Crawley Circus Festival 2009

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The Hawth, Crawley

14-Aug-2009 to 16-Aug-2009

We had our best ever turnout for a festival this year: Nicky, Cat, Karina, Helen D, Beth, Jo, Joey, Hannah, Jenny, Louisa (not Laura), Paul, Kevin, Dave K, Dave L, Helen S & the kids, Charlie M, Laurence, John, The Real Simon, Little Si, Sky, Frag & myself. I managed to get on site around 7ish to find all the tents all assembled & the various beverages already flowing. Well done & thank you very much to the advance guard, you did us proud.

Kev turned up, entered the camp at a run, launched his self-erecting tent (I don't think he was particularly interested in where it landed) then settled down for a drink.

Thank you very much to Charlie M who took on the daunting task of sorting out the order for the traditional Friday night pizza binge. For some reason Dominos were a little suspicious of an order for over £100 which we asked to be delivered to a car park. Negotiation didn't help but paying by debit card did. I still don't think that eating a 13.5 inch pizza on your own is all that impressive, but Jo is easily pleased.

There was a great deal of effort put into the drinking games this year, Jo instigated the Roxanne drinking game where one team drinks on every instance of "Roxanne" the other drinks on "put on a red light". I was in the second team & thought that it would be very easy to get through the song compared to team 1. I was very wrong indeed. After that the various individuals still standing were assigned individual words from every new song as they came out of the stereo. The Mexican wave of swigs during Mr Blue Sky was awesome.

Every now & then I'd wander round the car park to the various small parties that were happening. On one such wander I met up with a guy called Alex who joined us back at the TWJC camp & was quickly christened Better Simon after he performed a sensational rendition of Hiphopopotamus vs Rhymnoceros in which he alternated between precise enunciation & incomprehensible babbling but with no perceptible difference in enthusiasm.

After I reached my limit I made my way to bed (well, in reality Charlie 1 took me back to bed) where I had my first encounter with an airbed. Nicky was already tucked up & asleep, up until I came back. I learnt that it is possible to propel your partner into the air if you fall just right. After a minute or so of trying to simply get on to the airbed I stopped to rethink my strategy. According to Nicky she asked, "Have you passed out?"

"No, I'm just having a rest." I replied.

Then I passed out.

I awoke in the exact same position that I gave up in the night before.

The next morning most people were up early considering what we'd just been through.

Jo surprised me by showing a fair amount of talent at face painting. I patiently kept very still while Jo decorated my face with a fish, where my own lips completed the face of the fish. From then on every time I had something to eat or drink it seemed that someone was taking my picture. Karina, Cat, Helen & Nicky all came away with various ornate swirly patterns. Beth had a freaky new set of eyes painted onto her eyelids. Simon was painted up as an alarmingly convincing Geisha. On the Sunday Frag ended up with a full six pack, chest hair, medallion & tattoos. Alas the much talked about breast painting never materialised. Jo also seemed to have a thing for SJC (which is an abbreviation (& also an acronym) of Southend Juggling Club, so it saves the necessity of saying Southend Juggling Club, so it takes less time). She manufactured a rivalry which manifested again through body painted slogans.

Most of us attended the also traditional takeout workshop run by the ever lovely Steve & Amie. Steve managed to squeeze some interesting new sounds from his horn this year. Dave & I made the same sounds as last year. We found we were surprisingly good at the Runaround which we'd never tried together before. This may have been assisted by the amount of sweat we produced which allowed our lubed bodies to slip past each other very easily. The faster we went the more steam we produced.

The Show

Master of ceremonies Charlie Holland introduced the acts & also some vintage circus clips in a nod to the old London Juggling Convention.

The first live act of the show was Ian Marchant who juggled 3-5 balls then went on to the classic plate spinning routine with a rack of poles. It was nicely presented, aside from one drop it was completely clean but unfortunately I've seen it all before.

Hand balancer Martha Harrison showed grace & strength in an inspiring act. I don't think I'll ever get tired of watching a good handbalancing act. Dave K's notable comment before the act was, "I bet we're going to see some gusset here".

The best I can say about diaboloist Emmet Louis is that he was not having a good night & unfortunately everything went wrong for him.

Matt Hennem blew everyone away with possibly the performance of the show. I saw Matt perform at EJC 2006 in Ireland so I was proclaiming his skills with many superlatives to everyone at TWJC when the lineup was first announced. Matt is the only person I've seen who makes contact juggling exciting. I think that no one else moves like Matt because no one else can match his ability to isolate a ball. Some of our relative newbies commented that it was so nice to see a non-angst ridden contact routine.

The first half closed on a massive high with Strictly Dumb Prancing (Tat and Nikki) performing a flambouyant comedy acrobalance routine. They performed with great character & bags of personality.

Freestyle cycling supremo Paddy Waters performed numerous stunts in a really surreal style that was oddly disturbing but also mesmerising. A very nice act indeed. I was particularly impressed with the trick where he rode the bike backwards while the front wheel was dragged behind spinning like a coin. That made me go, "ooooh!".

Kalki was absolutely superb with a drunken hula hoop routine. It was outrageous, funny & sexy with a stonking rock soundtrack. The whole ensemble fitted together like a dream & was one of the most well thought out character acts I have ever seen. A lot of acts are just a person performing a skill, in this act the style in which the tricks were performed defined the character. For me Kalki narrowly edged in front of Matt Hennem.

Tedros combined acrobatics, martial arts & club juggling. The juggling was very good, there were some very slick moves. However, if you want to do martial arts themed juggling the quality level to match is Get The Shoe, which Tedros was some way off. It felt more like a concept piece rather than a polished act.

So and So Circus Theatre returned to Crawley after going down a storm in 2007. As before they were very spectacular, they carried on through a wardrobe malfunction (we were worried that the flailing strap could pose the potential for strangulation). It was good to see their major crowd pleasing move again which is still extraordinary. However, if pushed to choose my favourite acro act of the night I would have to say that I preferred Strictly Dumb Prancing.


Our scheduled compere for the evening was Little Paul, but he was cut short through injury when he started the proceedings with a bit too much enthusiasm & cracked a rib. Yet he still managed to squeeze through a coat hanger though. Bungle stepped in to ease the burden as well as perform a few skits himself.

Mata started us off with his pint glass swinging. It's not Crawley without it.

Stealing Steve performed a magic act that had it all: cross dressing, bondage, a bra & a dead person. Steve was possibly upstaged by the simple sight of Bungle draped in a blanket with his top hat on. Marvelous. Later on after Renegade had finished Steve was telling us how funny it was that people genuinely believe Marvin the Magnificent exists & often ask him serious questions about him. I kept quiet.

Miles did some club juggling, 2 diabolos & finished with 5 balls on a rola bola. The level of organisation he showed by having his own sound system was very alien to me.

One guy came on & pulled lots of comic faces while doing interesting diabolo tricks with special handsticks. The sticks were hollow & the string ran freely from the tip all the way through to the bottom of the handle where the string was tied in a loop which stopped the string from being pulled free. This allowed lots of new cradles using the end loops but the best trick by far was the simplest which I'd love to describe here but I don't want to spoil the surprise just in case you get the chance to see it performed.

Laurence attempted numerous 1 up, 2 up & 3 up pirouettes while clutching a half full pint glass in his mouth. No, I didn't really get it either but it was amusing to watch him get covered in beer. His best pirouette was the one he did while jumping off the stage which ended very predictably.

Dave K & I were yet again volunteered to get up & do some stealing. We mucked around (ya rly) with the silly pick up which amused us greatly during the earlier takeout workshop where we lift a club using one foot each. However, we couldn't get it to work because neither of us could stand on one leg for any length of time.

This year saw the greatest upstaging I have ever seen. Dave K & Beth teamed up as the unpronouncable Uke-Hula Death. It started off relatively tame as Dave played his ukulele & Beth did some hula hoop tricks, both on unicycles. Then Beth asked for a final cuddle just in case. They then started their finale trick which saw Dave again playing his ukulele while Beth stood on his shoulders (& strap causing him to look a little contorted) & did some more hooping. It was fantasticly unstable & more than a little worrying. You guys are ace.

Pretty much straight afterwards Gemma had a good crack at playing an accordian while standing on Bungle's shoulders which was also ace, but sadly not as good as our guys! Top marks for a simple & well delivered put down of the "Hula!" heckle.

The Games

The pre games gladiator sessions turned out to make no difference whatsoever & it seems I may have just given away all my secrets to my TWJC opponents for nothing. I'm tempted to dock Simon some points from his TWJC Gladiators leaderboard score for making it to the final half dozen then dropping at a point when no one was within 2 metres of him.

The annual man the lifeboats (or hurl-the-expendable-small-child as I like to call it) tournament saw the usual brutality, vindictiveness & shameless cheating. I only threw one child this year & I lost out when I failed to extract another child from a rival group. Frag managed to progress quite a bit further, probably due to his heavily lubed torso.

I don't think I've ever gone from looking so cool, to so stupid as I did during the handstand endurance. My internal monologue went something like this:

Right then this looks a good spot, nice & flat, face this way away from the sun, range of motion in my wrists feels good, spine is loose, shoulders freshly crunched, let's have a quick test run, hands down, start with the left leg, kick with the right, duck head, position shoulders, position hips, pull up with the left leg counterbalance with the right, nice, feels straight, let's try a quick 1 hander, hardly balanced but not bad, looks like I'm the only one to pull off a proper handstand so far, even getting a few murmurs of approval from the crowd, sounds like we're off, 1, 2, 3, here we go, oh that's not good, push, push, nnggh, oh, I appear to be horizontal... is that Charlie shouting, "EPIC FAIL"?