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The 9th Bungay Balls Up
17-May-2008 to 26-May-2008
The Bungay Balls Up is an exceptionally chilled out festival held annually at Hulver farm in Suffolk. Photos, reviews & more can be found on the Bungay Balls Up festival website
I really wasn't sure about going to a Bungay festival because I really love the shorter, action packed, party type festivals such as the BJC & Crawley. The idea of ten days of doing not a lot may sound nice to most but I was worried that I might get bored. However the relentless praise & chatter from Bungay veterans on rec.juggling turned out to be irresistable.
After a relatively short three hour drive & a bit of creeping down the lanes we found Hulver Farm & the famous buttercup field. The tents were scattered around the edges along the mown border, at the far end of the field was a large marquee for juggling (supposedly) & another smaller marquee which contained a woodburning stove & a cafe. Also on site were showers, toilets (composting & regular chemical variety) & even a sauna.
The cafe was entirely vegetarian apart from the lamb stew special on Sunday. The food was very good but we only ate there twice because the meals were too expensive for us & I think most other people as well. Bungay is definitely a camper's convention & self catering is a must.
There is a real community feel to Bungay & everyone is encouraged to pitch in to help keep the impact of the festival down. Although we never had cause to take anyone up on the offer, a number of people asked if we needed anything before their own food runs. For the one food run that we did do we also ended up taking the recycling to one of the local drop off points. Before the trip to the circus there was a shockingly organised car share initiative.
LP gave me a pepper plant which we enjoyed nursing throughout the festival, we named him Brian, made sure he had a drink every morning & was put to bed inside the tent each night to protect him from frost.
The WJF had sent over a load of fliers & promo material for their festival in Las Vegas in December which was quite odd. Either the WJF have added a knitting division to their lineup or Jason Garfield doesn't really know much about the Bungay scene.
Stars of the festival for me were the truly lovely Colin & Anwen who ran a number of acrobalance sessions which Nicky & I ended up doing three of over the course of the festival. It was so nice to actually talk to people who knew what they were doing rather than trying to work out what to do from grainy pictures on the interweb & through trial & error. We learnt loads of new balances, got into warming up properly & came away with loads of enthusiasm & new ideas.
Dr. Bob enjoyed introducing lots of new people to the remarkably satisfying art of knife throwing. The knife throwing was almost as popular as his lovely truffles which he cooked up in the cafe's kitchen.
The major focus of Bungay appears to be games & in the cafe there were boxes full of all sorts of board, card & dice games. Many thanks to Duncan, Richard & Mini for taking the time to teach us how to play all sorts of games like Abalone, Backgammon, Chromonauts & the exceptionally entertaining Zombie Fluxx (Bob in particular seemed to get more enjoyment from the groaning required rule than perhaps a grown man should). Jenga was also a favourite, Sam from York wandered in to the cafe just as we had reassembled the tower & began the first move, she got as far as, "So I have to pull out a block without kno..." before the game was over. Although after the game where no block was replaced normally I don't think I will ever play the game properly again.
Juggling wise I did slightly more than Nicky who did slightly more than Boudica the friendly convention cat.
BYJOTY star Sarah Biskup was unable to attend the festival this year because of performance commitments with a small touring circus. A circus that just so happened to be pitched just down the road in Saxmundham. So if Sarah couldn't make it to Bungay it was decided that Bungay would go to Sarah. On Thursday night around forty of us car pooled it along to the big top which had only seen audiences in the mid teens for previous shows in the week. There is a big difference between forty members of the public & forty very rowdy jugglers.
It was a small traditional circus show similar to the one I used to perform at years ago. I thought that they had all died off so it was nice to see one still touring.
Strangely, they sold soup during the interval.
I didn't much care for the main clown because he only aimed his performance at the really young kids, although even as a toddler I think I would have found him patronising. Alex, the clown with nipples like bullets was lots of fun. She did many athletic contortion skits. She probably didn't expect the audience to fight back when she got out her water pistol but dealt with it all really well. Also on the clown front were two young lads from the school that the circus was working with who did a sketch that they came up with entirely by themselves. I hope that's true but it was so good that I find it a little hard to believe that they didn't have any help. Top stuff.
Poor Emma came out to do a poi swinging act but felt the need to mouth, 'sorry' to the crowd of jugglers before she started. She need not have worried though because the act was really good, easily one of the best poi acts I've seen. Simon did a devilstick routine which had lots of good moves but had a droppy performance. Sarah did a really happy & bouncy ring act with lots of technical stuff in it.
It was a great evening, & after it all Sarah, Simon & Emma ran away from the circus to join the convention.
Bungay's Got Idle Faktor
On Saturday night was the Bungay equivalent of a public show. It was put together by Ewan & was a Britain's Got Talent themed show. Our host was Ken Pretentious. Dave the Bastard, Mandy & Farmer Paul made up the panel of judges who had the honour of being able to vote off acts if they desired & providing immediate feedback.
Kicking off the action was Rob Firey with a boxing themed club & hat juggling routine. He switched between doing tricks with a number of each prop corresponding to the round number (Round 1 - 1 club, 1 hat. Round 2 - 2 clubs, 2 hats etc.) while giving a frantic running commentary throughout. Although very raw there was lots of nice hard stuff in it & Rob was certainly enjoying himself.
One kid came on & tried to get the audience to sing a round. This died spectacularly because a) no one new the song so he had to teach everyone line by line & b) it was a very religious sounding song & a lot of the audience were wary about being a hypocrite & praising something they don't believe in. If you want the audience to sing at a juggling convention choose a song with plenty of swearing.
James Francis was clearly disappointed with his club juggling routine which had some slick moves but it was unfortunately horrendously droppy. This prompted the greatest line of the night fropm Farmer Paul, "He was dropping so much I thought he needed the practise, so I let him carry on". He got bonus points from me for missing a high throw & hitting a kid in the front row.
Sean did a brolly twirling & diabolo act to singing in the rain which was pretty smooth. It was such a shame that he missed the timing of the last trick with the music, but other than that top stuff indeed.
Being a Bungay newbie I had obviously missed out on a Bungay in joke which saw Monte triple Xed by the judges as soon as he pulled out a basket ball. Still he did eventually get to do the Bungay trick (ball spinning on a pole balanced on the chin while juggling clubs) which was very good.
Martin & Paul did a smart passing act with lots of tricks & patterns. I thought it was great because I don't recall anything that Dave K & I haven't done before, although they didn't drop as excessively as we do & start giggling like children. Now that I know that if we practised really hard & got everything solid it would look fantastic on stage. So we don't need to bother now which is a big relief. Cheers guys!
Young Sam came on & span a diabolo while on stilts & did a Sun a few times. Cute always trumps talent.
The headline act was Grant Goldie who I had never seen before. Juggling wise he manipulated one to five hats, some hat & cane stuff including flicking the hat & cane from a foot balance to a head balance, & rolling around on his hatstand. All very good but I could have quite happily just watched him move around the stage for ten minutes without doing a single trick. If you want to learn stage presence Grant is a master, his every move was bold, flambouyant, confident & smooth. His smart costume complemented his character & accentuated his movement.
Will I go again?
Most definitely! I don't think I have ever done so much with so little effort.