British Juggling Convention 2006

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The 19th British Juggling Convention, Bodmin

20-April-2006 to 23-April-2006

The Fest

Nicky & I visited Cornwall for the BJC as part of a much longer holiday, we decided to scout out the site a couple of days early on the Tuesday night & was quite surprised to see number of people (Barnesy, Mini, Ewan, Void) already busy setting up the site & proving that every problem can be solved with brute force. We also got the first sighting of Mini's plastic duck/self defence weapon & his fantastic red showman's suit.

We came back the next day in the early afternoon. Reception was up & running considerably earlier than advertised & a few people were already pitching their tents. We got a cheer & a round of applause for being numbers 1 & 2 at the pre reg desk & received our convention packs including the natty surfboard necklace which would be our pass for the festival. Later in the afternoon Kevin turned up with Simon, Tom & Becky in tow bringing our tally of BJC first timers up to 4. Dr Bob turned up a bit later & John arrived in the evening after thinking that walking three miles from the station with his kit was a good idea.

Still in the afternoon though the fencing for the campsite arrived a day late so it was all hands to the pump to enclose the main campsite before the deluge of BJCers arrived. Then it was off for some more fence monkeying over at the overflow camping area where we ended up trying unsuccessfully to drag the sunken fencing lorry out of the mud. Then it was off again to set up the fencing around the hill above the Swamp tent. After that the rest of the TWJC contingent pitched their tents after being told we could, then couldn't, then could do so. While this was going I met up with Tom Derrick, who I'd later enjoy watching in the BYJOTY show to finish laying the paths outside the beer, catering & Swamp tents. All of this site construction work could have been done much quicker if just a few more people volunteered! The BJC is put on for jugglers by jugglers, if no one helps there is NO festival.

After all that it was straight onto the drink. We scouted out the local shop & chippy for some of us to pick up supplies. When we came back we were quite surprised to see how many tents had sprang up while we were gone. There were easily more people there on the Wednesday night than there were for the whole of BJC 2005 (which made the poor volunteer turnout more annoying). Surely a sign that the BJC should be extended from the usual 4 days. A relatively early night was had by most of our group in preparation for the real start of the festival.

Thursday morning it was all up for a ropey breakfast in the cafe. Variety & flexibility was lacking & the food wasn't great either. All served on paper plates with ridiculously thin plastic cutlery which regularly snapped, pinging plastic shards at your companions making eating an interesting experience.

While everyone else hit the gym I went off to the Swamp tent for a handstand workshop with Brett Swamp. I've been having trouble with my wrist for many years & recently I have been trying to learn how to hold a decent handstand to strengthen them up a bit. Although learning a handstand on a dodgy wrist may not sound a brilliant idea it has definitely done me some good so I was keen to improve my skills from someone who knows what they are doing. During the pretty strenuous warm up featuring lots of stretching yoga & kung fu exercises it became clear that I was the least flexible person there but I managed to participate in everything comfortably. I learnt a great deal & will definitely try to continue with some of the exercises I learnt to increase my flexibility & control. As well as individual handstand stuff we also did some two person stuff (hi Helen!) & a few three person pyramids & some other acrobalance work. Starting the day with a pretty girl's legs wrapped over your shoulders really sets you up well.

After that I flaked out in the gym with the rest of our group & did a little juggling for a few hours. The hall was a nice 3 tennis courts worth of space, with decent lighting. There was always lots going on in the hall but it was never really overcrowded. As with many others I found myself watching Tempei quite a bit, sliding three large hoops over his shoulders & consistantly pulling off multiple vertax genocides. Peter was working on his 4 ball spinning stack, his three is perfectly solid now & looks great with three identical sized balls, he drew quite an audience with his attempts to place the 4th ball on top. Throughout the festival there always seemed to be at least one three diaboloist in every direction you looked. One of the more interesting things in the gym was shockingly a poi swinger who combined hat moves with asynch circles, with a forward sweep he'd scoop the hat off his head, give it a flourish during a swing behind the head, place it back on his head as he came out of the behind swing then do the same with the other hand. Very innovative & nicely done.

I took a wander through the traders & picked up a set of 6 white PX3s from Jester's & one of Mini's Kendama ready for Matt's workshop later in the festival. I spent the next hour or so adjusting to my new clubs. I'm certainly not used to them yet, starting 5 seems more difficult & the throw height seems far more dependant on where you hold the handle but I think this is largely down to my style & I will grow to really like them. I also had a play with my Kendama, got to get at least the basic cups down before the workshop.

We met up with ex TWJCer Bryn who moved on to pastures new in 2004, very good to see him again. Dave & Helen took babies Sam & Max for a tour round the gym, Dave had time for some passing too. Danny & Catherine also had their kids Jenny & Charlie in tow. Jenny was also seen being supported on a unicycle. Absolutely no fatherly pressure applied there then ;)

In the evening most of the gang joined up for a mass takeaway pizza night, it was pretty good food for a reasonable price but our track record for receiving everything we ordered remains at 0%. From here on in I continued my path into alcoholic oblivion.

Devilstick Peat has shaved his beard off. Shocking.

Friday morning it was off to the shops for some more cider. I hung around juggling instead of going to the games, but those who went said it was very entertaining, especially for the very young (non-juggling) girl who won a set of spangly new Globalls. I went along to Matt Hall's Kendama workshop, when I arrived there were plenty of people waiting but no Sensai. Apparently he'd forgotten about one workshop he was down for running already (I guess that's what happen when you're down for doing at least 2 a day) so a search party went out. He turned up quarter of an hour later with a haul of trophies from the games round his neck explaining his absence! It was a great workshop, you can tell Matt is a professional teacher. I think every single attendee significantly improved over the course of the workshop. I ended up hitting tricks I would never have thought of attempting. There was lots of fun innuendo too, Matt's work in progress Kendama act sounds like it will be fantastic. After the workshop I went back to the TWJC camp & I think everyone was surprised & impressed with how much I had learnt.

There was a total fire ban across the whole site which although didn't make a blind bit of difference to me, didn't go down too well with a few people. During the business meeting we found out that it was a necessary evil & could be a continuing trend.

I think I attended most Renegade shows this year but I'm not sure. Particular highlights included Paul & the entire audience singing the London Underground song, followed by Matt Hall & the entire audience singing Tenacious D. A fantastic performance by the Reduced Public Show company, Jason Perry's send up of Aaron Gregg in particular. Tempei's rope tricks & his astounding quadruple vertax genocide. Aaron Gregg & the guy with Stegasaurus hair squeezing through the handles of a shopping basket. The guy who played the didgeridoo with it balanced on his mouth. Mini dribbling chilli vodka into people's mouths.

British Young Juggler of the Year Show

Friday evening saw the Swamp tent packed out for the second BYJOTY competition. I was squeezed into a tiny spot on the floor. When Luke announced that there would be 13 acts performing my heart sank, I thought I'd never be able to sit through the whole show. But to Luke's credit the show was extremely tight & flowed brilliantly. In the end it was over in just over an hour & a half. Every act was of top quality, a really big improvement on last year, especially in the stagecraft & presentation department which was my main gripe from 2005.

The first act saw Matt Pang doing some really nice hat & ball juggling combinations, all with lots of stage movement & engaging the audience. Sadly though there were way too many drops. Same act again next year but without the drops please! There were two really high skill level diabolo acts with 1, 2 & 3 diabolos, the most memorable being by Zack Turner. Despite only juggling for a year he was pulling off ridiculously tough, Mad French Posse level tricks to earn himself a spot in the upcoming Crawley Festival 2006, very droppy but stilll mind blowingly good. There were two pairs of twins in the show, the most memorable being the guy who decided to perform bare chested in a pair of leather trousers. To my mind you have to be a special person to pull off that type of look, not a 16 year old kid. Getting past the costume he had some very very good skills but his style was far too finger tippy for my liking. But hey, I think Double Sticking demonstrates a lack of control.

Tom Derrick made a great impression showing remarkable stage presence for his first performance & presented a great mix of contact & toss juggling with up to 5 giant tennis balls as well as some impressive ball on ball balances & cigar box tricks. A joy to watch. Lucy (aka Lukas) did a very entertaining juggling & unicycle drag act to 'make up for' the lack of girls in the show line up, well performed & very entertaining. Star of the night was Jon Peat, like many I had never seen or heard of him before but he was simply sensational, his whole act just oozed style. Reeling off some really nice combinations with up to 7 balls with some amazing kick ups & an incredibly smooth 5 ball mills mess was pretty good but it was the constantly changing ridiculous facial expressions that won the audience over. He was the only performer who looked like he really loved being on the stage, & that just flowed straight into the audience. Very appropriate backing track too, anyone know the title? Zyllan Spilsbury returned again, apparently after some gentle persuasion from a shin kicking fan. More of the same from Zyllan except without the glow, lots of really hard club tricks, but unfortunately a disappointing performance due to too many drops.

Norbi broke out the rings again & sold it well as usual. A good well thought out act - music, costume, variety of tricks were all there & would have been a gold winning routine in my mind but (altogether now) there were too many drops. Last on stage was the propaganda machine that is Arron Sparks, this time round he applied his signature loud & brash style to cigar boxes. Lots of tricks with 3 & 4 boxes & a great twist with 5 which I won't spoil. Another well put together & performed act.

After a ten minute break for the votes to be counted & the judges to deliberate their decisions Luke presided over a rapid fire best trick competition in the style of Extreme Juggling starring the BYJOTY cast. Lots of near misses of some really big tricks with some great commentary by Luke was a top spectacle to watch. The cheers when a performer pulled off a big trick were awesome. We saw three diabol suns, two diabolo multicides & hyperloop variations, a spinning kicking move while juggling on a unicycle & too much for the mind to remember. The eventual winner was Jon Peat with a rather special triplex into 6 ball mills mess. Great stuff.

Finally head judge Matt Hall announced the decisions of the panel of judges (Owen Reynolds, Jon Udry, Mike Armstrong). Silver awards were given to Tom Derrick, Zyllan Spilsbury, Norbi & Arron Sparks, but the panel felt that no acts reached the Gold standard this year either. The judges choice went to Arron Sparks. Picking up the spots in the Crawley & next year's BJC were Zack Turner & Norbi Whitney respectively. The overall title of British Young Juggler of the Year was again voted for by the audience, the hats of three different competitors were equally pretty full when I cast my vote (for the eventual winner, yay!) when Matt announced that the title went to Jon Peat I was genuinely happy & really pleased for the guy.

The big money prize for the number of drops in the show sweepstake went to our very own Dr Bob, but did he get a round in? Did he buggery. In fact I don't think Bob has bought me a drink in living memory. I can't remember the exact number of drops in the show, but Bob had 131 which was under. Average of 10 drops per act? Way too much.

BYJOTY is only 2 years old & already it is a major fixture of the BJC. Good work Luke.

Circomedia Showcase Show

On Saturday afternoon we managed to grab decent seats in the Swamp tent for the Circomedia Showcase Show. The compere's were rather flat, nothing they did was particularly bad but they just didn't maintain the energy created by the acts.

Pierre showed the wonders that a bottle of Southern Comfort can do for a performer backstage slipping into a dreamworld where you can be as creative as you like. Lovely contemporary ball juggling set to classical music. A broken hearted juggler performed with a bucket & balls, despite a slow start the act really picked up & for me was one of the best in the show, great character (one that I've never seen applied to juggling before) & a great range of tricks to go with it.

Two girls dressed in white performed a static trapeze routine. It was an aerial act which did not bore me senseless, which coming from me is high praise. The safety inspector who climbed the silks showed good character & engaged the audience well, especially the cute vocal kids. Once up in the air though there were times when I was bored.

The animalesque contortionist had a lot of good serpentine moves especially the spine twisting roll across the stage (left hand plus left foot to right hand plus right foot...) but a few shaky poses & handstands spoiled the illusion for me.

There was a very sexy hat & club juggler who worked well with some classic sexy songs, but she suffered from too many drops & you could see the confidence slip from her face & the sexiness went with it. The same girl came back for a double act with a really geeky guy in a fifties style twisting dance club. Lots of dancing, comic acrobalance, stripping & ripping of clothes. Velcro has never been put to better use. Great bawdy fun & the act of the show for me.

The Public Show

Saturday night we caught one of the single decker buses to the evening show which was being held quite a way away in Redruth, it seems we were lucky not to be on the double decker we flew past on the dual carriageway, in which people were actually writing out their last will & testaments. When we arrived in town we were told that the show would be an hour or so late, so naturally we went for a pint. We were finally let into the theatre & managed to get one of our beachballs inflated & set bouncing around the audience before the show. I don't think many people saw our name on the side or the penguins I drew on the wrong pole but still the beach balls were courtesy of us, hope you enjoyed.

Our host for the evening was Matt Hall who was on top form, very entertaining between each act having fun with cigar boxes, Kendama, lots of jokes & Japanese anecdotes & his faithful minions. The highlight was undoubtedly the EPIC bout of rock, paper, scissors-look over there between Matt & Ewan. The 'Matrix' bit had me in stitches.

Opening the show were the duo Freehand Juggling consisting of Owen & Howie showing off the lovely new Gloclub ultimate with all its programmable millions of glowing colour goodness. top passing, great skills & well choreographed lighting effects was a great visual feast to watch but at times too busy for me especially with the projector screens showing a live feed of the each juggler right next to their partner. The whole stage was a bit too busy. I wanted to see juggling, what I got was the Windows media player visualiser.

Volker Maier performed two acts in the show. One a stylish devilstick routine which opened with some amusing mime & continued with some very fast & slick twirling moves before moving onto using the handsticks with 1 then both sticks again. I have obviously been spoilt with performances from Marcus Furtner & such like as I was disappointed with how little 2 devilsticks were used in the act. His second spot was a stylised underwater themed act involving a massive inflatable balloon. At first I thought I was going to see another Professional Idiot clone first seen at the BJC in 2002 but I was pleasantly surprised with some new ideas such as playing with other objects including Globalls while inside the balloon but I was disappointed with how little these ideas were expanded on.

Marco Paoletti from Argentina fielded lots of greetings in different languages while waiting for his music to start which was fun. Then the lights went out & the globalls came out. Marco performed a host of 4 & 5 ball siteswaps & some very nice three ball trickery, but unfortunately the routine contained a lot of body moves which are pretty pointless if you can't see the body in the dark. Sadly a case of unnecessary glow. I'd love to see the act again with the lights up & normal balls.

Luke & Pola presented the art of juggling, an act combining juggling & performance painting. Interesting concept & very nice execution as Luke tries to keep up with the everchanging image that Pola was painting. Having seen Luke juggle once or twice before I found myself watching the painting more than the juggling. A bit droppy on Luke's part & afterwards Luke said they messed up the order a bit, but it was all covered up really well as I don't think anyone noticed.

All the way from Canada was the ruthless video lord Aaron Gregg. There was very little juggling, a 7 ring pulldown, squeezing through a tennis racket while balancing a jar of peanut butter on a pole on his chin & walking over a volunteer holding a spinning ball between her legs while juggling three clubs & balancing a fourth on his chin, but the presentation & comedy was top notch. Expect to hear many of his one liners reproduced in street shows up & down the country in the near future. Niels Dunker presented a technical routine with lots of 5 ball pirouettes & a 7 club flash. Great juggling, but a bit too droppy & was missing the 'wow' factor.

Beyond Bouncing aka Jochen Poschko & Peter Monks were two ice cool jugglers in sharp suits from Germany performing up to 11 ball passing patterns at various levels around, under, over & on top of a table. I particularly liked the bit where one guy lay on his back with his legs in the air, then the other guy lay flat on his feet & both juggled overhead, very smooth. Apex Acro were a team of three acrobats who fluidly pulled off many impressive stunts that worked well in time with the music, but again they were missing that 'wow' factor for me. Last year's BYJOTY & local hero Jon Udry took to the stage with a variety of tricks mixing balls clubs & rings in interesting ways. Very classy & well performed, Jon looked very relaxed & at home on the stage throughout. Definitely one of the best acts of the festival for me.

So where was this 'wow' factor? Well last on stage was Ryo Yabe with a level of precision I have never seen before. Ryo showed how a technical act should be done - as near to perfect as possible. Vertax around the body throws & back out again, suns, suicides & hyperloops without a pause with two & three high behind the back with pirouettes all at a dizzying pace. Simply stunning & well deserving the standing ovation at the end.

Thanks very much to...

Well done to Hayley Kneale the main organiser, Stephanie Schneider the invisible accountant, Andy Vass for a top public show, & of course the regular BJC champions Mini, The Void, Jak. Another fine chapter in the BJC's history.