British Juggling Convention 2001

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The 14th British Juggling Convention, Cardiff.

19-Apr-2001 to 22-Apr-2001

In attendance this year was Dave A, Dave K, Dave L, Kim, Bryn, Bob (the Llama), Tom, James, Simon, Laura, Danny, Catherine, Cora, Kevin, Beth, Tasj & me.

The Fest

Fitzalan High School may not have been the greatest of facilities, the showers (well for the most part shower) were terrible, only a handful of the toilets had doors, none had locks & I only found one toilet roll all weekend. For me having several small halls rather than one large one was a drawback too, each hall had the atmosphere of a regular club night rather than a huge festival. That's all the negatives out the way, after all that we had a great party! The Orgs were certainly right to go with it rather than to go nowhere at all.

I was at first disappointed by a lack of Ceilidh dancing but the two bands who performed were sensational, most of us danced to exhaustion & shouted until hoarse. Thursday we listened to Nick Turner and the Allstars & Friday night was the turn of The Topcats (the Sax player was superbly mad). So much fun.

At night the campsite was filled with the awesome sound of Bob's snoring. Less a snort more a rumbling tremor.

I first came across the Bop It toy at the First Hastings Convention & I didn't really like it. But I gave it a bit more of a chance at this do & several of us spent a long time playing with the thing & shouting, "Flick the bean!" but make sure you keep quiet when it's Tasj's turn.

The catering was great, I ate better in Cardiff than at any other festival so far. The school canteen offered a wide variety of stuff & gave you lots for very little & the staff were absolutely lovely. Always serving with a smile & the Welsh accent is great. Best catering tent ever though was Bapu's, the chicken pakora was gorgeous & certainly kept the Renegade tent nice & warm. Again very reasonable prices too.

I was very impressed with the onsite security, they were very thorough in checking passes, not once was I not asked to show my tag when necessary & they were always polite & pleasant too. Tasj had her pass tied around her abdomen & always flashed it with a sexy wiggle & a wink of the eye. She was asked by four or five guards at a time to show her tag. The guys also went above & beyond the call of duty, they were very good at separating times for the girls & the boys to use the showers. My girlfriend was very pleased to enjoy a shower on her own with a guard on the door for her. Probably something to do with the way she flashed her pass actually.

The Splott Brothers performed in the NoFit tent. A bizarre act where the brothers prepare their cafe & served a pair of unsuspecting punters. Silly hats, stealing beer & swinging glasses of drink around was very amusing. The two punters stole the show though when they worked out how to work the candle on the table.

Also in the NoFit state was the Circomedia/Circuspace Showcase Show. Acts included a highly acrobatic club juggler who did lots of nice flips & rolls into over head cascade similar to Jay Gilligan, he finished with a backward somersault under a high throw. Cool. The Bird Juggling Project had a brilliant start to their act; two of the trio performed an elegant balletish dance routine around the third member who marched in slow motion across the stage. Then he stopped knocked the other two to the ground & announced that he didn't want to be a stupid dancer, he wanted to be a JUGGLER! (Hooray, clap, cheer!) Then they did lots of nice passing stuff, the best bit was the passing of a club by dropping it through the slit in the back of the plastic chair so that it came out the other side as a perfect flat. Absolutely fantastic choice of music too. Funniest of the lot though were the two slapstick guys, they first fell out over some spilt beer, which turned into a kung fu fight, then up to some hilarious knife throwing & continuing through a host of daft visual gags. My favourite was the making a toasted sandwich out of one of the guy's hands.

The Games

The Oval Basin at Cardiff Bay was the most spectacular venue for the games I've ever played at. A huge expanse surrounded by massive pillars & tiered stone steps for seating. Our master of ceremonies was Charlie Dancey with help from Haggis Mcleod.

Players from TWJC did very well at pretty much everything but Beth was the only one to actually win anything. Dave L. made it to the last four in the three club gladiators, Tom was unfairly voted out of the last few of the diabolo high throw. Denied! I lost my chin balance after getting as far as sitting down & dropped my devilstick propeller at the going the wrong way with my wrong hand stage (& I did such a beautiful changeover too).

The closest & most spectacular failure by far though was Dave A's mad dash to make the first hat from modeling balloons. I have never witnessed anything so exciting, it was a race between two people, Dave had his balloons blown up & was tying them whilst sprinting towards Charlie in the centre of the basin. His competitor was there first but hadn't finished tying them up, they twisted everything together almost in unison & completed their hats at as near as simultaneously as possible, finally both lunged their hats towards the compere, Dave lost his footing & went sprawling to the floor handing victory to his rival! Dave hurt his ribs in the fall & the rest of TWJC hurt their ribs laughing! To this end we still don't know what he would have won.

Our club also made up the numbers in lots of other events too. I managed a bit over a qualifying run for the five club endurance, Dave K, Beth, Tasj & I all broke our legs at our first attempt at the fantastic juggling beast (four people juggling as many objects as possible on as few feet as possible) our second attempt while marginally less painful was only marginally more successful. Next time we have an idea that could possibly see a 30 plus ball pattern :-) Kevin, Beth & Danny all sprinted round the arena in the unicycle race which was just like the Grand National, I have no idea who won, I think most people finished. It was the crashes that made the event memorable.

Our only winner was Beth who won a prize during (literally) the Uni gladiators for the most spectacular recovery after getting someone off who then falls under your wheel. Charlie came in to the arena during the foray to award her with a medal. During the presentation though Beth was unscrupulously knocked off, how unsporting!


Everyone's favourite drunken personality, Peewee, made a welcome return as the compere. I can't remember much of what he introduced let alone anything in any order. The first thing that springs to my mind was the three club juggler who performed to a backdrop of four naked men who wiggled their backsides to us & held signs over their pride (well three did), when they turned round the signs were advertising the Belfast Juggling Convention I think. Cora giggled something about a festival on Uranus.

Luke Burrage did a great rocket poi set with screamers on the end that certainly woke everyone up. Also on show was The Queen of Poi who performed with short chains & big flames. I'm not a great fan of poi but this was a very nice display.

Dave Barnes did some amazing two diabolo tricks on a single loop of string with no sticks, lots of around the world stuff both in front & behind the body, one handed & passed around the back. Very nice. Not until Donald performed in the Public Show was respect given to anyone who used sticks.

After his performance in the Public Show Donald Grant came on & did his already extremely fast routine even faster still, most of the time he was just a blur. Also adding to their Public Show performance was Tom Baker who completed Brunn's Impossible Trick after narrowly missing it during the mian show. Two basketballs, he spins one on his finger, flicks the other up & catches it on the back of his neck, knocks it back kicks it with his heel & catches it on the other spinning ball.

Everyone will remember Lindsay on the slackrope & on the corde lisse not so much for the skill more for the twenty or so minutes that he performed for. I actually liked his much shorter second attempt at his routine, the summoning of the cane was a cute touch.

By far the most impressive feat seen in renegade over the festival was the freestyle unicyclist who bounced seat to seat from the front almost up to the back of the NoFit State tent. Quite unbelievable.

The show

We all caught the second show at the Coal Exchange in Cardiff Bay. It was hosted by Ron & Don who gave us some much needed banter in between each piece. The theme of the show was definitely speed & lots of it. The opening act was the spectacular passing trio Takeout from Germany. They performed some awesome moves where many clubs were taken out, sometimes woven & sometimes flourished back to one of the other's patterns all to a thrash soundtrack, which although not to everyone's taste, I thought it was superb. I was most impressed by the extremely cocky over the shoulder throws back into a five club cascade.

Jason Maverick did some nice mime stuff after a surreal display of how much he enjoys chocolate, how can any performer who throws sweets into the audience fail? Acrobalancing trio Mimbre performed pretty much every move I want to be able to do. While not quite as good as Maniomani from last year they did some beautifully executed somersault stuff, the best of which for me was the one & a half spin into a handstand. Noice. Kaleigh Grainger & Leigh Wilkins danced on unicycles, spinning, wheelwalking & all manner of other tricks. Coming on & jumping backwards into a wheel walk was very nice.

The best basketball juggler in the world Tom Baker, seems to have a never ending supply of new tricks to add to the old favourites. He really is rather good at the head roll stuff isn't he? He didn't quite manage his absurdly difficult finale on stage but he succeeded in the Renegade tent to a well deserved cheer. After a hilarious introduction the wonderfully dressed up Yvonne & Peewee of Stickleback Plasticus danced for us in the flamenco style. The best bit was when Yvonne fell over exposing her knickers & the moment was captured on camera & frozen on the giant projector screens!

A dancing Vaudeville couple, Barry & Joan Grantham were billed as putting the razz in razzmatazz. Their act just didn't fit in with the show, even making allowances for the technical problems they had with the music at the start, it was far too slow & went on three times as long as necessary, really not my thing at all. There was a very elegant three club spot from Emmanuelle including some lovely moves such as rolling a club from a chin trap on one side round the back of the head to a chin trap on the other side. Taking a break from Cirque Du Soleil was Scotland's finest, Donald Grant, he went through some of his diabolo repertoire at a dizzying pace, I loved the "cheeky look" away from a suicide & his succession of two diabolo suicides was amazing.

We ended with The Russians, they were billed as four young lads, I was expecting a group of 18 or so yearolds, I wasn't expecting two 11 & two 13 year olds, I was even more shocked by how good they were. Again the pace of their act was frenetic, they hurled their clubs at each other VERY hard & fast & they changed formation & clambered up & down the ladders to their podiums as if they were on fast forward. It really was genuinely difficult to work out how many clubs they were juggling, especially the finale which we think was a nine club pass over a seven, but could have been ten over eight.

Thanks very much to...

Kevin for the lift & Double Vision Cider.

Danny for the Bop it toy (made up for the shock you gave us emerging from your tent on Friday morning).

Bob for frightening away the wild animals at night.

Most of all to Alison Williams & Mark Robson for organising a great do.