The Durham Juggling Convention 2017 – Review (UK)

Saturday

Breakfast and Travelling

The convention actually started on the Friday evening with the opening of The Hub. The Hub is a separate venue for the camping and breakfasting of jugglers and is only a short walk from the Teesdale Leisure Centre which was the main juggling space for the Saturday. The Hub does have some nice halls in which to juggle and a large social game playing and eating area. Camping is available outside or for a small additional charge there are bunk beds available in dormitories.

Due to other commitments we decided to go along for the just the Saturday rather than stay over for the weekend.

The breakfast cupboard was running a little low by Saturday morning so I had to settle for muesli with only the final dregs from the last granola packet. It was still wholesome and fulfilling but I vowed to restock by Sunday at the latest to bring some variety back. Jenni had done something different with her hair but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what. We loaded Jenni’s car with all our toys for the day and headed round the Leeds ring road to Harrogate and then north on the A1 towards Barnard Castle. I like going north on the A1 from Leeds but do not like going south from Leeds, it’s simply not as good.

The journey was uneventful except for when Jenni’s SatNav got very agitated that the A1 had been moved on a couple of occasions. As we were driving through a 50mph roadworks stretch there was a report on the news that driving at 50mph through roadworks on the motorway is very stressful for drivers. We stopped biting our fingernails and calmed ourselves down, luckily it was soon over and we made strong progress towards the convention.

The Juggling Hall

We arrived at the leisure centre at 09:45 and were kindly directed to the hall by the leisure centre staff. Registration were still having breakfast at The Hub and the hall was deserted save for the chaps from unicycle.com so we set up our stuff, dropped a load of flyers on the reg desk and deciphered the signs to the toilets.

The empty main juggling hall

I started with some 3 ball warming up and messing around while Jenni hooped and lamented about where to clip her music player. People were slowly arriving into the hall by this time and the makings of a reg desk were well underway, so we pottered over and bought ourselves some passes (printed card on a string with DCJ logo with a cut away section for if you were not staying at the Hub) and I bought three strips of raffle tickets, of which two of the colours were very similar. I could already see we were in for a treat when it came to raffle time. After the stir which was created last year with the purple hedgehog the stakes had been set higher with a lovely golden owl!

I wandered around the hall chatting to people as they arrived and then went and loitered around unicycle.com for a while. I spotted my new unicycle all boxed up and labelled and so Roger agreed to build it up for me during the day. I also got the hard sell on a Giraffe unicycle that Roger wanted to get sold by the end of the day. It did look very shiny in the box.

At this moment I happened to make eye contact with Mike across the room. He was holding, very reverently, a carrier bag and also a peaceful bordering on smug expression. This could only mean one thing! With a flourish I was handed my copy of the new Karl-Heinz Ziethen book ‘Juggling, The Past and Future’. I had a little peek inside, it looks wonderful, but I bagged it up and hid it in car. Around this time I confessed to Jenni about the book and also the unicycle, I also reminded her about the binding contract that we both signed recently. She took it all very well. She was pleased because the convention offered free tea and coffee although she felt bad for accidently pinching Luke’s parents’ mug which prevented Cliff from having a much needed caffeine boost, I understand they were a little jet lagged.

A number of people approached me during the morning enquiring about my lasso workshop and at what time it would be. I had to inform them that the lasso workshop will be taking place at the Leeds Juggling Convention (18th November 2017) and not at Durham and that they were just far too keen.

It was coming up to lunch time so we took a little drive out into the town and got into the fish and chip shop just before the rush. We ate in the reception area of the leisure centre at some little table and chairs and were visited by several people who can obviously detect chips a mile off. Fully feasted we returned to the hall and had a bit of a browse over the Lazy Juggler stand. We still haven’t quite found the perfect game for us but we are going to keep looking.

The main juggling hall with added people.

 

At one o’clock I loitered in the middle of the hall to teach my beginners three ball workshop and stood chatting to Austin who was running a staff workshop. After a little while we did both get some people and so the awkwardness went away. I ended up with a nice little group of five people all at varying stages of learning to juggle three balls. We very quickly got to the stage where there was not a lot more I could really teach, they just had to go away and practice. I stayed on hand just in case of any problems but really they had it all well under control.

There was enough time for a change of clothes before heading over to the other hall where the combat tournament would be taking place. I managed to drop my phone on the floor whilst getting changed which made a huge crack on the corner of my protective phone case. And that is why we have phone cases kids!

Combat Tournament

Eight players took part in the tournament and it actually turned into a really nice mini event! There was plenty of room for everyone during qualifications and they were over very quickly. During the qualifications a nice little group turned out to watch, which slowly grew as the tournament went on. We ended up having making a small arena and announcing each of the fights with Luke providing commentary for the audience. It was a lot of fun, I particularly enjoyed watching Callum and Will fighting it out, there were some excellent points. I also enjoyed my own matches against Callum and Luke which were both plenty challenging enough. I was disappointed to give away some easy points to Luke during our fight but that is just the way it goes sometimes. It felt like a good match rather than the usual wipeout that I get with Luke.

Check out all the results here: http://fightnightcombat.com/tournament-Durham-2017.html

I was very warm after the tournament and so gladly accepted Ed’s suggestion of an Escape from Atlantis. We set up a game behind the Lazy Juggler stand and Jenni, Ed, Ron and myself battled it out. It was an interesting game. Ed got wrecked. In the entire game he didn’t manage to pick up a single red bordered piece which left him at a serious disadvantage, he then spoilt the game for everyone by turning over the volcano. I won by somehow managing to extract my high scoring little guys despite making lots of enemies. Good game. Ron might stock it, keep your eyes peeled.

The Games

The games had already begun so I made my way through to the other hall and found them in full swing. Harvey was announcing the games and keeping things moving. I was in time to see a three ball zombie game where if you drop you become a zombie and have to chase anyone still juggling (slowly, as a zombie). It was entertaining. There was a rock, paper, scissors and conga line game which I didn’t fully follow. I was late in arriving for unicycle gladiators and was then effectively mass bullied into taking part late much to my deep embarrassment. This embarrassment only lasted for the 10 seconds which I lasted in the ring. Handstand endurance took place and it turned into handstand gladiators which I had never seen before. It was very effectively won by Chris who also gave himself a round of applause whilst still in a handstand. Very impressive. I took part in the five ball endurance with the added distraction of the diabolo in the box game taking place overhead. I managed to win despite a few collisions and having to dodge some incoming diabolos. There were a number of other games which took place but I was distracted by having a giraffe unicycle poked under my nose. It wasn’t a particularly hard sell as we had been after a new giraffe after our old second hand one snapped.  The games climaxed with some rounds of three club gladiators which was very good fun (sorry I trod on your food Georgie!).

Gandini Gladiators also took place.

I snuck out to Jenni’s car and filled it with the two additional unicycles and then collected Jenni and Ed for a venture into the town for some evening food. We spotted an Indian restaurant (Spice Island) and went in fifteen minutes before it officially opened, I think they took pity on us as it was raining. We hadn’t made a booking but they agreed to let us have a table if we were gone by 18:30, perfect. I really enjoyed my Chicken Madhuri, it was very sweet and flavoursome. Jenni enjoyed her Korma and Ed had a Chicken Tikka Paneer which he rated as average. None of us went for the Bollywood Bad Boy in the end. We tried to leave Jenni in the restaurant but we realised too late that she had the car keys so we were obliged to wait.

The Show

The show venue was at the Glaxo Sports and Social club and as we queued outside the show hall I got Rob’s routine music stuck in my head. Nobody thought to tell the audience when we were allowed into the hall but we were eventually admitted. There was a small to medium, two level, and raised stage at one end of the hall, comfy chairs set out in rows before it and comfy chairs around the edge of the hall with tables for those wanting a more cabaret style evening. There was a bar serving drinks if you like that kind of thing.

Ed and Jenni seemed to playing the ‘who can be the most inappropriate’ game (complete with hand gestures) while I futilely tried to maintain order. Someone dropped their electronic cigarette on my foot which made my shoe smell far more fragrant than it otherwise would have. The show finally started when Rosie took to the stage and announced herself as compere for the evening.

I enjoyed her change of clothes gag and the games of ‘who’s your favourite juggler’. There were some other good gags in there and she kept the energy going pretty well. I have seen her do some really really good compering in the past so I came away feeling it could have been better, but that’s only because we have been spoilt by her in the past. Still a very strong compere. I didn’t know where the fire exits were.

The First Half

Lucy and Roger opened the show with a really fun unicycle display. I enjoyed the wheel walking and one footed wheel walking. Some of the tricks barely fitted on the stage so that was pretty hilarious to watch. It was nicely done and the both obviously really enjoyed it. Epic music and a good battle at the end all finished with a very good bow.

Harvey performed his routine ‘Is this seat taken?’ He performed a nervous/awkward character and showed us some good club juggling and manipulations in between. I liked the running gags but it was his audience interaction and ad lobbing which made it for me. I enjoyed it and I liked the in character ‘bow’ at the end and the stage exit.

The very impeccably dressed Chris took to the stage and performed a pretty basic but still very neat diabolo routine. I enjoyed his expressions during the routine and thought he performed it very well. It had a slightly strange ending to the routine and felt to me like it just petered out. It could have done with a more showbizzy finish.

Rob was next on stage firstly performing a slick ‘two sets of three rings, stuck together’ isolation / manipulation followed by his upbeat ring juggling and isolation routine with large rings. I like Rob’s ring juggling routine but it was a very droppy rendition on this occasion. I put this down to being asked on the day but even if you are asked to perform on the day you should take your convention pass off. The 5 ring finish was excellent, obviously been working on that one. It was another strange bow and exit off stage.

Interval and Raffle

Rosie announced that there would be a ten minute interval followed by a ten minute raffle before the start of the second half. This was an excellent idea: just on the off chance that someone may not have wanted to watch or partake in the raffle, they could choose to spend those extra ten minutes at the bar.

There was an assortment of prizes on offer including chocolates and wine and convention passes as well as the much coveted golden owl. It got off to a bit of a shaky start when it became apparent that the colours of the three different raffle tickets were difficult to identify leading to much hilarity and amusement. It was decided to call the book number of the ticket followed by the actual number on the ticket. It added a whole new dimension to the raffle which I thoroughly enjoyed. Especially as this had to be explained several times to the audience. I did manage to win a Sheffield Juggling Convention ticket for next year, so I will look forward to going to that and handing it over on the desk. Liam won the golden owl and seemed justly satisfied. Following the end of the raffle it was programmed for the second half of the show to begin but there was a long delay for some reason. I felt that the raffle must not have gone on long enough…

Ed’s cake was very nice and gave me a real energy kick for the second half.

The Second Half

Opening the second half of the show was Luke performing his three ball bounce juggling routine, ‘that’s not juggling, that’s dropping with style’. Ed pointed out that there was a bit of a BUZZ about the routine (just in case anyone is struggling to keep up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buzz_Lightyear). It’s a nice routine that is very tightly choreographed to the music, I want to see more smiles near the start of the routine as it starts off feeling very serious. Lovely bow at the end.

Tiff was next on stage and he came armed to the teeth with all manner of props. I LOVE his shirt and waistcoat combo. He also did a load of crazy cool tricks and was both funny and entertaining. I think my favourite moment was during the five ball juggle on the rola-bola with the head balance. If anyone else had a collision which forced a collect after fifteen or so catches they might end that piece there, Tiff on the other hand restarted the juggle straight away and ran for a full thirty-odd catches to his planned finish, wonderful stuff. He also did the Brunn finish first time. Lovely bow, textbook.

The stage was covered in hats before Georgie then made her appearance. Georgie didn’t perform to music but instead gave a running commentary of the routine as she went along. I liked the idea and it gave some good opportunity for gags and funny moments. I really just enjoyed the hat tricks though, awesome stuff. I particularly liked the five and six hat sections although the slow motion section was hilarious. Nice smiley routine. Nowhere near a big enough bow at the end, could have milked that a lot more.

Headlining the show was Will Billy Borrell with a very ambitious club manipulation and juggling routine. I am a big fan of the arm rolls and wrist trap catches and manipulations, very slick. It was just rather droppy and needed quite a few clubs returning to the stage. There were a lot of nice four club tricks and the fishtailing was excellent. It was a nice finish and good bow but someone turned off the lights on him…?

Curtain Call

The curse of the curtain call, all seemed to be going well, compere nicely to one side acts coming out in good order, nice individual bows, followed by really excellent group bow and then disaster struck! Half of the acts applauded the sound and lighting desk whilst the other half ran off stage leaving half of the cast behind! So close, so close.

The Curtain Call.

Most people headed off to the Hub to spend an evening playing board games as well as juggling before resuming again in the morning. Jenni and I said a few farewells before quietly slipping away and making the journey back to Leeds. We listened to ‘Night on Disco Mountain’ on the way back and I tried not to fall asleep in the car on the way home.

 

I much preferred the leisure centre to the previous venue of the school (thanks Luke!) there seemed to be more room whilst keeping everything within easy reach. I loved the access to other halls especially for the combat and the games. The show venue was nice and I think the ceiling height would be fine for most acts. I also understand that the Hub was much closer to the leisure centre.

Thank you ever so much to the Durham organising team for putting on the event. I had a really good time although the day seemed to pass far too quickly. I should have stayed over Friday and Sunday to make the best of it. Look forward to seeing you all again next year or at the Leeds Juggling Convention (18th November, 2017).

Cheers Jon

Jon Peat

I am Jon Peat.

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