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The 20th British Juggling Convention, Nottingham
11-April-2007 to 15-April-2007
Nicky & I made our way up to Nottingham on the Tuesday & stayed the night at a Travelodge before making our way on to site around 11ish on Wednesday morning. We popped into registration & the British Balloon Modelling Convention had certainly been busy. The reception area was decorated with huge sculptures of trees with live-in monkeys plus creepers & vines running around the ceilings. We picked up our monkey themed dog tag passes then went to set up our tent at one end of the running track. As we went off to have a bit of an explore Dr Bob turned up so we helped him unload & erect his tent.
Harvey Haddon Sports Centre was a pretty heavily fortified set up with three layers of tall spiky fences between the camping & the car park which turned a 30 second trip into a 5 minute walk. It was even longer if you were unlucky enough to incorrectly guess which gate would be open at the time. The sentries did an excellent job of opening & closing the different gates to confuse the enemy over the course of the festival, they caught me out many times. This year was also the first time I have had a metal detector swept over me at a BJC. Sadly I didn't actually set it off. Another odd sight at this BJC was the number of police patrols around & through the campsite, I think I counted at least 2 a day.
The gym space was pretty big with good ceilings & lighting but was always pretty crowded whenever I was in there. The space housed all the traders, a small grandstand area for renegade audiences & the Play camp who were always running regular dance & manipulation workshops seemingly 24 hours a day. The gym was dominated by the usual high level of skill, there seemed to be an increase in sport juggling no doubt under the influence of the WJF. Top WJF 'stars' (I'm still unsure about the concept of 'celebrity' in the juggling community) Wes Peden, Thomas Dietz, Vova Galchenko & Jason Garfield regularly drew large crowds whenever they popped in to the main practise gym. This festival was the first time I had seen Jason Garfield in the flesh & surprisingly he is barely 5 feet tall.
Thanks to the glorious weather though we spent most of the festival outside playing in the paths between the tents mostly. There was always a constant flow of people to chat to, lots of frisbees & other flying objects being thrown between groups of people & the trials unicyclists stacking it on the steps on the grandstand was a pretty regular spectacle.
When the sun went down we were all kept warm by the glow of Simon's skin.
We woke up one morning to find the lovely Abbi & Lisa who knew Bob from another festival, had joined our camp. As soon as we found out that they were keen acrobalancers we nagged & bullied them until they agreed to run a beginners' acro workshop later in the week. I think our selfish efforts were worth it though beause it was a very well attended & everyone had loads of fun.
This year saw a big push on the volunteering front, & the introduction of an incentive scheme which in theory was supposed to get volunteers into shows first but in practise didn't actually matter at all. For many among our group volunteering was primarily a means to collect some funky badges. We first tried to volunteer the morning we got there only to be told that there was nothing to do (!) & that we should come back later. So we came back again in the afternoon & tried again only to be left waiting while the girl on the desk unsuccessfully tried to find out what we should do. Eventually we ended up helping another couple staple all the workshop timetables together. Nicky & I have both done a lot of filing in the past & it only took us 30 minutes to get through all that was there. But we didn't get a badge, & we didn't want to wait another quarter of an hour to find out what else we could do. The next morning we tried again & after the obligatory wait we were signed up to man point Q for 2 hours in the afternoon. Point Q was the drop off point for the running track camping area. The area that was already full up & no one else was coming in to use it. We explained this & said that there must be something more productive we could do, but no this was essential. We spent all morning juggling with friends in the campsite & didn't see a single car pull up at the drop off point. Just before our slot we went to reception as requested & explained again that the area was full & no one was using the drop off point but still they insisted that that was what we were needed to do. So we did, & in two hours all of 4 cars trickled through. It was a total waste of our time. It has to be said though that from comments in the business meeting most people found the volunteering well organised & it seems that just Nicky & I had a bad experience. Them's the breaks.
After the show Nicky, Kevin, Becky & I made our way to the beer tent for the start of the fancy dress disco. As Nicky & I entered the tent it was good to see that the dance floor was populated almost entirely by TWJC members. All in costume, some of our number brought along their own costumes to wear, the rest of us took advantage of the mini costume shop set up in one corner of the beer tent which provided free themed costumes in exchange for some details for insurance. I picked up a lovely tiger skin pimp jacket & wig. Nicky took on a zebra print top & mini skirt & looked very sexy indeed. Also looking particularly fit were Helen in a giraffe print top & miniskirt & Charlie in a short giraffe print dress. Photos of the three will be appearing on a pay per view section of this site as soon as I can get it set up. Dr Bob was looking splendid in his fine smoking jacket & pith helmet. Simon was wearing Charlie's pyjamas. I'm not quite sure what that was all about. Most notable though was Dave K. dressed up as a giant banana. The band were great fun & I for one danced so hard that it was painful to walk the next morning. The floor filled up pretty quickly with jungle themed revellers. One highlight of their set was the first episode of Trapped in the Closet, sadly our calls for, "all 12", got us nowhere.
Probably the top night of the convention, it was sad that the night was cut short by the licensing agreement at 11pm but had it gone on much longer I probably would not have been able to walk for the rest of the convention.
I missed the start of the first half & walked in to catch the end of a bellydancing act which from third party accounts went on far too long. Aurora did an arty poi act in which she performed in different styles to changes in the music, I quite liked the Elvis section. Rob Fiery did a James Bond themed hat & club juggling routine, nice style & good character but for me a lot of the juggling was a bit choppy & certainly didn't have the suave sophistication of Britain's finest agent. One of the top acts of the show for me was Megan Pike performing the smoothest & most technical contact staff routine I have ever seen.
I've seen Luke Burrage juggle with his arms tangled up in a coat beore during renegade, but for this show he did an extended skit the highlight of which for me was watching him scrabble about on the floor. Simple, but very well performed. The star of the cabaret was undoubtedly Luke Wilson performing his silky smooth club juggling spot which has to be one of the most highly polished & well rounded juggling routines ever created. The standing ovation was well deserved. Finishing off the show was Splott State Circus who presented a load of grown men in tutus doing ballet on unicycles. Russell Wells in particular was a sight to behold. Very amusing but following Luke Wilson this act was an anti-climax.
British Young Juggler of the Year Show
I'm going to do a really horrible thing & lump all the performers together into two groups.
The diaboloists were Marc Cabry, Zack Turner, Tom McCall, Jon Booth & Peter Thompset. All were very good, Jon & Peter in particular, Jon for his humour, energy & enthusiasm. Peter for the high technical skill & for wearing a shirt. I'm going to stick my neck out & say that the audience vote will not go to a diaboloist for at least 5 years. The current talent pool is saturated with highly talented but all too generic diabolo acts. It takes something pretty sensational (William Wei-Liang Lin) to stand out in the world of diabolo these days.
The rest were all jugglers & were a lot more diverse so I've got a bit more to say.
Luke Halgarten was the first person in the show to actually smile & look liked he was enjoying himself & that really carried over into the audience I think. Pretty droppy but otherwise very good indeed. The BYJOTY's first genuine female entrant was Sarah Bizkup who combined a bit of belly dancing with mostly 4 ball juggling. Her performance was very good, she had obviously choreographed her juggling & dance moves with her choice of music but for me it didn't quite gel together. Josh Turner did some technical ball juggling mostly with 5 balls. The juggling was excellent & with only a few drops. But it was more a demonstration, Josh planted his feet & stood rooted to the spot throughout. One of the many 'rules' drummed into me when I used to perform was use all of the stage! The reigning champion Jon Peat showed more of the winning formula from last year with lots of fast paced 3 ball trickery. I thought his juggling was better but sadly he didn't have the same spark from last year. I think that Norbi is suffering from the same saturation problem as the diaboloists, the thing is Norbi has saturated his own market almost singlehandedly. BYJOTY regular & seasoned performer Arron Sparks skated onstage then performed an act using a cardboard iPod (other mp3 players are available), more yo yo than poi & juggling with 3 to 5 clubs. It was loud, brash & exciting but far too droppy to be a winner.
Of all the acts in the show Tom Derrick gave me the most hope for the future of UK juggling. Tom performed a very well constructed set with a wealth of original tricks involving a stringless racket & oversized tennis balls, dressed in tennis whites & carrying his props in a tennis sports bag all to appropriate music too. Unfortunately though he appeared really nervous on stage & I think the juggling suffered as a result. Why Tom? You had the best routine ever seen in the BYJOTY show by far!
Taking the show by storm was 12 year old Adrian Pole. Loads of 3, 4 & 5 ball stuff, clubs, a remarkable run of 6 rings & a bit of thought into transitions between numbers & props. He bounced all over the place with energy & smiles that really suited his appearance. A clear runaway winner of the audience vote & the judge's choice award.
The Public Show
Hosting the show was the legendary Steve Rawlings who was a show unto himself performing his furniture juggling & wine bottle balancing acts. It's amazing how Steve is still funny even when you can almost say his lines along with him. As a compere he did a great job of keeping the energy high & always moving between acts even through technical difficulties.
Opening the Show was Flame Oz a pair highly energetic, extremely tightly choreographed fire staffers. Fast, technical, sexy & very cool. Norbi was on fine form fulfilling his award from the BYJOTY 2006 competition, this act was far better than his BYJOTY performance earlier in the festival, primarily I think because he used much more relaxed & neutral music rather than the usual over dramatic apocalyptic doom inspiring movie scores he usually uses. It's just ring juggling, not the end of the world.
Also from the land of Oz were Dream State Circus, I could have done without the street style juggling at the start which although very good doesn't work so well on a big stage in a theatre. Their acrobalance routine was nothing short of sensational though. Extremely slick & snappy, truly static balances & some really hard stuff like the flyer performing a handstand on the base's forearm & a 2 high stack standing on top of the guy's head.
Jeanine Ebnöther performed a routine full of elegant dance, contact & gymnastics. Uncommon for such a fluid & dance inspired act was the high level of difficulty in many of the tricks performed. A fantastically solid finger tip balance, wonderful hand balancing with the ball held in the crook of the neck, rolling the ball down her spine & the nack of the thigh into a knee pit catch & doing a cartwheel with the ball held between her leg & body which then rolls up into a chest roll. Really amazing.
Tempei lots of flourishy single & double devilstickery in his clean & relaxed style. At last someone to rival Marcus Furtner. Not much I can say except really really good stuff.
Wes Peden performed a dropless 3, 4, 5, 6 club with more tricks than you could possibly count mixing mind boggling & impossible to follow combinations with some really high end technical tricks finishing with a great run of 6 club triple doubles all spot on to his music which really added bags of atmosphere.
The third talent from Oz was Fat Boy Slim competition winner Angie performing her routine alongside the winning music video on the projector screens. Great to see that she can perform the whole package as a routine almost flawlessly & doesn't have to rely on video editing to cut out all the mistakes. Take that instants. It wasn't just a carbon copy of the video though she added a load of new tricks & finished with the crowd pleasing millions of hoops trick. It was the feel good act of the festival & it brought the house down.
One of the performers I was looking forward to seeing most was Jason Garfield, he has taken a lot of flack over the past few years for some of the practises of the WJF & I think that was an obstacle for some & he did all the right things on stage to overcome any barriers. Like all the best comedy performers he did relatively little (but relatively difficult) juggling but was very smart & funny. Although a little more timid (by Jason garfield's standards & for want of a better word) than I was expecting still a really funny & entertaining performance.
After a spate of unnecessary glow William Wei-Lang Ling presented the fastest legs in diaboloing with his explosive style & more of his infectious grin. Well deserving of his lengthy standing ovation.
When the curtain went up on Vova Galchenko wearing a Britney mic everyone started laughing & Vova asked why. Well because everyone immediately thought that he'd try to be Jason Garfield & it would not go well. & everyone was right. The jokes were flat, Vova doesn't have the character required to carry off the attitude he was trying to portray. I can sympathise though, to get to a point where you have so completely made your name & filled your niche at such a young age must be an incredible barrier to overcome. But there is only one Jason Garfield & he can 'do' the Jason Garfield considerably better, & to do a Jason Garfield style act in the same show as Jason Garfield is suicide. Truly sensational juggling though.
Thomas Dietz did his comedy poi act disappointing many.
For the spectacular finale Get The Shoe presented their martial arts battle mixing live action Matrix performance with some great passing with the slickest takeouts in the business. I remember seeing an early version of the act at EJC 2004, it was great then but is far more polished now. The guys have created a masterpiece that is truly exciting to watch. The only juggling act I have ever seen that I could describe with the word 'epic'.