Camvention 2017 – The Cambridge Juggling Convention – Review (UK)

Saturday

Breakfast and Travelling

Breakfast consisted of my usual muesli with yoghurt (plain natural) finished with a fruit smoothie. The drive to Cambridge was unremarkable save for my discovery of the TP button on my car radio. By activation of this button I can choose for the radio station I am listening to, to be interrupted by another station which is reporting traffic news. I didn’t realise my car could do clever things like this (I have the manual somewhere…) and so revelled in the traffic-related misfortunes of others whilst making my way along the A14.

I arrived early to the University Sports Centre and was rewarded with what I considered to be the optimal parking spot. I downgraded the space shortly afterwards due to the squelchy ground near the boot space.

Arrival

The morning drizzle was starting to gather momentum so I hurried into the centre, got my ‘I love sport’ badge and raffle ticket display lanyard before going into the main hall to register. The venue is lovely, still feels very new and shiny. The hall itself is cavernous with room for a Lazy Juggler games corner, a huge Oddballs stand, free standing aerial rig and the registration desk. I was met by lots of jolly Cambridge folk and issued with a smart little pass with the Camcircus logo on. There was a rather special offer available for the raffle tickets, £190 for the whole book. After some discussion it was agreed that unless there was a Karl-Heinz Ziethen as a prize then this might not be such a good offer.

The reg desk with added subliminal.

Immediately bumped into Cameron and Cat and was cajoled into doing some Roundabout. I gave Cameron a Käfer. We broke off from Roundabout to greet various people as they arrived and awkwardly resumed the pattern. My hand got a bit tired so I spent some more of the morning headbouncing and making excuses for not passing with people. It was really nice to see Danny, Weibke and also Roy back in the UK again and I had a lovely catch up with Andy and Sandra.

Board Games

After doing some shameless flyering for the Leeds Juggling Convention, Ed and I browsed the Lazy Juggler stall. After some discussion we started to set the board to play Imhotep and recruited additional players. It was an interesting game. Ed won via the combined tallest obelisk and also a healthy mausoleum-induced bonus. I feel it would take quite a few games to really get some tactics laid down. I did enjoy it but was too set on one of the goals rather than spreading my points more widely across the board.  Not sure if it would work well as a two player.

The view of the main hall from the balcony. It did get a bit more busy, but there was still ample room to go round.

I had a flapjack (fruity) for lunch and wandered around the venue taking photos before settling into a ring juggling practice with the aim of joining a mass ring passing pattern later on. Sadly wasn’t to be, it hurt my hand to be juggling 5 or more so I stopped and did some headbouncing instead. Practiced double skipping the ball with mixed success, lasso and the bounce is really coming along now, managed some excellent corrections.

Hat Workshop

Mark and I went along to Eddie’s hat workshop and we both learnt a lot. Lots of good tips for lots of good tricks. It was well attended and we had a good laugh. At the end of the workshop Mark and I tested out our theory that any wannabee 5 hat juggler needs to spend some time practicing 5 rings in order to get the pattern with hats faster. I surprised myself with a pretty solid qualify of 5 hats having not tried it before (I had done 4 before), I put my success down entirely to juggling rings (I didn’t ‘scoop’ the hats).

The Games

The games had begun whilst we were messing around with hats so I went over to see what was happening. I was in time to see the blowing the pumpkin seed across the floor game… Felix took the prizes for 5 ball and the 5 club endurances. Club balance was going really well for me, I even gave Rob a high five (sorry Rob), but whilst putting on someone else’s shoes I was rudely interrupted with a bum to the face, not much I could do after that. Greeny looked good in my shoes.

5 club endurance.

Somebody tried bribery in order to get a mention in my review, they were unsuccessful.

The Combat Tournament

After the games a section of the hall was marked out of bounds and, via the application of tiered seating and lighting, became the show venue. Another section of the hall became the combat area in order for the tournament to take place. This needs to be better organised next year as the combat area was in the way of the walking route from the main doors to the rest of the hall. There was also not enough room, especially with staff manipulators swinging around. I wonder if the studios upstairs (not been, never seen them, I do not know how high they are) could be used for the tournament in order to keep it out of the way? Otherwise could the Lazy Juggler corner be located next to the other traders to make that quarter of the hall the combat corner? It needed some benches or similar to mark out the game area and to contain it a little better.

Anyway, the tournament.

19 jugglers took part and we all payed one on one matches to decide the final 8 players who would go through to the knockout rounds. The qualifications ran smoothly except for the space problem and for Felix’s shoelaces, but otherwise it went very well. I managed to seed in second place next to Brook in first. The first few matches were played out in the hall leaving the final to be played during the evening show. I was lucky enough to make it through to be in the final. As I was leaving the hall Cameron and Brook were preparing to face up to see which of them would be going through. I didn’t stay to watch as I was ravenously hungry, so Mark and I headed outside and got a Massaman apiece from the Thai food van.

Pre-Show Food

We ate in the lobby of the sports centre at some little tables and chairs and had a really good natter and catch up as, aside from Eddie’s workshop, we hadn’t really seen each other that day. We regaled each other with tales of our exploits and discussed the UK circuses and the Edinburgh fringe. It was nowhere near as romantic as some dinners we have shared together but we both had a good time. Mark enjoyed his Massaman and agreed it was a good choice.

We joined the queue for the show and it wasn’t long before we took our seats next to Roy and the lights were dimmed. We had to move some BJC and Leeds Convention flyers off from our seats as someone had gone to town flyering…

The Show

The venue was packed out for the show with many people struggling to get seats, a good number of people went and stood on the balcony overlooking the hall.

Our compere for the evening was the impeccably turned out Tom Roy, who in character as a circus ringmaster. I really liked him, he spoke clearly, didn’t waffle, was suitably amusing, he was a good show host. We were sat directly in the path of one of the speakers and it was quite a sensitive microphone so about halfway through the show I found myself wishing he would speak more softly, but I put that down to our poor seating choice.

The first act, Pendragon Circus, featured Will and Kat performing a mixed aerial and juggling routine with Kat playing the glamorous assistant. Kat skipped about and frolicked below Will while he performed 3 LED ball juggling in various contortions. Kat was a very good frolicker which I found actually distracted me from the Aerial tricks. There was too much going on at some points and I didn’t know where I was supposed to be looking during the routine.

The second ‘act’ in the show was the final match of the combat tournament. I worried the people sat around me by removing my trousers before taking to the stage. I had found out just before the show that Brook had won his match with Cameron and so we would have a rematch of the previous year. I really enjoyed the match, there were a few clumsy drops on both sides but also some very good tussles. Brook got me with his classic crook of the arm grab but I got him with my classic low swipe. In the end I managed to wear him down and take the prize and the eternal glory. I don’t know whether it works for an audience having the match during the show but there seemed to be plenty of clapping so I think it went down OK.

Looks a bit like stripping the willow… Photo courtesy of The Magical Mark Watson

Check out how the full tournament panned out here: http://fightnightcombat.com/tournament-Cambridge-2017.html

Richard was next on stage performing a very technical multi staff routine. I really enjoyed it especially as I thought he was playing an extremely nervous character. There were loads of great shoulder rolls as well as tap back tricks and he finished with a wonderful 5 staff multiplexed pattern. When it came to the final bow I was no longer sure if it was a stage character as he looked racked with nerves and ready to collapse. I still am not 100% either way whether it was nerves or all part of the performance. Regardless, I thought it was an excellent routine although I have heard that music track an awful lot now. He really needed to take a bow at the end and stick around because there was a lot of applause waiting for him.

Sam Boyles made his UK debut with a very slick contact ball routine. I really liked his costume. Loved the superfast finger rolls and he had some very bendy body wobbles going on which I really enjoyed. Nice routine, very well performed. I wanted him to take a bigger bow at the end, perhaps have a couple of longer / better applause points during the routine. Nice act!

Lisa and Callum took to the stage and showed us some mechanical chaos in the form of hoop juggling and manipulation. I loved their outfits and especially their crazy eyes throughout the routine! They did an excellent job of keeping in character and I really enjoyed their movements and interactions. Their mix of hoop rolling, manipulations and passing worked really well with the music. I found it nice and varied and they used the stage well. I thought there was excellent twitching. The 8 hoops passing at the end was a little shaky but I thought it was a good strong routine.

Interval

The 20 minute interval flew by and quite suddenly the raffle was upon us. I was delighted that the raffle was not just lumped in with the interval but took place afterwards as an event in its own right. There were many mysterious prizes on offer, some of which could be identified by the compere. Far too many tickets in the 200’s were drawn, deeper digging / mixing in between draws next time please. Overall the raffle was very well drawn out but it goes to show that gambling doesn’t pay off, I left without a prize.

The first act in the second half welcomed Kenny and Lili to stage for another duo acrobatic / gymnastic /acro display. It is a really upbeat performance with plenty of energy and some killer tricks. A really nice crowd pleasing act, again, they could have stayed on stage longer and milked the bows a little more.

The stage was hit by an army of stage hands who very slickly removed the entire floor with minimal fuss, despite a trashing from the compere. Very amusing.

Jay Vatra performed his contact poi / juggling routine. I wasn’t so keen on this routine when I first saw it at the BJC but the more I see it the more I appreciate it. Jay keeps very well in character and gives an excellent expressive performance. It is high energy and filled with some tricky stuff. Bonus points for high fiving the audience. His 4 poi fountain was a little sloppy, I think he was rushed, but he then proved he could do it by giving a very long and very clean run. Good performance, I enjoyed it.

Next on stage was the ring passing duo Cameron and Mark. I thought it was a lovely routine, exactly the right mix of technical skill combined with not taking themselves too seriously. I liked the matching outfits (and beards!), the pancakes, the shoe and the back to back 7 ring section. The use of the stage was great, very nicely put together. Cameron gave excellent big wide smiles throughout whereas Mark was slighter sterner. I either want Mark to grin and gurn madly as well or go the other way and be completely morose. The bow was slightly too good, I felt they tried too hard (winky face).

The show was headlined by international guest performer Nelli Kujansivu, from Finland, who performed a wonderful foot juggling routine with large white balls. She plaited her hair and did absolutely wonderful things. I particularly enjoyed a hard 3 ball juggling session which she then repeated but with crazy fast legs. Her legs went everywhere! All over the place! Legs legs legs, goodness me. Amazing showers with the balls passing from foot to foot. Loved the 5 ball cascade with the bounces from the floor. Brilliant act and a great closer for the show.

The curtain call was interesting. Kudos for trying to call out all the acts without any notes, but I personally don’t mind this for the final bows. The compere needed to get out of the way for when the acts arrive on stage and let them take their own bows at the very front of the stage. Very amusing moment when everyone did bow but the compere was stood in front of the acts rather than joining the line meaning that poor Jay got a bit of a face full. The acts were also not sure how many big bows they should be doing. It had all the hallmarks of a good curtain but just stumbled a bit at the crucial moments.

The Curtain Call. Photo courtesy of The Magical Mark Watson

The other end. Photo courtesy of The Magical Mark Watson

 

Farewells and the Journey Home

Following the show Mark and I stood around in the hall saying goodbye to people and practicing our hip thrusts. Eventually we took the hint and left the hall and I gave Mark a lift to the station. Drove right up to the station building and dropped him off. When I went to set off again I noticed a few ‘buses only’ notices painted on the road and some rather ominous looking cameras posted on various lampposts. I swear I didn’t see any notices on the other side of the traffic lights which I passed through. I was too scared to leave that way and so ended up performing a slightly dubious (probably / definitely) illegal manoeuvre to join the drop off point on the other side of the concourse walkway. I spent the rest of the drive out of Cambridge jumping at every blue light and trying not to run down cyclists with no lights.

I was having a very pleasant ride back along the A14, thinking about the day, the show, my shopping list, whether Jenni had finished painting the stairs, when another two lanes appeared and the signs took on a more authoritative blue colour. A look at my sat nav confirmed that I was no longer on the beaten track and had somehow missed my turning and ended up on the A1 north. Whoopsy. A quick recalculation of the route indicated that this was not a serious problem so I followed it to the A47 towards Leicester. After some very considerable time had passed I checked again and found the A47 is VERY long, surrounded by villages, had no obvious cut through to get me back to the M1 and added another 50 minutes to the journey. I stopped in a layby to eat a flapjack as I was pretty much falling asleep at the wheel. Reinvigorated, I resumed the journey, eventually dropping into bed at around half past midnight.

I should have stayed the night in Cambridge.

 

Thank you ever so much for the Camvention Team for putting on another excellent convention. The day ran very smoothly, save for the location of the combat tournament, and everything was very well organised. The venue is lovely and there is plenty of room and provision for massively increased attendance. I look forward to seeing more of you there next year!

Cheers, Jon

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Bonus

I had a banana for breakfast on the Sunday morning, and it tasted of victory.

Jon Peat

I am Jon Peat.

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