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The 15th British Juggling Convention, Whitstable.
29-Mar-2002 to 1-Apr-2002
The TWJC contingent consisted of Dave A, Cora, Bob, Bryn, Andrew, Beth, Julian, Tom, James, Tasj & myself. Honourary member Danny with partner Catherine also gave their almost two month old daughter Jenny her first taste of convention life.
Tasj, Andrew, Dave A, Cora & myself arrived mid Friday morning. This was the first festival I have ever driven to & with the help of my superb navigator Tasj we arrived after only making a mere two U-turns. After I stopped gibbering (intense fear of motorways you see) we signed in & picked up our passes which this year took the form of a sliding square puzzle with the convention octopus logo on the front. I scrambled mine as soon as I got it & finished solving it on Sunday in a fish & chip restaurant in Whitstable town.
The weather was great for the whole festival, jokes about shorts & suncream in the IJDb chatroom proved quite true. There was a little rain on Monday morning but I sit here typing with a mildly sunburnt face.
There was more than enough camping space for all, it was nice not to pitch on top of each other as in the past couple of years. We were close to both the sports hall & the NoFit tent. Unfortunately due to a bit of bureaucratic licensing, we were way too far from the beer tent, which was also way too far away from where the bands were playing (ie not in the same place) so a lot of the potential atmosphere was lost.
There were two gyms for juggling, one large & without music & a smaller gym which at night turned into a UV hall with loud sounds & full of some very talented staff swingers who I spent a good couple of hours admiring. Because of the good weather lots of juggling, frisbee & other games were played outside. Also on hand was a quiet chill out tent for general drinking & chatting. I also enjoyed sitting around the campfire watching the fire dancers & cringing at the kids rehearsing the act which almost burnt down the NoFit tent in Renegade.
Whitstable put on the greatest fire show I have seen at any juggling convention. Absolutely no poi whatsoever! Instead we were treated to some pretty smart aerial pyrotechnics & an effigy of the festival's octopus logo. Much better!
I found this year's BJC very relaxing & enjoyable, I didn't feel the need to do something to have a good time, which for someone who jumps up & down as much as me is quite something.
There was an attempt at the tequilla slammer Mexican wave world record. The record stood at 190 but was upped to 500 & something just before the festival. A highly respectable 406 people turned up to give it a go, but unfortunately we were all packed into the hall, so things were cramped & hot & those counted in first were kept waiting for a very long time. It was inevitable that someone would want to get out of the hall which unfortunately made the count void. So in the end we were all given a free shot of tequilla, so for me at least the end result was the same!
Well done to the organisers for really making an effort to encourage recycling of campsite waste this year too. If this could be continued next year too, it'll help to get us all into the habit of recycling.
The Parade & Games
I decided to just watch the parade this year, which was much more fun than just aimlessly wandering along juggling wondering when we were going to start the games. Lots of people made an effort to dress up & be worth watching which was nice to see. The public thought so too, hundreds of posters & leaflets dotted around the town meant that a large proportion of the locals gathered to watch us. Being held in a small town relative to previous years meant that the parade appeared a much larger spectacle than usual.
A fair degree of the public stayed to watch the games too, unfortunately I was sitting down in a restaurant dealing with an emergency of the stomach so I missed most of the events. While I was away Tom won the diabolo nose push & the diabolo long distance throw, Beth came second in one of the unicycle gladiators to Roger Davies. I came back in time to last about 10 seconds in the five ball endurance & do about two catches in the seven ball event. However I managed to redeem myself in the second game of three club gladiators with a more respectable second place.
The long distance passing is worth mentioning, after most pairs had separated by several paces they were lobbing triples at each other. Vova & Olga on the other hand were still launching singles.
Most of the contestants in the handstand endurance competition were large men with rippling abdominal muscles (I would have taken part but I was busy struggling with holding Cora back) but the winner was a very young & tiny girl who held a perfectly straight handstand almost completely still throughout. I was well impressed.
Our master of ceremonies was Peewee & he was absolutely fantastic throughout the whole weekend. The other star of the Renegade was our man Doctor Bob's Chilli Vodka. TWJC members will be able to confirm that this substance can kill an ox at 50 paces. Peewee was blissfully unaware as he swiped a hip flask from Devilstick Peat, he ran through the stage knocking it back & then he came to a sudden halt, bent over double, spat everything out & continued choking & spitting for a good few minutes. Great theatre.
Noting that the number of Renegade acts have been dropping off in recent years Peewee initiated a poetry competition & blagged a few hundred quids worth of prizes to boot. This proved really popular, there were some superb performances of some beautifully written poetry, particularly those of Ross & the lad from Ireland (name anyone?). Which although were a little too deep & didn't really belong on the Renegade stage were among the highlights of the festival for me. From TWJC Beth wrote something so bizarre that Peewee couldn't manage to read it, Bob composed a Haiku & my effort was:
Poor little Peewee ran through the town
He picked up Peat's hip flask with the intelligence of a clown
An excited little schoolboy, grinning from ear to ear
Now his eyes are bulging & he's looking a little queer
What the f*@£ was in that flask?
Maybe next time he'll think to ask
He's choking, he's spitting, he's stumbling in the top
No change there then, he's used to being a flop
Which was discarded after he read the last line, maybe I should have used the alcopop ending...
The best of the bunch though was undoubtedly Betty, a lovely old lady who was attending her first convention. She wrote & performed the piece herself & took the roof off of the NoFit tent with the lines, "Peewee has taught me lots of new words, 'f*@£ off' seems quite high on the list!"
Poetry aside a duo did some three ball juggling to the sounds of various songs from Saturday Night Fever, dressed in tight white trousers, black shirts & big bushy moustaches & afro hairstyles. Way to look the part guys. Arron who won the freestyle event & came third overall in the UK Yo-Yo Championships (see www.yoyouk.com for more info) shattered my opinion that all yo-yo acts are boring performing with great character & style & some really impressive behind the back around the world moves amongst lots of other things. Sticking with things that spin Zanzibar from France showed us all some very smooth two diabolo work, which I rated as the best juggling related Renegade act of the festival.
Little Paul & chums aka The Reduced Public Show Company dealt with the entire Public Show in a couple of minutes. LP took on the roll of compere & shouted, "Renegade" a lot, two people dangled from their passes in the style of Alban Elved. Ewano downed a pint to symbolise the interval, LP climbed inside his sleeping bag & jumped up & down like the Professional Idiot & lots of other things went on too.
I think we were lucky to still have the NoFit tent as an option for next year after the attempted fyreball juggling act from a load of kids who didn't appear to know much about the flickering yellow stuff. Upon realising that they get hot if you hold them for too long they decided to leave the balls to smoulder & melt through the ring mat. Nice. Peewee came to the rescue & got them off stage. The group's only saving grace was the staff swinger who was called back on & he pulled off some really fast moves to our approval.
Big Gray woke us all up in time for us to go to bed with a superb last act on Saturday night. Dressed like a bicycle innertube he performed a fierce fireswinging act to a heavy metal soundtrack. The ring was not big enough to contain Gray's enthusiasm so he stormed the aisles & swung away amongst the audience as well. Great stuff, you've got to admire the guy's energy. Also looking sexy in the dark was the glowing stilt creature covered with neon strips & red glowing eyes, dead cool.
A bus trip into Canterbury took us to the lovely Marlowe Theatre, at first it seemed a little too posh for us to muck around with balloons & such like, but after about five minutes balloons started making their way around the theatre.
Our compere for the show was Soapy who clearly didn't know much about juggling festivals but got the laughs, ("I'm the compere, I'm supposed to be s%#$") however some complained that he swore too much. It didn't bother me at all but I guess there were a lot of kids in the audience. First up was the crowd's favourite Devilstick Peat doing various bits from his street act with three ball tricks, his assistant Joe King & of course his beloved devilstick. Still good after all these years & still good enough for people to throw money at him! Public Show regular Jason Maverick added some nice contact juggling & gloclub swinging to a few old favourite mime tricks. A good unrecoverable accident becomes the highlight of any routine regardless of what the performer does & breaking the handle off of his suitcase was a great laugh. The show contained a couple of clown acts that I freely admit actually made me laugh. The first involved a horse on a unicycle costume which was really brought to life by the rider, he chased his partner around the stage before doing a bit of skipping while still on the uni. The second act was with clowns Alexi & Tweedy who performed their take on the classic wallpapering clown routine. Lots of mess was made & Alexi bared his rear to the audience, now I know why Cora liked them so much. Another high point was the Professional Idiot (what a job title) who danced down the theatre steps & inflated an enormous green balloon which he then carried onstage. After playing around behind it for a bit he emerged wearing the thing as a hat, then he took of his shirt & jacket, lubed himself up before slipping the balloon down over his body. After a few comedy things with his legs he slipped inside completely. I can't think why but the sight of an enormous green ball quivering & jumping up & down on stage was hilarious.
Jamie Walker span his diabolo for us, he was smooth & professional & he pulled off a superb butterfly grind combination move. The show will be remembered for the performance by Alban Elved. They were a cross between Barry & Joan Grantham & Lindsay all from last year's fest. Two performers hung over two large boxes on stage suspended by wires. They spun & swung around & walked around the edges of their boxes using their hands & feet & that was about it, for what seemed like about 20 minutes. The audience kept themselves occupied by coughing (where was the real heckling?) & clapping sporadically. Right audience wrong act I'm afraid, many have said that in the right context they would be really good. Yes, vertigo & insomnia sufferer conferences & for when the paint has dried. Ben Beever threw five globalls around in lots of pretty siteswap patterns, then did a couple of runs with seven before switching to bog standard bean bags & going through 8, 9 & 10. At the other end of the aerial spectrum was a young girl who performed a corde lisse act that I actually enjoyed, she performed a beautiful & very well thought out act portraying the growing up of a young girl from birth through toddlerhood to adulthood. The whole act was a real joy to watch throughout.
Last year's Circomedia favourites The Bird Project performed their club passing act with the aid of tables & chairs & an awesome soundtrack. Although little had changed since their performance last year as far as I can remember it was still lots of fun to watch. There were a couple of three club jugglers but unfortunately their acts were too short & too samey for me to remember anything from. The stars of the show by far were Vova & Olga, their first act was more of the same club passing seen in Cardiff, all hard & fast stuff, tricks & kickups with numbers & some solo five club work from Vova. & oh look as well as being great jugglers they can do acrobatics as well. The final act of the show saw Vova come on stage dressed smartly in a suit with full length tails. & oh look not only is he a great juggler & acrobat, he can also play the piano. While he played his sister came out from behind the piano juggling five balls & turned the music over so that her brother would play some more up beat music. They then took turns playing the piano & juggling via some slick stealing & also both played together while passing. I wonder if we can get hold of a piano for TWJC? All in all an enjoyable show but not brilliant, I blame York for setting the benchmark. It could have done with dropping an act or three & although every act was good only Vova & Olga provided the really spectacular, receiving a very well deserved standing ovation for their efforts.
Thanks very much to...
Tina Carter & Stumpy for coming up with the goods, very well done guys.
Tasj for navigating me to Whitstable via a couple of scenic routes.
My Mum & Andrew for feeding our chocolate addictions.
The weather, top stuff.
Peewee for making Renegade what it was.