumour that the school’s teachers had come back that evening to watch the show at the invitation of the BJC orgs. Not the best impression for them to come into. I was not impressed.

The start of the show was not clearly marked as Devilstick Peat (no relation) took to the stage to be our compere after battling incoherently with the curtain for slightly too long. I gave him a 10/10 for bullying children with the twisty arm trick, always amuses me but I think Mark is more subtuttle. DP performed in full motley and entertained the audience between acts with short magic routines.

Chris and Eilidh opened the show with a strong acro routine. There were some really difficult moves and it was well choreographed. They had good costumes, it was just very slick, I enjoyed it a lot. It was missing a really good bow at the end which would have finished it beautifully.

The next act, Evanna performed a very cool hat routine. It was stuffed with lots of difficult and original hat tricks. Where did that leg come from!?! Lots of techy and bendy hat manipulations. I really enjoyed it but it was a bit droppy and we were disappointed that the very colourful hat on the hatstand was never used for anything. We thought it was building up to be a big trick at the end but it was never used. There were not enough / any applause points and it needed a big bow and a smile at the end, fantastic hat skills though.

I didn’t understand Devilstick Peat’s secret-postbox-card-reading-out bit, I didn’t catch everything he said and so I missed a lot of the jokes unfortunately.

Hyperloop (John and Steph) performed their duo poi spinning act which they did for us at Leeds a couple of years ago. It has come a long way since then! At first I thought they had changed their music but I think the tech crew then pushed the cable in a bit further as the sound improved drastically. I love the new costumes, gave the routine a very oriental feel. Lots of really nice two person partner poi spinning, great tricks and footwork across the stage, choreography was good (I was engaged for the whole routine). Very well performed with lots of smiles and a really good bow, what’s not to like? Great routine!

That is a very well timed picture! Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography

Mark and Cameron performed their ring juggling routine despite someone taking flash photography (I mean seriously, do people still not realise how dumb that is..? Someone else a couple of rows in front of me also tried to film the routine on a tablet with the screen held up. I was very unamused, nobody further back in the auditorium wants to see the routine through the screen of your tablet! It is very rude and disrespectful to everyone. I was aghast.) Cheeky smiles, ace passing patterns, funny bits, my Mum would have really liked this routine if she had been there… They got away with a lack of costume by wearing matching tee-shirts. This was acceptable.

Another twenty minute interval. Completely unnecessary. I look round the auditorium during the interval and saw that less than half the audience left their seats. Can we have a serious think next year whether an interval is actually necessary? Often it is if there are large items or difficult stage setups / changes to make, but there was nothing like that. No raffle either. 🙁

Devilstick Peat plucked three ‘volunteers’ from the audience and performed an amusing magic trick involving children’s colouring books, and the special switching move. He performed another magic trick with appearing and disappearing dragons trick  which I enjoyed.

Daniel Simu opened the second half with an excellent bit of clowning. He had planned to use a radio mike but for whatever reason it wasn’t working. He dealt with it very well and got on with a lovely three ball routine with vocal sound effects. He also performed a routine to music. Very funny, wonderful expressions and audience engagement and a lot of great visual gags. I wondered about the choice of a carrier bag to bring the props to the stage, and was pleased with its eventual purpose. Excellent routine, very nicely performed!

Keith and Antonia performed their poi spinning and poi juggling routine. I desperately want to see them wearing some kind of costume or nod towards a costume. They look like they came straight from the juggling hall. It doesn’t have to be sparkles and glitter, nonono, even just matching belts would be a start. Even very obviously ‘anti-costumes’ would be great. The routine itself is lovely, I love the tricks and the presentation and the energy. Keith has toned down his singing along, less gusto than previous versions I have seen. I like the routine a lot but please wear something else, lovely bow at the end.

Arhtur Hyam took to the stage with a new routine which was very moody, not the chilled regge we have all come to associate with him. It was a bit too droppy in the beginning and I really wasn’t fond of the music choice. There were some cool tricks in there but I feel they would have come across better under a different presentation. I found it difficult to applaud someone with a diabolo between their teeth, I kind of want to see the performers face. He dealt with any drops very well and showed excellent performance skills, I just wasn’t fond of the presentation. Really good bow at the end.

The Open Stage final bows. Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography

The final bows were not too bad but a bit creaky round the edges. The teching was still a bit weak during the open stage, I had hoped it would pick up a bit from the Spinning@ show. It was better but still not seamless, it made me wonder over what actually was happening during the tech runs.

I enjoyed the Open stage a lot and was very impressed with the performers. It is no easy thing to perform in front of your friends and peers and I thought everyone did a great job.

Dolby 5.1 Workshop

After the show I met with Ruth and Toto and we practised the dolby 5.1, it went very well so we hung around in the gym with Ed until workshop time. Around twenty people came (good guess Ed, I will give you that one) and we demonstrated the pattern before working round the room and helping out any groups who were struggling. I think every group made it at least part way through the pattern with running it at the end of the workshop. Successful workshop, thank you Ed for letting me be involved.

After the workshop I stayed behind to teach Saskia some club juggling tricks as she wouldn’t be able to attend the second part of my workshop. I also had a bit of a chat to Tomas, who I have not seen for a long time and who is now a personal trainer, which turned into a lower back workout. Turns out I have really good extension of my upper back and shoulders but my lower back not so much. We did a bunch of exercises, which I am going to keep up with, to try and get some more movement down there. This is mostly why I come to conventions, sometimes it is the idle chats which you have at the side of the hall or during a show which give me the biggest breakthroughs in my juggling life and often personal life. SO many inspiring people! Jenny and Jonathan also appeared to talk about backcrosses so we had a backcross workshop / session.

Friday – To Margate!

We woke up nice an early again (fezzle snezzle) and found a lovely note from Ed begging not to be left behind if there were cars driving to Margate. The three of us set off soon after and Ed filled us in with a lot of local history on the way. We arrived and I was immediately very disappointed in the town. It just didn’t feel very seasidey at all. I then double checked my phone and found we were in Birchington rather than Margate, oops. We quickly hurried on and eventually found ourselves driving down the sea front. This was much more like it, although whoever gave planning permission for that horrible looking block of flats right in the centre needs their head examined.

Margate sands. Seriously, who built that?

I took Jenni and Ed on a driving tour of the Margate car parks to try and find one which was not obscenely expensive. I settled on the £7 all day one (you know, the first one you see when you arrive in Margate) and it was by far the dodgiest car park I have stopped in. It would make a great backdrop to a modern edgy juggling video, just with more druggies in the background…
We took a stroll down the sea front and I was shocked at how difficult it was to find a fish and chip shop! I thought there would be tons of them but we only found the one which looked credible and it had a queue so must be good. As it turns out it was just average but I think everyone else was in the same boat as us. I had never tried whitebait before so decided to give it a go (I was on holiday after all) and it was very nice. Basically deep fried sprats.

Dreamland?

We went through the town on the way towards Dreamland but didn’t see anything which made us want to stop. We saw plenty of BJC buses arriving and as we got to Dreamland there was a queue of people having their bags searched. I took out one of the security guys by accidentally hitting his leg with my clubs but in the end he did let us in. We wandered around Dreamland for a while and I decided that my ‘free ride’ (as described in our welcome booklet our Dreamland pass entitled us to one free ride or some food) would be on the clackety clack wooden roller coaster, and so we set off to find it. On arrival we were told by the staff that our passes did not in fact entitle us to a free ride on anything. I was really very annoyed. We met several other groups of jugglers who were similarly disappointed. I think Dreamland could have possibly been named by the number of people who said ‘in your dreams’ when told you had to buy another pass to be allowed on the rides. I wanted doughnuts but resolutely refused to give Dreamland any money. We were allowed into the animal house where Ed enjoyed the owl and I was fascinated by the cockroach. I didn’t realise they had little heads underneath the shell with a little neck and everything! We also sat in a boat to have our photo taken. I would have preferred the roller coaster. (I heard an unconfirmed rumour later on that Dreamland had relented and were letting people have a ride as advertised. This was not advertised widely so a lot of us missed out).

The Games

We returned to the centre of Dreamland (where dreams are made or buried..?) to a grassy area which would be the site of the games. Devilstick Peat hosted the games and it was often difficult to hear exactly what he said due to only having a small pull along PA system (EDIT: there were plans for a better sound system for the games but unfortunately it didn’t work out). It had turned into a nice sunny afternoon although the wind was quite gusty.

There was a stage at one end which I thought would be used by the games master to address everyone but instead Peter Rabbit kept appearing and addressing the masses. He seemed to be having some difficulties regarding a fly landing on his nose, but luckily he flipped and he flopped and the fly flew away. We enjoyed playing ‘Peter Rabbit says’ and agreed this would be a welcome addition to any convention games.

Our games host…

Five club endurance didn’t last very long as it was quite windy, Felix won in a convincing style. This was followed by the ‘children collect props’ game. Unicycle gladiators was won by Lucy Cobb. Long distance club passing took place in a couple of heats, Rob Firey and Mandy won in the end. The balloon model dog race went on too long, I also suspect the quality of the balloons was not great as the mortality rate was quite high. It was around this point that I recognised Russell Wells, I though he was someone who worked at Dreamland but I just didn’t recognise him in his jester’s attire. After four heats (four!!!) the finale was to use three balloons to make a hat. This was entertaining but games with multiple multiple heats can very quickly get very boring.

High wind 5 club endurance. Photo credit: Rosie Kelly

The games had an interval as well!!! I have never known the games need an interval but Peter Rabbit felt he wasn’t getting enough attention and so took to the stage once again. Immediately combat took place and I actually really enjoyed running round in the wind chasing the clubs which were all blown off course. We also played some of combat whilst listening to (and following) Peter’s commands which was very funny.

Diabolo pass down a long string took place but I was distracted by finding out that Jamie is now officially old! So old in fact he got invited onto the old school panel, ho ho ho. The unicycle long distance jump took place but I was starting to lose interest as the games had been running for ages. Five ball endurance woke me up and it was Team Peat for the win. Jamie came first and I was a close second but I messed up the half shower going the wrong way, schoolboy error. I was really pleased that it was Jamie who won, and he won some very smart silicone bounce balls.

I’d not seen a whipping game before but it took a long time and I didn’t find it very entertaining. The high diabolo toss took place and I am amazed they tried it as it was very windy and also there were a lot of hanging fairy lights. I was amazed that no one got brained. Next was the under 16’s hoop gladiators followed by the over 16’s and then the coin juggling was announced.

Both Jenni and I were getting a bit tired and bored at this point so we abandoned the games and went in search of sustenance. I enjoyed a lot of the games but lost enthusiasm for others due to the multiple heats, I though DP did a good job hosting them despite technological setbacks.

We found Ed et. al. on the balcony at Weatherspoons. My BBQ pizza was really really nice but Jenni’s steak was overcooked and stringy. Brook made very relevant comments to the conversation, Cameron not so much. Cat was fascinated to learn what urinal cakes actually are: we explained how the coin operated cake dispensers worked so that you could have a snack whilst in the loo. Ed suggested that people tend to argue for a long time about the correct way to start seven club three count – this remark immediately caused a long argument to unfold about the correct way to start. I didn’t voice my opinion (fudging it a bit always works out fine for me…) so instead I looked at the sea and watched the jugglers all milling around in the street. Whilst heading to the show venue we stopped at a flight of stairs and got some very good footage of Danny, Brook and Cameron doing roundabout up a flight of stairs, it was very humorous.

The Show

We joined the queue outside the show venue and it was not long before we headed inside and entered the auditorium. It was really big and open and quite ornate. I liked it very much. We tried to save a seat for Mark but it all went horrifically wrong, I did feel bad. The big balloon model juggling man / goblin was amazing. This was one of the best big models I have seen yet. It got a loud cheer when it went for Mills’ mess.

Gigantic balloon goblin! Photo credit: Rosie Kelly

Tiff was our compere for the evening and opened the show by walking straight out on stage and doing the Brunn Finish, one attempt, flawless. Cracking start to the show!

Where did you get that hat..? Photo credit: Rosie Kelly

Jon Udry was first to perform with a mix of comedy and juggling. I had seen some of the show from when he performed at Bath convention earlier in the year, but I really didn’t care. Jon is fantastic on stage and is very funny and skilled. It was hilarious to watch the balloon juggling section as the aircon kept blowing the balloons off the end of the stage. Really really enjoyed his act. Jenni loved his shoes.

Tiff sang the jalepenis song.

 

Mister Dextrose (AKA Ben Nicholson) educated us about physics and juggling which was a really clever and nicely thought out routine. I especially enjoyed ‘doing it to scale’ with the large yoga balls included. Went off with a nice bang at the end. It was hilarious to watch the stage hands clearing the apparatus as they looked like they were diffusing a bomb, none of them looked comfortable carrying the table offstage. Good routine.

We were getting a bit distracted during the acts by members of the stage crew being visible in the wings during the performances, we were sitting dead centre and could still see people so it must have been much worse from the sides. The stage crew / show crew really needed to get out of sight, if you can see the audience, they can see you.

Because you’re worth it! Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography

Jan Himself came into the juggling world from the world of fashion and was utterly brilliant whilst strutting his stuff with a diabolo routine. He had gorgeous hair. The stage hand should have rehearsed tearing his trousers off a couple of times, but massive kudos for keeping the three diabolos going whilst being dragged across the stage.
(EDIT: Apparently this was rehearsed many times during the tech runs and went perfectly every time. Just unlucky in the end.) Very funny routine which was also very skillful. Great presentation. His leggings were slightly too tight for my liking.

Tiff did a three ball stack. That’s not easy.

Paul Zenon (a famous magician who I hadn’t ever heard of) performed a really nice set of magic tricks whilst giving funny commentary and jokes. I really enjoyed the banter and the magic was great too. I worry that it might have been difficult for people sitting further back than us to see what was going on as a lot of it was reasonably ‘close-up’ magic. It was all going fine until he lit a cigarette on stage (I think it smelled real but some insist it was a fake one) which prompted a member of the crew to storm onto the stage and order him off it. There has been a lot of discussion about this throughout the rest of the convention. I think it was unprofessional to interrupt the act like that and would have preferred it to have been handled differently, HOWEVER I do not know all the ins and outs surrounding it. All I know was it flustered Paul a bit and I think made him drop his mike stand shortly afterwards, spilling his props. Such a shame to end his show like that. I thought it was a really funny show with some excellent magic but was sadly spoilt.

Tiff arrived on stage and diffused the situation very well and announced the interval. I repeat; if you can see the audience then the audience can see you!

The interval dominated by speculation over what had occurred but despite all the extra drama we agreed that so far it had been a really strong show with not a single bad act.

The Second Half

I genuinely thought Tiff was going to nail the teaspoon kick up balance, now that would have been something! I fell for it though.

Loz (because) performed the best LED hoop routine I have ever seen. Not only was the hooping choreographed perfectly to the music but the hoops were programmed perfectly to the tricks. It was wonderful! She had some very cool pixel hoops and really chose the settings to emphasise the tricks in all the right ways. The tricks were hard but performed flawlessly. I couldn’t get over how tight it was as a routine. Thoroughly impressed!

Helena Berry doing cool stuff with her feet. Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography

Helena Berry delivered a very moody act filled with awesome foot catches and foot juggling. I loved her solemn / absent delivery and the foot juggling was excellent. Very good performance. I thought she was very gutsy to go for the hard trick on a fourth attempt and she was super lucky to get it, would have been awful to have missed it. Fantastic routine, I really liked it a lot.

Tiff brought out his banjo and sang us his version of ‘I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General’ (renamed ‘I Am the Very Model of a Modern British Juggler’). It was excellent but I think the Germans in the audience might have struggled to follow it.

The Berlin Passing Girls showed us some very big multi-person passing patterns. I actually really liked the simple shapes and patterns they all made when stood in a long line. There were some very pretty patterns but not transitions between the different patterns which was a shame. There were quite a few drops and there was no bow at the end, but I really enjoyed the visuals. Good routine.

The thank you’s were very nicely positioned just before the final act, good work Tiff.

Steve Rawlings was our final act of the evening and he stormed it. Many of us have seen Steve on stage before but I absolutely loved every minute of it and would love to watch him perform again anytime. I love his character, his comedy and his tricks. He really is a pro of the UK juggling scene and it was wonderful to see him again. Absolutely great, as always.

The curtain call was perfect. It was well led, everyone knew what was expected of them. It looked really professional. 10/10.

The final bows of the 2018 Gala Show. Photo Credit: Paul Silver Photography

The show was the best BJC Gala show that I have seen for a few years, not a single weak act. The energy was kept really high throughout. I think it helped having three comedy / talking routines which let everyone have a good laugh and keep the mood high. Congratulations to everyone involved with the show, I thought it was very strong indeed.

After Show

We eventually met up with Mark outside the venue and we all walked together back to my car and had a nice relaxing drive back to the venue. I feel like I have done Margate in its entirety and I do not think I will need to return.

The main hall was packed out and far too riotous so I headed out to the show hall. As I walked in there was a guy who I vaguely recognised trying the Texas skip. I immediately got out my ropes as my own Texas skip has been floundering these past few years and his technique looked very different. We had some long discussions and compared notes and I think we both achieved long runs equaling our personal bests. It really helps to bounce ideas off of someone else who is at a similar level to you. Again for chance meetings at the BJC having great outcomes! He also showed me some great tricks and we talked technique at length. We introduced ourselves properly (about an hour into the session) and when he said he was based in Loughborough, I suddenly clicked that it was Simon Ratzker! Didn’t recognise him at all, it has been a long while. Inspired me to do more lasso.

I had a quick spot of combat with Callum but unluckily hit my finger so I decided to take that as a warning so I called it a night. Didn’t want to be broken before the actual tournament, that would have been a real shame.

Saturday

I was really pleased that I wore my kitty eye mask to bed as I had a lovely long sleep and awoke feeling very refreshed.

I arrived on site in plenty of time for Antonia’s poi juggling workshop. I tried it for the first time a year or so ago and was impressed because I found it pretty difficult. I went along to learn how to do it properly. It was a really well run workshop, Antonia obviously has a lot of experience teaching people how to do it. She gave excellent poi-nters (haha, good one!) and technique tips.

Jamie and Charlie Holland with their history of juggling in the UK display. Photo Credit: Lizzy Peat

I had macaroni cheese for lunch at Monte’s and enjoyed listening in to Jamie being quizzed ready for the old school that night. I went to Ron’s ‘how to run a one-day convention’ workshop because I thought Alice would be there and it would make her day. Alice, Alastair and Mike did arrive partway through to say goodbye as they were leaving site, so it wasn’t in vain. It was a useful workshop, although I didn’t make any notes. So much of any event is dependent on the venue, everything else really stems from there. It did make me think about running a convention in future.

I was happily chilling out in the main hall when it was announced that Unicycle Hockey would be taking place and everyone needed to get out. Hang on, what?!? I had seen it on the workshop timetable but had assumed that half the hall would be used, not the entire hall. No ‘workshop’ should ever throw everyone out of the main juggling space. This was a very poor move, especially as the show hall was closed due to BYJOTY tech and the gym was being used as a backstage area. I was very unimpressed as were many others. It was a good job it was sunny outside. Since the BJC was effectively closed, Jenni and I decided to head into town and take a bit of a break away from site.

Evening Meal

I needed a few supplies and we enjoyed a walk around the city. I found a nice looking curry house behind the Cathedral (The Kashmir Tandoori) so we stepped in for a nice romantic meal. We were obviously the first customers in that evening as the cricket was hastily changed to some inoffensive background Indian restaurant music. The décor was very nice and the restaurant had nice staff and a pleasant atmosphere. It was only spoilt slightly by their automatic ordering system round the corner which would cry out ‘you have a new order’ until silenced by a staff member. There was also a gentleman who must have been a manager or supervisor who talked really very loudly as he ran around between the diners (others started arriving as the evening went on). My Mango Lassi was glorious and my onion bhaji was also very nice. Jenni’s vegetable samosa was tasty too. For mains I chose the Chicken Makhani which was very flavoursome but I didn’t find any mango pieces which was a bit of a shame. Jenni had the Chicken Malaya but it was a bit tasteless. Often mild gets confused with tasteless which was a bit of a shame, her pineapple juice was nice though. Overall we had a nice evening and the food was OK. If anything we enjoyed having a break away from the convention.

Walking back through the town towards the venue we caught up with Sean and Kati, who had just arrived and were making their way towards the site. It was lovely to see them again and I would love to know where Sean gets his enthusiasm from because it is so infectious.

Time had run away with me a bit so I rushed into the main hall five minutes late for Juli’s workshop and Ed had found a new partner. Sorry about that, Ed.

I went along to Sean and Kati’s juggling to music workshop, followed by their two person shared patterns workshop. I really enjoyed both workshops. Sean and Kati are excellent teachers and also very knowledgeable and entertaining. The juggling to music one was quite siteswap heavy so, like many others, I had to think for a little while before diving into a new pattern. The patterns themselves were straightforward and I enjoyed hitting the beats in time with everyone (occasionally in time with everyone…). I juggled with Sam for the two person patterns workshop and we found it very challenging. You really did need to blur your eyes and just concentrate on juggling a three ball cascade to make it work. A really nicely taught pair of workshops.

I went straight out from the workshop and joined the audience watching the old skool panel show. Jamie, The Void, Mandy and Devilstick Peat were in the hot seats with Ashby acting as host and directing the questions. There were some quite amusing stories but I would have loved to hear more! Devilstick Peat touched on some really crazy things that had happened to him when he has been out performing in war zones, but he didn’t really get into much detail on them. I would have liked there to be some questions from the audience as well. It was entertaining but not as good as some of the others I have seen.

Old Skool, with The Void, Jamie Fletcher, Ashby, Mandy and Devilstick Peat. Photo Credit: Lizzy Peat

We were too tired to stay up to watch Chunk’s dance in the renegade which was a real shame, but as Tiff said in his song, ‘I saw Tom Derrick’s rosy cheeks, those memories will never fade’.

Sunday

On arriving at the site I was just in time to see the end of the Gandinis’ wake up patterns workshop. I was shown the superman and was very taken with it. I enjoyed watching Kati having a three ball juggle, it was really lovely to watch.

I ran my beginners’ club juggling tricks part two workshop and was pleased to see some faces from the first workshop. I spent far too long on backcrosses but it’s one of those tricks that everyone wants to get but a lot of people really struggle to make it feel nice. I did teach another load of different tricks and I saw people having some success at them. I hope it was useful for everyone but I am the first to admit it stuck on backcrosses too long, thank you everyone who stayed.

When I left the gym the BJC meeting was underway so I sat at the back and listened in, got really hungry, grabbed a burger and a samosa from veggies as Monte’s wasn’t ready for lunch yet, and then listened in some more. The burger was ready very quickly! I think because there wasn’t a queue as previous experiences show that it can take forever to get your food. Unfortunately I did find the burger very tasteless (not entirely true, it tasted of the tomato sauce I put on it…). The samosa was very nice though, had a nice bit of chilli in there.

No teams came forward to run the BJC next year. I do not think this is a disaster, I think that the fact we have the EJC next year will mean everyone can concentrate on that event instead.

I left when the EJC meeting began as I wanted to go to Kati’s three ring workshop. The ring workshop was so inspiring! There were loads of strange throws and patterns which I hadn’t thought of and because I already throw a lot of weird pancake throws many of them were within my powers. I left the workshop really inspired! Kati was also an excellent teacher. It was the best workshop I have been to in a long time in terms of blowing my mind and giving me something to take away. I always to go to workshops because I feel they are worthwhile going to if you just learn one single thing, one single nugget of knowledge that can make your juggling better, this workshop sent me away with so much to think about! I was a little bit upset that both Sean and Kati juggle rings the ‘painful’ way rather than the ‘downwards force’ method that I use. But as they say, they juggle so much their calloused hands are protected from the worst of the damage. I will make a note to mention that the next time I run my own ring juggling workshop.

Kati’s ring juggling workshop. Photo credit: Rosie Kelly

Combat Tournament Qualifications

A little later on the qualifications began for the combat tournament. Thirty jugglers battled it out to take part in the tournament so Ieuan divided the qualifications into two groups so one group would fight the other. This was done fairly using already known fight night ranking data from the website so the groups should have been very even. There was only enough room for five or six fights to take place at a time which was nice actually as we all got a quick water break and time to find our new partner and to have a chat before fighting again. I managed to win all my games except for my matches against Cameron and Rob, where they both decimated me 3:0. I really struggled to get past Rob’s defense and Cameron was just a bit quick for me. I managed to seed for the tournament in 5th place, not bad considering.

A small group of us stayed behind after the qualifications to play zombie combat. This was great fun but somehow my clubs kept ending up in some really strange places… This was the most fun I have had playing zombie combat, everyone was really good and also sportsmanlike (except Cameron) and we all had a blast. After the zombie combat I went back to the house to have a shower (stinky stinky sweat sweat) and also to grab some food and take some time to relax before the actual tournament. Lizzy and Jamie taught me to play Eight Minute Empire (reduced now to twenty-five minutes) while Jenni and I ate our chicken and salad for tea.

Combat Tournament

One end of the hall had been set up to hold the combat tournament with benches surrounding the ‘ring’ and a table set up for the scorekeepers and a special chair for Ieuan to judge from. I was pleased to see it wasn’t a tennis umpire’s chair as that got a little dangerous last year.

Rosie was our host for the fight night and regaled the crowd with fun facts about the fighters, some of which may even have been true, who knows!?! She did a great job, very funny and entertaining. Kept a lot of interest and energy going with the crowd, it was a lot of fun. Ieuan’s carefully selected fight night playlist was also a major factor in keeping the energy so high.

My first opponent of the evening was Mark PB who came on very strong in his attacks. For the most part I was able to hold a strong defense and deflect him as he came in but he didn’t leave me any time to relax my guard. I eventually wore him down and took the match but not before he took a few points from me. It felt like a very civilised match up.

I was really not looking forward to playing against Rob again after being whupped in qualifications, I found it really difficult to get near to his pattern. I decided to come out hard and fast and to try and keep the pressure on him. We ended up having a really good battle which we both really enjoyed and I managed to take the match 5:3. YMCA? Really Ieuan, I am disappointed with you…

The last time Brook and I faced each other (Bath JC in February) he beat me easily so I was not particularly looking forward to our match. However, I used the same tactic that I used against Rob and it seemed to be very effective. We had some very good clashes including one where we both smashed to the ground in quite epic style, I can only think that I must of psyched him out as our matches are usually pretty even, but in the end I took the match 5:0. I was shocked but at the same time pretty overjoyed. I left that match with a bruised hip and big burn on my arm from where I hit the deck, but that’s what happens when you play nasty rough games.

Callum and I battled it out in the final. Ieuan’s playlist came through very strong with ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and ‘It’s Raining Men’, both classic fight night songs… The match started badly for me when Callum managed to pull a knob off my club which prompted Rosie to be crude. Callum took an early lead, leaving me down 4:2 at one stage. We had some great encounters, I especially enjoyed a mid-air collision which turned my high throw into a helicopter. I managed to slowly claw it back before finally scoring the final point! Then it was pointed out to me that I had got the scores wrong and it was actually 4:4, SO EMBARRASSING! This time I managed to take the point and was delighted to finally win the tournament at the BJC, it has been a long time coming. Callum has massively improved as a player in the last year and is a very tough opponent, I really enjoyed our match.

Callum moved so fast! Photo credit: Lizzy Peat

Following the tournament I finally had a passing session with Jenny D, although I was a bit tired and broken. We passed some cool six club tricks and seven ultimates before ramping it up to eight club ultimates and some attempts at nine. I also fulfilled my promise of doing some passing with Rasmus which again was left far too late in the convention. We did some ten club two count followed by six club two count with both of us balancing a club. A very attentive Ed was on hand to give us the ‘up down go’ as my forehead balance stopped me seeing Rasmus at all. It went well, I think we got four or five passes out whilst maintaining the balances. We also did a spot of nine club two count on singles which was not too shoddy.

I bade my farewells and travelled back to the house with finally crashing out at about 2:30.

The Journey Home

I woke naturally at 7:45 due to the curse of setting an alarm only to then wake before it goes off, I still don’t know what my alarm actually sounds like on my phone… We completed a morning of tidying and logistics in order to be out of the house at 10:00.

I regretted my decision to travel clockwise round the M25, I thought it might be a case of ‘better the devil you know’ but that was a misguided notion. We cruised between restricted speed limit sections due to congestion and accidents until we bailed out at Cobham services in favour of a muffin / cookie and a milk / tea. We ploughed on and eventually took a lunch stop around Milton Keynes at 2pm at a rather nice pub called The Anchor. It was quite pricey but the food was very nice. I had a superfood salad which really woke me up and Jenni had a crab sandwich which was very door stoppy. The pub is really nicely done out with a lovely wooden ceiling much like a boat’s hull. Refreshed and revitalised we made it to Loughborough before we had to stop for fuel and then onwards to Leeds with a big bag of chilli crisps to keep me company while Jenni slept in the car. We finally rocked up at home around 6pm.

Round-Up

I had an excellent BJC. I was initially disappointed with the venue but as the week went on it stopped mattering to a point. For me the BJC is a lot to do with the people rather than the place. The Gala Show was excellent and there were some really good workshops on offer.

Thank you to all of the organisers for putting together and holding together another excellent BJC. I had a wonderful week and look forward very much to seeing you all again soon. Thank you once again.

Cheers, Jon

Jon Peat

I am Jon Peat.

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