British Juggling Convention 2009

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The 22nd British Juggling Convention, Norwich

19-August-2009 to 23-August-2009

I knew it would be an odd festival, I hadn't really got over the last one for starters. Secondly numbers from TWJC were a fraction of what we usually manage. In the end only Cat, Karina, Beth, John, Nicky & I were on site. Dave L & Helen, plus Simon & Laura were about with their families in tow as well, but sadly we didn't get to see much of them. I couldn't get the time off work so I had already missed out on half the festival. After a long 4 hour drive after a long day after a long week, after getting totally lost & then put back on track by the nice people at Papa John's pizza Nicky & I finally found ourselves on site late on Friday night. We soon met up with friends from SJC (SJC is an abb... you get the idea), Crawley & Bungay who helped us settle in.

Various people were seen touring the site on a motorised chaise longue.

We picked up our funky passes which was something that the kids call a "buff", this was actually pretty easy to wear, & would probably have been useful for keeping warm had we been conventioneering in April as they did tend to make you a bit sweaty.

The campsite was pretty big with lots of nice paths & useful circular picnic benches dotted around. We had a nice big bar tent, with a licensed bar at one end & Montegriffo's frying circus tagged onto the side providing some really good grub. Next door to this was the Renegade big top, which thankfully was a decent size which was comfortable enough for me to sit through all of Friday night renegade despite being really tired.

Friday Night Renegade

I can't recall much from this night other than Jay Linn doing a sterling job as the compere. Bungle did his plunger juggling & fire breathing rubber chicken. Ben Beever threw lots of globalls in pretty patterns. Jamie Fletcher did lots of snappy half pirouettes with clubs & some of his ace 3 ball stuff. Beth joined in with the Torwood Wheelers on a German wheel. Emily & Hobbit did some acro while hula hooping which Nicky & I will probably be trying this coming Tuesday, Pete Gamble & Russell Wells mucked around with a whip, cracking at paper plates thrown by Russell & impressively cracking open a can of beer.

The German Wheels

We were aware of the German wheel workshops thanks to some fantastically over enthusiastic messages from Cat & Beth prior to our arrival. By all accounts the workshops run by the Torwood Wheelers were massively popular & oversubscribed throughout the entire festival. Nicky & I were too late to sign up but we were tipped off to pop along anyway because it is quite an energetic activity & a lot of people drop out after a while. So on Saturday morning we made our way to the hall set aside for the wheelers & a lot of other people did too. The instructors were fine with that & jugglers being jugglers there were groups of 3 or 4 people to each wheel & everyone was really good about taking turns & sharing the fun.

The first trick to learn was simply treading the wheel along the outer rim, the next trick was treading the wheel from strut to strut like a hamster, this was considerably more difficult because of the enormous stride required. Then it was into the straps, positioning yourself like Da Vinci's man in a circle & going for a bit of a roll. This felt odd but a lot of fun, it felt a little like doing a cart wheel but for some reason more disorientating for me. We also did another rolling move where you'd hook your feet in so that you are facing the opposite direction to the way you want to roll, set the wheel in motion then grab one strut with both hands then pull like a chin up to pull the wheel over. I ran out of momentum on this move more than any other & had to be helped out with a little push from my spotter.

Lastly we tried rocking the wheel while sitting on one strut so that as the wheel rolls you end up sitting on the floor briefly before being lifted off the ground by the momentum of the wheel. I was fine when the wheel rolled forwards but I lost all momentum when the wheel came back & I couldn't squeeze my too broad shoulders through the frame.

In the hour & a half that I was there I came away with blistered hands, sore feet & a bruised bum. It was very worth it though.


We spent most of the afternoon lounging & chatting, I quite enjoyed lazing in the sun, staring up at the perfect blue sky & watching the flights of the swifts/swallows/birds. It was a really beautiful moment until one of them shat on me.

The Show

We attended the 7pm show which by the sound of things had the superior audience. The Void was looking very dapper & was a fine presence to host the evening. He added considerably more surrealism to the proceedings than is normal for a public show which suited me just fine.

The show got off to a fine start with the Juggling On Tap Orchestra, a talented trio consisting of a drummer, a flute player & a bounce juggling tap dancer. Between them they combined to bash out some very impressive tunes which my more musically inclined friends say were very impressive. They sounded good to me too.

Audrey Decaillon had everyone gaping open mouthed with her stunning club juggling & manipulation &/or her skimpy shorts. She span & rolled clubs around every bit of her body. I can't remember a routine that has contained so many tricks that I have never seen before. The dramatic music heightened the emotion & fit the style & character like a glove. I loved every sexy smoldering look. At this point in the evening I remember thinking that I was really glad I bothered to attend this year's BJC.

BJC favourite Tempei performed with 1 & 2 diabolos including his signature vertax genocide. Nice to see him smiling a lot more too!

Also from Japan was Koba, who juggled big flashy rings with some snappy ring grind work & some very nice half pirouettes involving catching a ring on his foot spinning & flicking it up on the other side.

Ronan performed the first poi act that I have ever applauded because it was worth it & not because I was being polite. The routine featured lots of very well worked isolation moves, some very nice helicopter releases with behind the back catches & some impressive contact juggling arm rolls using the balls of the poi, I'm really not sure how he managed to do that without the string tying itself in a knot.

I entered into the BJC with no idea who would be performing so I was very excited when Void announced the name Komei Aoki. He performed a sensational contact, 3 to 5 balls & ring manipulation. All of which was a masterclass in style. The juggling on its own would be astounding but combined with his stage presence & persona it was something else that reduced the audience to a gushing emotional mass. The man is so deep into his craft & I don't think I know of anyone else who has a greater understanding of what is cool. Komei is one of very few jugglers who I would apply the label of artist rather than performer.

Strictly Dumb Prancing were on fine form again performing their comedy acrobalance routine. Yeah we'd only just seen it last week at Crawley but all of us at TWJC were just as happy to see it again.

Belgian Martin performed his classic 3 ball routine. A few of our lot commented that it wasn't particularly spectacular but for me it was smart, simple & pure so well worth a watch.

Continuing the Japanese domination were Witty Look, who performed an awesome high energy unicycle clown routine with some fantastically high level unicycle related acrobalance including riding around the stage in a flag, dropping out of a feet to feet stand while sitting on the unicycle & riding away & a sensational mount which saw the main unicyclist roll over his partner's back to land on the pedals.

Closing the show was the sensational Toby Walker. Nicky in particular was glad of our seats right at the front of the stage & I have to agree that Toby is a fine figure of a man. Toby pulled out all the really big crowd pleasing tricks with loads albert/trebla/backcross combinations with 3 clubs, some really big 5 & 6 ball siteswaps, 5 ring pancakes, a 7 ball cascade with a head bounce, 5 club backcrosses & 5 club mills mess. Although a bit droppy it was a suitably spectacular & very worthy finale in a show without a single duff act.

Well done York you had a good run, but now the crown for the finest BJC show passes on.

Saturday Night

Back on site after the show I joined a queue of people to shake Komei's hand & tell him how fantastic he was. Being the professional that he is he politely smiled back at the babbling idiot who was gushing all over him in a foreign language.

We broke out more cider, munched on Monte's cheesy garlic bread & chatted with everyone about how good the show was. It was good to see organiser Anna with a drink in her hand & a smile on her face.

This evening's Renegade was hosted by a very splendidly outfitted Nina & one of the chaps from Southern Lights. There was some excellent tent manipulation using one of those self erecting efforts. Jacob Sharpe was sensational with 1 to 4 diabolos. Komei Aoki came on for a bit more body popping which I could have watched all night. Mini Mansell actually did some juggling, the amount of times I have seen Mini juggle in the 10+ years that I have been attending juggling festivals has now doubled.

Sunday came round all too quickly & again we were slowly roasted out of our tent. We attended the business meeting which was mercifully not the train wreck I was expecting (unless you worked for the security company). The comment about how Renegade used to run from 10pm til 12pm was particularly amusing. The Huddersfield team bravely stepped forward to take on 2010 & already seem to have a good handle on things. Only 8 months to go now!

Pol & Freddy

On the last day a couple of hundred of us who could hang around til the afternoon crammed ourselves into one of the gyms for a closing show from Pol & Freddy. Other than Luke Burrage saying they were really good on rec.juggling I had no idea what to expect. Top quality clowning, club manipulation, acrobatics, yoghurt eating & general silliness. Not too much for me to say as I'm sure we'll see them again at another BJC soon. A fine way to finish the convention.

I travelled up to Norwich thinking, "why have I just wasted £65 for 2 days worth of camping?" & came away very glad indeed that I went along certain that I got my money's worth. I don't think I'll ever doubt a BJC again.