British Juggling Convention 2010

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The 23rd British Juggling Convention, Huddersfield

7-April-2010 to 12-April-2010

After an enjoyable stop over in Halifax Nicky & I arrived at the site. Kevin, Becky, Rob, Cat & Karina were already there & had made the mistake of setting up next to our slightly rowdy friends from SJC. Paul & Louisa (not Laura), Dave L, Helen plus their kids Max, Sam & Hannah were all in attendance too but decided not to tent it this year.

The Site

Huddersfield New College made a pretty good venue, the main building housed the reception area, some toilets & showers & the main juggling hall which proved to be too small with it getting pretty crowded at peak times. A large number of workshop rooms were split between the main building & a few buildings nearby. A short walk away was the school cafeteria which served ridiculously cheap breakfasts which were very welcome & the staff were very friendly & accommodating over the whole festival. By day 2 we were in the habit of taking our own knives & forks to overcome the flimsy plastic cutlery problem.

Also doing food was Montegriffo's Frying Circus who as ever provided some fantastic desserts, one night though he'd run out of food which was a disappointment to some of our group. Monte's was set up at one end of a good sized marquee which had a bar at the other. This bar introduced me to Crabbies alcholic ginger beer which went down very nicely, so nicely that I bagged the last of their stock on Friday night. Attached to this marquee was another identical marquee which was slightly quieter for chat & games plus workshop space which was mostly used by the immensely popular Torwood Wheelers with their German wheels.

Standing opposite was another marquee for the traders who mercifully only managed to fleece me for a single spinning ring this year. Cat & Karina picked up a spangly new set of 6 PX3s to help them with their foray into the world of passing. Kevin picked up everything else.

Beyond the marquees was a block of showers & toilets which although a bit grimmer (not that it was dirty just that it had a simple concrete floor & the loo had a startlingly cold bare metal seat that made my eyes water) actually stood up to the test of hundreds of jugglers far better than those in the main building which became progressively dirtier over the course of the festival. A bit further on the Swamp Circus tent was pitched which provided a (sadly too small) show venue.

Between the catering marquee & the main building was an impressive obstacle course for the trials unicyclists which saw some spectacular unplanned dismounts over the course of the festival.

The camping space was not too far from the car park, but I definitely want to thin down the amount of kit that I take to these festivals. On the first day the camping space was a little tight but was soon increased as it filled up. The ground was a bit wet from the previous day's rain & in a shocking first I will admit that even I was cold on the first night. Aside from that the anticipated storm force winds never materialised & we were very lucky to have good weather from start to finish.

The Circomedia Circus Space Showcase Show

On the Thursday night the Circomedia/Circus Space Show which was massively over subscribed, so much so that people had to be turned away on the promise that the performers would run a second show immediately afterwards. Lots of people who were already crammed in, myself & Nicky included, volunteered to leave in order to relieve some of the strain on the bulging canvas & be a bit more comfortable in the second performance.

There was no compere, just a series of skits by the students which included name boards for the next act which I completely failed to take note of. The skits themselves showed great promise including a guy balancing on a rola bola while juggling 3 clubs with a broom balanced on his chin, there was a very nice bit of multiperson hat manipulation, & an excellent bit of 2 person cigar boxing. With a bit more material the hat & the cigar box stuff could (should?) have been full stand alone acts in themselves. They certainly left me wanting more.

The show opened with Ilizane Broks in a black dress performing a three ball routine, lots of nice tricks, lots of good movement, very little filler (which is starting to become a major irritant of mine), there were a few drops towards the end but still not bad at all. James Allen followed with a hat juggling routine.

Darryl Carrington performed a very neat piece while being put on hold with his bank. There were some really nice tricks involving 1 ball, a mug & the phone. He also did tricks with the box the balls came in & up to 5 balls too. It was smart, funny & very well thought out.

Tom Hunt performed a very good technical ball juggling routine, again very little filler, just lots of very well executed tricks with smooth transitions & lots of stage movement.

My favourite act was Carlos Romero Martin with a superbly performed club manipulation set, it was very slick, more tricks than you could count & interspersed with silly jazz outbursts. This one had lots of charm.

Jake Kenny presented a gentleman juggler routine which included some very impressive feats such as flipping the cane from a foot to chin balance & some very nice blind catches of the hat on the end of the cane.

The show finished with the aerial duo of Darryl Carrington and Gemma Michael, the base hung from a static cradle & manipulated the flyer through lots of interesting moves. It was very fluid & was like the flyer was being juggled rather than held in a sequence of static poses. Funky flight goggles too.

In all it was a really good show, well done to Rod Laver for getting it together & massive thanks to all involved for going beyond to do it all twice.

Thursday Night Renegade

Matt & Stumpy took the reins for a night which included a horde of impressive acts, & bizarrely an onstage chess tournament. Matt kicked things off with his Grease Lightning devilstick routine, I think he was disappointed with the number of drops but it was certainly good enough to get the crowd going.

Jon Peat was as sensational as only Jon Peat can be with 4 balls. Jon Udry & Norbi did 8 to 11 ring passing, much of it over the top of the chess players. Sam did some very impressive bar flair & another Matt showed us some wonderful tricks with a set of 3 magnetic balls. Marcus Furtner showed off his defensive devilstick techniques where he batted away clubs thrown across the stage at him while maintaining a double propellor. His biggest cheer was the result of dropping a stick onto the chess board & ruining the game.

Pete Gamble cracked his whip at lots of unsuspecting people in the front row & thrashed the chessboard for another massive cheer. He then brought out a Very Impressive Pea Shooter™ which he used to pierce a can of strongbow held on Russell's head.

Tiff did an excellent spot with the wavy benches (5 peaks, 3 troughs) from the bar tent where he rolled balls around in interesting patterns like Jay Gilligan's Tracks routine. Then he turned the benches round & propped up one end on a chair to juggle against what I can only describe as a wavy pinball table. He did lots of patterns that featured multiplex throws where the balls woud land in different troughs of the wave. Very nicely done.

British Kendama Open

On Friday afternoon it was off to the Swamp tent for a spot of kendama. This year's open saw 3 different competitions: a beginners & advanced trick ladder, where competitors have 3 attempts to hit a trick before moving onto the next, the winner is the person who progresses the furthest. Plus the speed trick challenge where competitors have to complete a sequence of 10 tricks in order as quickly as possible.

The Void had already signed me up for the advance competition, I nagged Nicky into entering the beginners & put Kevin down as well. This year's event seemed to be better attended by both audience members & competitors than the last event I was able to attend at the BJC in Doncaster, 2008.

The event kicked off with the beginners competition. Groups of 3 competitors took their places on stage facing the judging panel of Donald Grant, Guy Heathcote & Tom Derrick. There were a lot of new entrants including some who bravely took the stage after only having picked up a kendama in a workshop held the day before. Nicky did herself proud before falling at trick 5, Tsubame Kaeshi (Orbit). After overcoming the surprise of being entered into the competition Kevin also did very well for himself, Void in his role as commentator remarked with amusement on the surprised cheers from the TWJC contingent when he pulled off Tomeken, before falling on the trapeze.

This years speed trick challenge came down to Donald Grant & Guy Heathcote. The showdown was full of misses, lots of shaking hands & Donald even got the order of tricks wrong at one point. Guy managed to scramble through the fastest to walk away with this year's speed trick title.

There were fewer competitors for the advanced trick ladder (although many of the competitors in the beginners competition showed they were more than capable in my opinion) so competitors took the stage 2 at a time. I ended up going head to head with Tom Derrick. I expected to go out on trick 5, Ganman (Gunslinger). No one was more surprised than I was when I hit it first time. I was even more surprised when Tom went out on trick 6, Hikouki (Aeroplane) leaving me to carry on through to trick 9 on my own. My hands were shaking a lot but I managed to hold a lighthouse for the required 3 seconds before going out on faster than gravity. As the next few competitors came it became increasingly strange that I had progressed the furthest.

Finally, the Void came out of his self-imposed competition exile to go head to head with Matt from Youtube. These 2 provided a masterclass in kendama, The Void is pretty laid back but Matt was pulling off tricks with no visible sign of interest let alone effort. Void was managing to keep up, but Matt just wasn't missing anything. However, Matt stumbled at trick 16, the slip grip special. I get the impression the trick was simply something he'd not tried before. The Void hit the trick so all his previous misses no longer mattered, then went on to complete the entire trick ladder to pick up his second crown.

Many thanks to Void for putting on another fantastic event which all of us at TWJC enjoyed immensely.

British Young Juggler of the Year Show

After the crush to get into the circus school showcase, we queued a lot earlier than before (so early I had to nip to the bar & come back). So the decision to then open a second queue allowing everyone at the back to jump to the front wasn't particularly popular. Still we managed to get a seat for the show which was being handled by Tom Derrick in Luke's absence this year. The lovely Nina Adams took on the role of compere & got the first laugh by asking that the fire exits be kept clear.

The show started off with Tom who came on, juggled a three club cascade, threw a few doubles & then left. Did I miss something?

One of the youngest performers of the show was Ashley, he juggled 3-5 balls & did one & 2 diabolos which was unfortunately tainted by the unnecessary glow. It was pretty clean, top marks for getting up on stage but it was just a presentation of a few tricks & I was left underwhelmed.

The girl in black juggling balls was the first act to show promise. She juggled 3 to 5 balls with a nicely choreographed routine with tricks that matched the music, & it would have been great but was just too droppy to work. I really would like to see this girl perform again after a bit more polish. I know it would work well.

Jason did some impressive 3 to 5 ball stuff, but it was just a presentation of tricks & not a real act plus too many drops.

At this point I was getting really concerned & desperately trying to think of a way to vote for the compere at the end of the show.

But suddenly things started to pick up. David Haslam performed some really hard technical club juggling pulling off tricks such as a 5 club 3 up pirouette into singles. Again good movement, very little filler, very impressive but (I know I sound like a stuck record) too many drops.

Chris Cabry performed a great 3 to 5 club act with impressive tricks, lots of movement using all of the stage. The make or break of the routine though was the choice in music. He performed to the theme tune for the Teletubbies which was more than a little surreal, & unfortunately served as a distraction from the act. It was a real fine line though, had Chris performed in a set of brightly coloured pyjamas it would have been brilliant, had he performed dressed as a Teletubby we would have seen the first BYJOTY gold award I'm certain.

Mark Cabry performed a diabolo act, it was very good, particularly the vertax section where he nearly took out the front row on his first vertax genocide attempt. But I've seen it all before. How long have I got left on my prediction that a diaboloist will not win the BYJOTY title... looks like 2 more years.

Then on came Johnny Malcolm with a bucket load of confidence & showing great stage presence & crowd control. His first trick was 3 balls behind the back blind. He juggled 3 to 5 balls & clubs with real style. As a purist I really enjoyed watching Johnny's technique. Each throw was calm & controlled, there was no chucking stuff up in the air then dealing with whatever happened later. Simply superb.

Closing the show were Josh Turner & Lewis Kennedy. It was the BYJOTY's first team entry, but they wanted to be voted for individually which ruined there chances of winning the public vote before they set foot on stage. Their act was lots of fun to watch, a lot of hard technical tricks with balls & clubs, Lewis did a lot of it with a ball bouncing on his head. It was fast & snappy, & there was always something going on. But guess what, there were far too many drops. That aside though I still recommended them to Dave Law for the Crawley show award.

Johnny, David, Josh & Lewis all picked up silver awards. Johnny picked up my vote, the Judge's Choice award & also the audience vote for the title of British Young Juggler of the Year. He really cleaned up on the prizes too, bagging so much new kit he could hardly carry it all!

BJC pub quiz

In the evening we entered the BJC pub quiz, Dave & Suzanne joined Kevin, Nicky & myself to form the Royal Crawley Wells team. The quiz was 5 rounds of pretty challenging questions one of which was a fun photo round. Nicky told me the next morning that she had no idea how drunk I was until we challenged the ruling of one of the questions by presenting the quiz master with a Henry's Pirouette club & a tape measure. In the end we came a respectable 2nd with 41 out of 52. The top score was 44. If we had won our appeal & didn't change our mind on one of the photo questions, we still would have come 2nd.

Friday Night Renegade

Friday night was hosted by the lovely Loz Becoz whose leopard spot/Trill tattoo ensured that she had the undivided attention from half the audience. She also masterfully handled Bungle's drink funnel, & everything else the audience poured into her cup.

A chap called Dave rolled 8 coins through his fingers which was very impressive & something I'd love to take a closer look at if I bump into him again. Pete returned with the Very Impressive Pea Shooter™ & burst various segments of a balloon model target before implanting a dart into Paul's right bum cheek, then he whipped Russell's balloon pants to shreds. The Juggling Jelly Babies were a group of 4 who juggled lots of stuff while encumbered in their oversized sleeping bag suits.

Rossy performed Invisible Poo backwards & another poem he wrote about another pretentious poet which I really liked. A diaboloist from the BYJOTY best trick competition pulled off some big tricks, Matt did some nice isolations with 2 small sticks & the front row got a good soaking from a meteor weighted with water filled buckets. There were 2 guys who tried to catch a ball on sprigs of broccoli that they held in their mouths & there was the appearance of a mankini.

The talk of the night was undoubtedly Frenchie who under dimmed lights stripped naked & performed a really good (& not just because she was naked) hula hoop routine with an LED hoop. Top marks for bravery.

More kendama

After a couple of hours of badge control Nicky & I popped our heads into the traders. I took the chance to test my Kyu ranking level with The Void. I was very proud to achieve the top grade 1, in front of a small & encouraging crowd. My pride was short lived when Dave the monkey pointed out that my certificate didn't mean anything because it had the word "Void" written on it.

The Public Show

We were dropped off by juggler bus in town where we found that almost everything shuts at 5pm. While wandering round looking for somewhere to eat, Cat blew up a balloon, which then exploded with a bang impressive enough to make shopkeepers come out to investigate. My ears are still ringing now.

This year's Public Show was in the Huddersfield Town Hall which was the scene for the greatest pre-show chaos I have ever experienced. We had tickets for the balcony which gave us a splendid view of the theatre which housed a very impressive pipe organ. From the moment we all filed in a mad organist with wild hair was up high blasting out really powerful & haunting music. Thank you Chris Lloyd, that was a real treat.

We chucked out a few small beach balls, the balloon chain was constructed to span all 3 tiers, & there was even a radio controlled helicopter flying around the hall. After a few minutes a large beach ball appeared that looked like one we unleashed 2 or 3 years ago. I took a double take when I spotted some writing on it. Then I made out our web address to realise that our ball had come home! This was an oddly emotional moment for me.

The compere for the show was Vladimir Dmitri Kokov. He brought an excellent level of innuendo to the proceedings & wore obscene rubber trousers, what's not to like? He performed a number of magic tricks in between acts including a Russian Roulette piece which I enjoyed, it didn't occur to me at the time though that this would be distressing to some of the young kids in the audience. Dave & Helen ended up missing a large chunk of the show because their kids were upset.

Malte & Niels, aka Spot the Drop opened with their fantastically choreographed ball juggling duet. Sitting side by side they performed a fantastic dance made up of synchronised sequences & Prechac style side by side patterns. They then moved onto passing clubs going through 5 with lots of movement & club swinging, 6 & 7, before finishing with a respectable run of 8. Act of the show straight off the bat.

The very beautiful Frida Odden only did a 3 ball cascade during her routine, but she juggled the cascade everywhere & from every angle. This was a really lovely act for jugglers.

Guy from Belgium was a very well presented ring juggler, he juggled patterns with 3, 4 & 5 rings which included some nice body bounces but the act felt a little bland to me. Norbi performed his first act which was a moodily love struck single diabolo routine to Leona Lewis, the diaboloing was good, but I couldn't tell whether it was a parody or not. If it was a parody, it didn't make me laugh, if it was a serious act I didn't buy into the character.

Trevor Organ closed the first half with a comedy plate spinning act, he told some very groan worthy jokes, smashed a lot of plates & was on stage for what seemed like an age. One of our convention virgins suggested he should have been put on during the interval.

Jon Udry ran around, mucked about a lot, juggled rings, balls & clubs. Everything he did was great & there were a lot of things that made me laugh, but there was just too much faffing around, he seemed to take forever to do his first juggling trick. Maybe I'm just getting old. Norbi returned to the stage for a ring juggling act. It started off very well, making good use of the triangular knee pockets to make catches, but it became increasingly droppy towards the end.

Marcus Furtner picked up the pace with a flambouyant matador costume & a massively over the top strut. Fantastic devilsticking as always. Megan Pike performed a very solid contact staff routine similar to the one I saw at the British'ish cabaret in Nottingham, in Nottingham I thought it was one of the best acts in the show, here though I was much less interested.

Closing the show were Josh Turner, Lewis Kennedy & Matthew Tiffany, after an excellent & promising start with the mirror it descended into a droptastic best trick competition that was far too chaotic to keep track of. A real shame because it started off so well.

In all I was disappointed. Spot the Drop (easily a finale act), Frida & Marcus were all great, everything else fell flat. The lack of continuous applause while the performers took their final calls was awkwardly noticeable this year too.

Saturday Night Renegade

I couldn't get in, but had a very enjoyable evening of chatting instead.

Thanks very much to...

Stacie, you are a star. You & your team did the BJC proud. It was a very well organised & well run event. Good job well done.