In 1980 I heard someone teaching Dave Lee Travis to juggle live on the radio. I had always wanted to learn to juggle ever since I was very young. It sounded quite easy, but I had nothing to juggle with.
The following week I was watching the Paul Daniels Magic Show & at the beginning he announced there would be a juggler on the show. I thought this would be my chance to learn so I found 3 tennis balls. The juggler was Rob Murray, one of the last Vaudeville style jugglers. He was brilliant. I watched & remembered what was said on the Dave Lee Travis show & within 5 minutes I was juggling.
Sadly Rob Murray died 4 years later, but he is still my idol today.
For years I just juggled 3 balls with a repertoire of 6 tricks until in 1986 I saw that the Tonbridge Adult Education Centre were running evening classes run by Andy Dextrous (who also ran a workshop in Tunbridge Wells & now lives in York). I went along to the 6 week course & learnt 4 balls & clubs.
I bought my first clubs from Clown Ally in the Churchill Theatre, Bromley. I also went along to a workshop in the area run by Terry Williams, an acrobat who trained most of the cast of Barnum which starred Michael Crawford. Lots of the jugglers there are now professional performers such as Sean Gandini, Steve Mills, Steve Rawlings, Pearse Halfpenny & many more.
In April 1986 I went to a juggling festival in Covent Garden. This was the first time I had seen 2/300 people as mad as me in 1 place. Some of the others there included Haggis & Charlie, Steve Rawlings, Pearse Halfpenny, Sean Gandini, a very young Anna Jillings, Stuart Ashman & loads of others. There were kids skipping on unicycles, people juggling 5 clubs, 7 balls, unicycle gladiators & brilliant club passing patterns. None of which I had seen before.
The festival inspired me to buy some better clubs & a unicycle from Max Oddball who I met in Covent Garden. I went to his house in London, a few years before he had his first shop & 1 room was packed from wall to wall with juggling kit. Paradise!
I went to Covent Garden again in 1987, by then I was juggling 5 balls & good enough to join in the uni gladiators.
There was no Covent Garden festival in 1988 so Max Oddball & Charlie Holland from Circus Space organised a 2 day event at the Columbo Street Sports Centre where Max ran his weekly workshops. This became the first British Juggling Convention.
After that I kept juggling but not very much. Then I moved to Hampshire & then Dorset in 1991 where I started going to workshops in Bournemouth where I met some more zany characters who inspired me to practise more.
When I moved back to Tunbridge Wells in 1992 I saw an advert in a local paper by MBTM for someone to run a juggling stall in the local market. I got the job & ran the stall every Saturday for over a year in the rain, snow & when it was so windy the stall blew over! during that time I was approached by 2 agents, Mike Bonfield & Peter Johnson to be a professional entertainer.
In September 1992 The Royal Tunbridge Wells Juggling Club was born with the help of MBTM who used to pay half the cost of the hall.
...& we all lived happily ever after.