The Royal Tunbridge Wells Juggling Festival

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Tasj & I made it to the Camden Centre at just passed 8am after putting up some signs around town. We met Kevin, Dave A & Cora all busying around decorating the hall. Pete & Marcus arrived shortly afterwards & we all went upstairs for a very welcome slap up breakfast in the Coffee Pot which supplied us with the energy to get through the day. We carried on setting up right up until & beyond 9am when our first punter walked in (rather eager we thought!) The Hastings lot turned up a little later & then the hall just seemed to fill up.

The Acts

Most conventions have a show but we thought we'd try something new for our first festival. Instead of a single show we decided to have a number of 'street acts' at regular intervals throughout the day. The format worked well, the only negative was a complaint that there wasn't enough seating available. Aside from that the system was praised as it maintained a high level of interest throughout the day, particularly for the non-jugglers who wandered in (of which we had quite a few). It also helped for a very relaxed & informal atmosphere as everyone was really close to & on the same level as the performers. It also helped keep the cost of the festival down as there was no need to hire a special venue or convert somewhere into a theatre.

First to perform at noon was Haggis Mcleod who suffered a dip in form with his club spot which he summed up as, "Kick up isn't working very well today", he took it all with great humour & 5 club back crosses with a triple back cross finish is nothing to be sniffed at. He made up for it even further with a great show of hat juggling, I particularly liked the fact that during the 'higher higher' bit for the kids the loudest & most excited voice was that of Sean Gandini.

Devilstick Peat did his act, which by now is a classic in the juggling world. Lots of silly tricks with three balls, some five ball & some very good contact stuff before finishing with the devilstick.

Pablo, a student of the Circuspace, asked for an audience to show off his work. Starting off on the floor he performed lots of neat carrying & placing moves around his body, (the sort of thing where all balls are held in different ways, arm, elbow, knee pit etc. then a ball is moved or rolled elsewhere) mixed with some contact while rolling along the floor. All in all a very nice act although there were times when I couldn't see what he was doing with his props because his body was so closed. I'd like to see the act again at the Circomedia/Circuspace Showcase Show next year.

Rod Laver was on fine form catching a speeding ping-pong ball fired from a gun in his mouth, juggling 1, 2, 3 & 4 without hands, 3 bounce juggled through his legs, then 4, 5, 6, 7 With hands finishing with his world record eight ping-pong balls all in the air. Rod performed with great character & really played the heckles well. Listening to a man trying to talk with 3 ping-pong balls in his mouth will always be funny.

Jamie Fletcher performed what I can only describe as the happiest three ball routine I have ever seen. Very well choreographed to the music, a stunning array of tricks & with lots of nice little touches that made me smile.

Sam Veale came on & cracked me up with, "Those who don't know me are probably wondering 'what does Tim Henman know about juggling?'" He then threw a knot after a few attempts. After that he showed us some very neat ball spinning tricks, two hand arm curls in various permutations, leaving a ball to slow down until it stopped in a balance (very tricky), spinning a ball bouncing it off the head back onto the finger & transfering two balls spinning side by side into a ball on ball balance. To finish his ball spinning spot Sam did an arm curl with a very large ball (bigger than a beachball) to a well deserved "ooooh!" He then moved on with a short diabolo spot & finished off by juggling two balls in one hand, spinning a cushion on the other, balancing a spinning ball on a pole on his chin all while spinning a hula hoop around the waist. Top stuff.

Well done to all performers for coping with Dave A's sound technician skills which made Dennis look almost perfect!

In the name of market research Sean hosted a very entertaining video showing of some footage from some upcoming MediaCircus products. We started off with some very technical two & three person passing patterns where each passer performs various siteswap patterns. We then got to watch Ben Beever go through an amazing array of 5 ball siteswap patterns & the screening became a name that siteswap gameshow! Top marks to Jason for spotting 645 while the video was on fast forward. Ball bouncing in Paris will go straight to the top of my wish list as soon as it is released, we saw lots of very impressive & some very funny clips. Best not give anything away...

The Games

We were lucky to have a nice enough day to hold the games outside in the market square. Our hosts were the official grandmothers of TWJC Gladys & Edith aka Kim & Dom from Loskaos. The first game was three ball gladiators which saw people ducking round the small trees to avoid attacks, eventually the last one juggling was our Tasj. The next game was three club gladiators & I managed to keep the home side going. After the third game when Tom retained his crown as the reigning British diabolo nose push champion TWJC's domination was getting embarassing. So a few secret messages were sent out & we purposefully fared miserably in every other game. Ahem.

Haggis won the five club endurance beating Sean Gandini who both put in very long runs in breezy conditions. He also won the club balance event after surviving a comical boxing match with Jason Perry.

Unicycle gladiators saw Kevin red carded for savagely screaming at a young girl (perfectly acceptable tactic I thought). Not that it mattered as he was sent sprawling by the young girls falling uni. Beth & Danny always have a good ruck when they get together but they cancelled each other out allowing the young girl Kev screamed at to win.

The five ball endurance/gladiators was among the best played games I have seen for a long time. A good number of us lasted for a minute or two before the countdown started. Kati Yla-Hokkala went scything through the field knocking many people including her husband out with a very gracefully placed foot into the pattern, excellent poise & balance. The crowd really showed their appreciation when she finally dropped. While this was going on Jamie Fletcher was also systematically picking people off, but dropped leaving Haggis & another competitor to go through kneeling, sitting down & back up which only Haggis survived.

We at TWJC would like to say a few big thank yous.

To our line up of stars:

who all put in a great deal of effort & worked really hard for us over the course of the day.

To the Coffee Pot staff for doing a great job feeding the hungry masses. Without that breakfast feast we would never have made it through the day!

Rusty from Beard who endured a very long day to offer us some very good deals & for the generous donations of prizes for the games.

To Butterfingers who also kindly donated some prizes for the festival.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council & Westfield Enterprises for their continued support.

Of course many thanks go out to everyone who came along. All of us here at TWJC hope you had a good time.

Finally a great big well done to Kevin Fletcher who's hard work & dedication made the festival happen.

The Royal Tunbridge Wells Juggling Festival was sponsored by: