The Sheffield Circus Convention 2017 – Review (UK)

The Sheffield Circus Skills Convention was held on Saturday 24th June and lots of fun was had, here follow my recollections from the day.

Travel and Arrival

It was a lovely sunny morning and the roads were pretty clear on the run down the M1 to Sheffield, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of traffic especially round Meadowhall.

I was slightly concerned about getting a parking spot this year as the university had thrown its teddy out of the pram and said that the convention couldn’t utilise their car parks. As it turned out we were able to snake our way through the city and bagged ourselves some free on-street parking right next to the Octagon centre. It was the same street we parked on last year and I was dead chuffed with our superior ‘end of the row’ space, more on this later. Jenni and I played a new game called ‘let’s run over Jenni with the car’ (I won!) and then we gathered our things together and walked up to the venue.

We entered the lobby and found a great big reg desk, lots of raffle prizes, lots of passes and lots of Sheffield people welcoming us to the convention. After buying our raffle tickets and getting our passes we went along to the juggling space.

The Octagon Centre

The Octagon centre is a very large open space with a large stage at one end and it definitely has 8 sides, I spent far too long counting the walls last year! I find I take a little while to adjust to the hall as I like to juggle square on to the wall, but when you do a half turn you end up facing the centre of the room. I spent the morning facing the wall as the lighting people had a revolving light travelling round the room which occasionally surprised me whilst I was practising, it was perfectly calibrated to be at eye level.

I persevered and spent some time juggling rings and trying to build some of my patterns back up which had faltered during my injury time off. Managed some semi decent runs of 7 but my 5 ring pancakes look a little undercooked.  In between juggling I stopped and chatted to various people as they arrived. I enjoyed a nice chat with Ball Spinning Pete and also James Francis (congratulations again!). There was a strong workshop board on offer and Jenni picked out about 3 workshops which she wanted to go to. We decided to have an early lunch otherwise there wouldn’t be time between the workshop slots.

The Octagon Centre. It was a large eight sided hall complete with a small stage and lighting.


We found Greg (no Karen) outside also on a mission to get food so we all ambled into town together to check out the options. I spotted a few restaurants which would be suitable for our evening meal before the show. Jenni wanted fish and chips from the place where we ate last year, when we got there the door was chained and padlocked and there was a letter from the landlord which declared the place out of bounds until the tenant had paid their rent. Those chicken sausages and confusing meal deals apparently are not drawing in the business (see last year’s review:

Further down the street we found another fish and chip shop, Greg and I went next door to a noodle place where ‘meat’ and ‘Gizzards’ were on the menu, excellent! I ordered a Beijing noodle while Greg ordered a vegetabley chickeny kind of noodle. We all took our spoils back to the venue and sat with Martin in the bar area to find out what we had ordered … Greg got a tub of ‘broth’ to pour over the meal whereas I got two tubs of the Beijing noodles (basically duck in hoisin sauce on noodles), it was OK but I wasn’t overly taken. Cameron came over to let us know he was organising a combat tournament so I gave him a tub of noodles in return.

Afternoon, Combat, Games

Heydar, Ieuan, Phil and I then did some ring passing, it went very well. We did a 8 vrs 6 two count in a square and tried switching the pattern to change the pair doing the 8 over the top. We worked on 3-person line and flashed 19 (Phil told me to call it that!) and we had some pretty good runs of 18. I started to bruise slightly so we did some longer runs with lower numbers before the combat tournament took place.

Ring Passing mit Ieuan, Heydar and Phil.

15 jugglers entered and I think everyone had a really good time. It was my first tournament since Chocfest so I was quite worried that I would suck, luckily I still have some tricks up my sleeve and I managed to pull a first place finish out the bag. The tournament overran with the games slightly but I did see Jenni win Hooping Gladiators, we were both having an aggressive day it seemed! I don’t remember any of the other games which were played.

Afterwards Cameron and I passed 10 clubs and managed some pretty good runs. Again, I was pleasantly surprised as I have not done 10 clubs since well before BJC but it worked very well.

The hall closed at 5pm in order for the show prep to take place and all the chairs to be set out.

Evening Food

A large group of us congregated and made our way back into town for evening foods before the show. I was keen to go to the Turkish restaurant and have lots of meat but I was outvoted and so we went to Maveli, a South Indian Restaurant. It was a very traditional menu filled with all sorts of dishes which I had not heard of. I opted for the Chemmeen Manga Curry as (again) it was cooked with Mango pulp and I went for a couple of Malabar Parotta breads as there were no naans on offer. My curry was very nice but the breads were not really very good for eating with the curry, too flaky, I should have ordered a straightforward Chapatti but you live and learn. Matthew ordered a massive feast, it was monstrous and I was slightly jealous. As it happened I was called upon to finish Jenni’s Kurma so all was not lost.

The Evening Show

During the latter portion of the meal and during the walk back to the venue, a very deep discussion began about whether certain props / skills were classed as juggling. I started out with a fixed idea on a couple but am too easily swayed but by the time we got back to the venue I had stopped caring and was happily trolling where I could.

We were slightly later back to the venue than everyone else so we all found ourselves some seats near the back of the hall. Ed showed his age by referring to ‘The Pokémon’. We also created vampire goats by using the ‘we have said they exist and so now they do’ theorem.

The start of the show saved us from our discussions which had started well but taken a bizarre turn by this point in the evening.

The compere was incomprehensible. I’m sorry to say I couldn’t understand a word she was saying partly due to poor acoustics where we were in the hall but also as she was a bit screechy. She did settle down as the show went on but I do object to the audience being ‘warmed up’ between every act. I think the compere should build the energy if it starts to falter but too much of that can actually drain the energy in itself.

Ieuan opened the show with his ring juggling routine. I really like this routine and it is really well put together, lots of movement and applause points. The routine is full of interesting tricks and some lovely multiplexes, closed with a 7 ring flash, and polished off with a good bow. A very nice strong act to open the show.

Bella Tricks was up next performing a Hula Hoop routine whilst dressed as a cat. We didn’t actually see her come onstage and it was only after quite a while we realised she was in fact onstage. This was due to our seating at the back: anything below knee level was invisible to us. A group of us evacuated our seats and stood to the side of the chairs and watched the routine from there. It was a very fast and snappy routine with lots of nice tricks and sequences. The 5 hoop was very good and the 6 hoop finish was excellent, very strong finish!

Our compere played a fire saxophone which was visually impressive although we couldn’t hear much of the saxophone over the backing music, again this could have been due to the poor acoustics at the back of the hall. Dave provided the excellent ‘Your sax is on fire’ tagline. This also spawned a fire piano discussion during the interval and we agreed that would be a hilarious next step.

Nicky and Joe performed a really nice buugeng (S – staff) routine. I thought it was lovely and gothic and atmospheric and I really enjoyed it a lot. They kept in time pretty well too and kept me entertained by making lots of varied shapes and movements. Great costumes too!

Raffle time! The raffle was bonkers! They didn’t split the prizes up in the usual convention manner so one lucky winner ended up with all three of the amusing hats! Slightly gutting for everyone else. Matthew won an interesting Da Vinci Code board game and someone in the audience was nearly killed by Craig Charles in CD form. I enjoyed the raffle.

There was a BJC announcement for 2018, the dates have been confirmed for 3rd – 9th April.

The second half began and the compere introduced herself as Miss Natalie. The audience was asked to swivel in their seats to look to the back of the room in order to watch the next act.

Mila Crook took to the floor to show us a pretty impressive baton twirling display. This was made even more impressive by the terrible lighting which she had to endure. Lots of great gymnastics while the baton was airborne and lovely shoulder rolls and tricks. It was more of a competition routine than a stage performance but it was great to watch and it went down very well, we were suitably impressed.

Pierre (Ball Spinning Pete) took to the stage with a French themed act complete with a mini Eiffel tower. He showed us loads of difficult ball spinning tricks as well as headbounce with the ball jumping a rope. The mouthstick ball balance tricks and rolls were very impressive as well as the mouthstick ball spin combo. This was followed by an impressive bonus bum wiggle.

Max (BYCPOTY 2017) showed us a new diabolo routine set to a new piece of music. This was well done with lots of nice music cues for his tricks. Far better audience interaction than previous times I’ve seen him and an excellent costume. Coloured sweat bands which match the diabolos was all it needed, well done.

Closing the show was the wonderfully ambitious Cambridge Passing Collective. The routine is still awesome. Starts with a very slick 4 person ball passing section, slightly droppy this time round although they never struggle to get straight back into the pattern in time with each other and the music, this is followed by some pretty funny stage setting ready for the big club passing section. It’s really well put together, nice and varied, full of lovely big patterns. The closing pattern is HUGE and looks awesome. A great act (wish it would fit on the Leeds JC stage).

I cannot remember the final bows, I think they went OK. Overall it was a very good show, the compere was not to my taste but did a fair job, and the acts were varied and good.

Convention close

After the show there was still an hour or so before the hall closed so obviously a group of us started playing gladiators. I ducked out part way through to join Heydar and Phil for some last minute passing. We slowly packed away our toys, said our farewells and wandered back to the car.

I was annoyed to find that during the day someone had managed to scrape the back of my car by being inept at parking. Bit of a downer at the end of such a nice day. We navigated the centre of Sheffield with relative ease and made good time back up the motorway for home whilst playing the ‘first line of the song game’ on the journey.

Thank you to the Sheffield Circus Convention team for hosting the event and welcoming us all to Sheffield. By my reckoning the numbers were up from last year and I hope to see even more of you there next year.

Cheers, Jon

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I am Jon Peat.

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