Crawley Circus Festival 2013

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The Hawth, Crawley

2-Aug-2013 to 4-Aug-2013


I arrived on site at just after 7pm to find half of the TWJC contingent already pitched & organising the pizza run. Hurrah for efficiency. I pitched my tent then opened the first bottle (it's taken me a while to get those two tasks in the optimal order). It was a nice late evening consisting almost entirely of eating, drinking & greeting friends. There was some ukeleleing, but then nothing's perfect.

As some of the group drifted to bed Jenny & Emily had the sudden urge to go tree climbing in the dark. Knowing that this could only go well I tagged along & added 999 to my speed dial. Jenny's first & last attempt at climbing a tree ended with one leg on the ground, one foot stuck between two branches & her hugging the tree trying not to fall over whilst trying to dislodge her foot. I left her to it.

I was on top of the amphitheatre when the thunder & lightning started, I watched the first few strikes which was really nice before wisely getting in my tent before the rain reached us.


I enjoyed a good night's sleep. In the morning I finished off my left over pizza for breakfast before doing the rounds with my chocolate brownie delivery service in lieu of the toast fairy who was absent this year. I was really pleased with this batch, one of my best ever. As such I didn't get far round the camp site.

Robin had bought a box of strawberries & the world's most explosive can of squirty whipped cream with which he managed to hit a number of TWJC members from across our communal area.

In the afternoon we popped along to the obligatory club stealing workshop, I'm usually the monkey but my usual thief Dave was off skiing this year so I had more of a go at the stealing end for a change. With the help of Simon I actually learnt some new stuff. I finally figured out Steve's snake hips stealing pattern which involves continuous early steals of every club from one hand, alternating between straight & diagonal. Secondly we learnt to steal a club (left hand diagonal early, half flip then back cross back into pattern) & fit a handshake in the gap which feels really nice. Video evidence:

Robin turned up late to the workshop, he was confused by some of the terminology being used so he asked Kevin what was going on which went like this:

Robin: So what's a "monkey"?
Kevin: It's the person that does the juggling part of the trick.
Robin: Ok, & what's a "Bungle"?

I had meant to go to the Prechac passing workshop but lost track of time & missed it which was a shame.

While chatting in the TWJC camp later in the afternoon we were ambushed by SJC, who rushed & surrounded us with water pistols. I was taken hostage by Hannah & Simon was taken by Ken who politely asked, "Do you mind if I take you hostage?". All they wanted was a pizza menu which we would have happily given them. Being the only one who fought back I was heavily soaked & had to change every item of clothing.

After much nagging from Cat & I, Jemnezmy managed to make it with minutes to spare just in time for...

The Show(ish)

The public show is always a major selling point for the Crawley festival & is a spectacle I use to encourage whatever newbies we have to come along. So it's always terrifying to hear the words, "We're going to try something different this year..."

The first half of the show was given over in its entirety to Juggling on Tap, a 5 strong ensemble of tap dancers, musicians & Stuart Pemberton as the token juggler.

It was awful. Two of my friends walked out because they couldn't be bothered to sit through any more. I spoke to a lot of people after the first half, not one person liked it. Some people were thinking about asking for a refund if the second half wasn't an improvement it was that bad.

Trying to pin down what was so bad is a bit harder. When pressed most people found something enjoyable. Personally I thought there were lots of good bits. I really enjoyed the sound of the flute & vibraphone playing together. The percussionist playing the spoons on the girl's shoes was great. The dynamic 5 person bounce juggling, tap dancing, musical running around pattern at the end looked & sounded fantastic.

Most people's complaint was that, "it was too long" or that, "it was just too much tap dancing" but I don't think these are valid criticisms. I have nothing against long acts or even lack of variety. I've been to Irish step dance shows, which was just dancing, orchestra performances that were just classical music, I've traveled to see 2 performances by Ockham's Razor which was all aerial, & I sat through over an hour of the Gandini's 10,000 which was just toss juggling. The performers in these shows showed less versatility but were easily able to entertain me for a lot longer because everything they did was interesting. I am happy to watch someone doing something really well for a very long time. The Juggling on Tap show was about 10 minutes of material padded out to oblivion with repetition & dull transitions between set pieces. Even the greatest 10 minute act ever will be awful if you pad it out to 50 minutes.

I crammed a lot of very enjoyable snarking into the interval before...

The Show (this time we mean it)

Given the unenviable task of going out first in front of a restless & very irritated audience were Ryman & Lou who took us on & won with ease. They presented the Most Dangerous Cup of Tea in the World, which involved making a cup of tea with some of the best clowning around I have seen in years. A mallet, a knife & a mug were attached to the top of a hat stand by chains, the top of the hat stand was then rotated by Lou making the three items flail widely from the centre. Ryman then tried to throw a teabag into the mug without getting hit which had me chuckling throughout. The act continued with lots more silliness. It was really nice to see two performers who were obviously very confident that their material is funny & rightly so.

I had already enjoyed Lynn Scott performing at TLC 2012, it was nice to see her charming contact juggling & club manipulation again. She didn't need four friends & lots of instruments & props to fill the stage, her character does it for her. Another repeat for me was Simon Ratzker with his whips who performed two pieces, one to Björk's 'Oh so quiet' & the other the classic paper tearing with Dave Law as a 'volunteer'. Both spots were great fun.

I thought Angie Mack's hoop routine was a case of unnecessary glow, there was a lot of body movement that was difficult to see in the darkness which marred the act for me. I think I would have enjoyed it more with regular hoops & the lights on.

Closing the show was Gonzalo Basualo on the corde lisse who was very slick & very sexy. He showed loads of power & control from start to finish & his final move was something I had never seen before & was genuinely breathtaking. Wonderful stuff.

After the show I elected to have a drink & catch up with Frag & Nicky while the others watched the fire show. I cooked a curry for Jemnezmy which put her in a better mood! Then more drinks were had before we moved on to...


Mata opened with his traditional beer poi then tried flipping one, two, then three darts in a cup without skewering his feet.

Hannah flashed her new SJC tattoo & had another epic zen wrestling battle with Glyn. Several members of SJC performed the Roxanne drinking game, I remember a lot more snorting when I played it, but then I think SJC are a bit more practiced at the sport than I am.

One guy inserted a nail, a spoon & an open pair of scissors up his nose while accompanied by his friend with a guitar. Our Emily had her hands over her face for the entire time. He then juggled a machete & a cleaver (both properly sharp) & an apple with bare feet which had one close call drop. Finally he attempted to extinguish a blow torch on his tongue, but was let down by lack of gas. Even I was quite glad about that.

Other stuff probably happened too.


After a very enjoyable sleep we were up for a very enjoyable lazy morning of chatting, demolishing packets of biscuits with assembly line like efficiency, odd bits of juggling, diaboloing, whip cracking & devilstickery.


I always look forward to the numbers game. For some reason I seem to have a bit of a reputation especially amongst SJC members as being a bit ruthless. I thought this year though maybe people would see that it is not just me & that other people also throw expendable small children out of their groups when not needed. It was not until about 4 rounds in that I did any underhanded manoeuvres at all. Unfortunately though most people will remember my performance in the last round which saw me basically having a fight with 3 pre-teen girls which I was winning (despite the eldest one stamping on my feet) until a fourth girl came out & laid into me as well.

Kev supplied me with a set of balls for the 5 ball endurance. It felt like I was doing collision management after pretty much every gust of wind but I still managed to make the final two before dropping & handing Simon the win.

There were a few rounds of gladiators. I made the final two against Glyn during the first round then sportingly threw all my clubs on the ground for no apparent reason. Jack & Chunk from Southend tied the second game & Cat won the last one.

Kevin easily walked the fancy dress competition with his reproduction of the festival logo complete with musical walking brain.

The game of musical unicycles was as vicious as ever & included a brief intermission while we had to let the air out of a tire so that one poor lad could remove his hand from between the wheel & the frame. It was heartening to see all the people running in with cameras to capture the action while he lie on the ground in pain!