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Orinoco -

The 27th British Juggling Convention, Barnsley

Admit it: you've been waiting for this. Go get your cup of tea, you're going to need it.

Thursday

It wasn't the most successful of journeys to Barnsley. I first got stuck behind a massive house being transported through Hawkhurst on the way to Kevin's place, a closure on the M25 forced us the long way around London then we seemingly hit every accident & hold up on the M1. We arrived on site dead on six pm not in the best of moods.

We were quickly informed that the rules were very explicit in not allowing us to bring any horses on site so I texted the second wave of TWJC to make sure they left the cavalry at home. Natalie was petting her gorgeous pet hedgehog which was permitted.

After finding out what would be going on Kev & I went for a hike through some muddy fields & got in a bit of a mess to get to the Old Post Office for something to eat. I had a fantastic steak (they bring out the cow & you get to select how much of it you want to eat which was nice) which put me in a much better frame of mind. The waitress was surprised that we had walked from Darton College, not bad for a pair of soft Southern fairies.

Back on site I helped Ron unload his ridiculously large collection of games from his van & generally moved a load of stuff around the Atrium. I was happy to donate my collection of teabags to the war effort to lubricate the impressively large team of volunteers. We were asked to return in the morning for orientation at 9:30am & most of us had an early night to prepare for tomorrow's work.

Friday

I was woken at around 7:30am by the dawn chorus. I made myself some breakfast to see me through the morning. The fire alarm (which would become a recurring theme throughout the festival) was set off for the first time, allegedly triggered by steam from a shower.

At 9:30 we were taken for orientation around the very impressive venue. The convention would revolve around the impressive three storey tall Atrium complete with a large stage where most of the entertainment would take place. Every direction you looked had toilets & there were many useful water fountains dotted around the side which would prove to be very convenient. On one side of the Atrium was the school cafe which would be serving hot food through out the day, on the other would be the fantastic Lazy Juggler bar. Just outside the bar in the courtyard, Love Waffles & Veggies would be providing more food options. From the ground floor you could access the theatre which would be used for Renegade & BYJOTY. The second floor had a number of workshop rooms & a dance studio.

Outside the main building was the main juggling hall which was a good size & height. Next to this was a smaller hall which would be home to the Torwood Wheelers for the week. Beyond the halls was the pavilion which was home to more toilets, lots of showers, some more work shop spaces & a games room with table tennis tables & a pool table.

Next to the pavilion was several football fields' worth of space for camping. This would be split into late-to-bed-late-to-rise at the top & early-to-bed-early-to-rise at the bottom. There was to be no camping on the pitches themselves, at first I was concerned that there would not be enough space but thankfully I was proved wrong. Completing the circle back towards the Atrium from the early-to-bed early-to-rise campsite, the hard standing for live in vehicles was located in the middle. This proved to be a bit of a squeeze!

Kevin & I were allocated signage duty by volunteer supremo Dee after I went long on the subject in 2012 (I've since decided that some of what I wrote there is rubbish!). We still had a lot of problems with laptops, printers, went through two ink cartridges, ran out of paper, blue tack, cable ties & laminating pouches. In the end we had resort to crappy handwritten signs to get to an adequate state in time. However, on the plus side we made good use of a lot of signs from previous years plus the Sign Generator was fantastically useful & saved a massive amount of time. Using this tool work that took me a couple of hours at BJC 2012 I managed to do in about 30 minutes (& that was in spite of me ham fisting my way around an unfamiliar Mac OS). With all the doors, nooks & crannies, corridors, plus the noise of a lot of competing signs, sign posting Darton College was much tougher than the Southend venue but I think we did a better job in a lot less time. Still much more room for improvement though.

Kat did a sterling job of feeding the volunteers with very welcome handmade rolls. At some point Kevin, Robin & I made a trip to Aldi which was a first for me, I had no idea what I bought & the cashier thought I was a moron when I tried to pay by credit card but I was very pleased with the final bill.

Back on site people were starting to turn up, Nigel was doing a great job of playing Tetris with the live in vehicles. In amongst which I found the BOV; the owner of which treated me to some very nice spring onion flavoured cheese straws. I spent the afternoon doing a bit of ferrying luggage from the drop off point to people's tents & had the odd request for more signs from various people to deal with. I squeezed in a much needed Chickpea & Chorizo curry which I managed to cook from start to finish faster than Kev could boil his pasta, win! After some more signage duty I came back to the TWJC camp to find our flag flying & Paul's beautiful TWJC bar in full operation. Good work Paul! I had a quick pint of cider before going for a wander round site to say hello to old friends.

I was walking through the main hall when I was hit by the most pleasant ton of bricks in my life & almost lost my feet. I never saw her coming but I instantly recognised the cuddle as belonging to Joy, my crush from BJC 2013. She didn't believe me when I said we had our own bar so I invited her back for a drink. It was in darkness when we got there, the look of surprise on her face when I turned on the lights (a fantastic solar powered system of softly colour changing LEDs) was a picture. We were shortly joined by the rest of TWJC & a few friends for a lovely chilled chat & a drink or two (ahem).

Later on I was walking around the Atrium & said hello to Tom Derrick on the stairs when I heard a shout from behind me of, "MY CEILIDH PARTNER!" before being hit by Tor. I was so pleased & surprised that she remembered me because we only had a couple of dances together. I was also very pleased to learn that she would be performing in the gala show on Saturday. Go Tor!

I love BJCs. I don't get beautiful girls throwing themselves at me anywhere else.

Saturday

I was up again at around 7ish & had a shower which was lukewarm but nice & clean. I made myself some breakfast before wandering down the road in search of a sponge which was somehow missing from my kit. I returned to site to find the alarms going off again & a large neverthriving of evacuated jugglers congregated by the fire assembly point. We even had the fire brigade turn up briefly. I chatted to Emily & Lorri while we waited for the all clear. Once it was determined that there was no fire I grabbed my kit & juggled for an hour & a half. It was really nice to have so much time to practice, everything was working very well. I went back to my tent very satisfied with my practice, had something to eat & a brief nap before making my way back to the main hall for...

Fight Night Qualification

32 of us turned up for the preliminary qualification to see who would go through to the main competition later in the evening. Luke quickly explained the rules of the qualification & organised us into 2 lines of 16, each armed with a personal score sheet to record our individual results. We all fought 16 battles each, the winner being the first to 3 points. Space was really tight which made it a real challenge & it was often helpful to play slowly so that you could take advantage of more space as more pairs cleared the area as & when their bouts finished. The pace was frenetic, we were all suffering with shaking hands half way through, I had to get my lackeys to refill my water bottle for me twice & I was able to wring the sweat out of my t-shirt by the end. I had a bad start against Chunk who quite frankly made me look stupid, but then I won I think 9 games on the trot.

I only really remember my defeats, particularly Luke knocking one of my clubs the width of the entire hall just to really rub it in. Iver was impossible for me to get near, but was a joy to watch & humble in victory. I found fighting Marcus a complete puzzle that I couldn't work out, I did manage to score one point but most of the time I was impotently swiping my clubs through a blur. Before fighting Brook midway through the session I did joke that it would be tactically advantageous just to let him win to conserve energy. Of course I didn't do this but to anyone watching it probably looked like I did. There was one moment where Brook & I completely ran out of space & found ourselves chest to chest sandwiched between some other players & the audience with me trying not to fall over backwards into them. Our clubs were descending onto us fast & it is a great testament to his reflexes & his concern for mine & the audience's safety that he managed to bat everything away safely leaving us to share a hug! Behind me I heard Abbi shout, "Awww! You won't win with that attitude Jon!"

The whole qualification was fantastic fun. It was likened to speed dating, except the objective was to knock seven bells out of your partner & leave them hating you. The camaraderie was superb though & it was a great way to meet a lot of new people. I left to get something to eat & lick my wounds which mostly consisted of bruises but I had a couple of leaks around my finger nails & one on my wrist.

I then spent some time in the main hall watching Kevin & Ewan practicing the double balance & did a bit of leisurely jamming with 3 balls to kill some time before kicking back & relaxing at The Old Skool panel show which was once again hosted by Jay Linn with a panel of oldies consisting of Russell Wells, Stephen Bridge, Max Oddball & Richard Gillett. We were a little bit hampered by competing with the noise of the fire show but it was still enjoyable fun nevertheless. I find it amusing how often people mismatch BJC locations to the year despite the ubiquity of the Southend t-shirt (including one on the panel!) which has them all correctly listed!

By the end of the show I think I was sufficiently wound down & ready for...

Fight Night

The Atrium proved to be a perfect setting for the tournament. The crowd filled all four sides on the floor & with people lining the balconies & stairways it was akin to the Colosseum of Rome. I was very pleased to have made it through qualifying & found myself as the 10th seed. Luke introduced the competition & handed over commentary duties to Gold Martin assisted by the lovely Dee who handled the scoreboard so that he could compete.

I was called to fight 5th seed Chunk who thoroughly trounced me during qualifying, so I wanted to make amends & was very keen to not go out in the first round. I stepped out feeling like Maximus Decimus Meridius. I'm not sure he ever greeted his opponents quite like we did though. I don't really remember much of what happened, I remember thinking I needed to do a bit more stalking to give other parts of the audience a better view at one point & stopping myself from kicking out at a falling club which is standard operating procedure at TWJC but not safe in the middle of an audience! I also remember one really nice strike which led to a pleasing 3-0 win.

My second & final match was in the quarter finals against Luke Burrage who convincingly scored all 5 points in my 4-1 defeat! I was just pleased that I wasn't a complete walkover. I think I did as well as I possibly could've done, I exited with no shame or disappointment & enjoyed lots of congratulations for my performance over the rest of the festival.

This was the first big tournament for Iver Roar Tronstad from Norway & he really won over the crowd in his semi final meeting with Luke. The first point saw a moment where both players had a hold of the same two clubs in one hand resulting in a tug of war which inexplicably ended with both players still juggling. There were a lot of blindingly fast strikes & some big tussles which ended in a closely fought & well earned 5-4 victory for Iver. For the final Iver met Dave Leahy which was another exciting & highly skilled match where Iver won through 5-2 before receiving a rapturous standing ovation from the crowd.

Later on after the event I interrupted Luke chatting online with his girlfriend (sorry!), to say thank you for the event. We ended up talking about the event, the format in general & the game as a whole which I really enjoyed.

Because I felt my body could handle a bit more of a beating I then went to the main hall & joined in with the group combat where Jon Peat reigned supreme. Although there was one game where he took a backwards underarm swing at his opponent who trapped the club under his arm for a very surprising steal. During this session I was very pleased to finish a game with two stolen clubs. Alas the three still eludes me.

Afterwards I caught up with friends in the bar, one of which was Hannah from SJC who was by far my favourite Harley Quinn of the festival. She was a little inebriated & she greeted me by hurling herself & wrapping her arms & legs around me.

Sunday

I woke up under attack from winds which prompted flashbacks to last year. So far the TWJC bar mark 2 was holding up well under the onslaught. The TWJC camp was situated on the far side of the camping fields, which meant we were right at the end of the wind tunnel. It felt like we were the people who live on the rim of Terry Pratchett's Discworld who scavenge from the debris that is carried over the edge. We collected a lot of rubbish, towels & even a whole tent stuck in the trees. I collected several empty tent bags & spent some time trying to match the picture on the bag to the tent that went with it which I hope I managed successfully.

Kevin & I went for a wasted walk into town to check out the local cafes both of which were closed, so we had breakfast on site instead. It was then into the main hall again for more juggling which despite my level of exhaustion was pleasingly good. I managed a personal record 8 pairs of scissors with 4 clubs, which I then replicated several times. Andy from Hastings also turned up so I broke him into the convention with some passing. Or rather I broke him with some passing.

Hannah tried to apologise for leaping on me the night before. I tried to get her to do it again.

I was then joined by Joy & we spent the rest of the morning & early afternoon together, during which I find out she is even more amazing than I first thought & that she can bend her fingers back 45° unaided. I also helped critique her angel rolls, surprisingly it turns out I can offer useful advice for skills that I have never even attempted before.

I then went back to my tent to get some food before the games but found the wind had picked up even more. We managed to get the sides off of the gazebo, but still suffered damage to the bar which was gutting. I tied some more guy lines to my tent but decided it was a losing battle & popped the poles out instead. I took a tour around the site & saw a lot of damaged tents. Mostly ripped canvas but a few shattered poles as well, I helped a few people repeg their tents along the way. An honourable mention must go to our Paul who made an admirably heroic sprint up to the top campsite with mallet in hand after spotting a large tent lifting up in the air only to find it was in the process of being manually moved!

It wasn't really safe to get the stove out for cooking so I snacked on mackerel fillets, fruit & biscuits before getting on the bus for the trip into Sheffield for the gala show. I met Casper from Cambridge & we had a really good natter. On arrival we followed some locals in search of a pub called Fagin's that serves legendary pies only to find it was closed for the day. After a bit more wandering Louisa (not Laura), Kevin, Caspar & I split off into a noodle bar which was packed with Asian locals which we took as a good endorsement. This restaurant provided a first for me in that it served me a meal that I couldn't finish. I wasn't served a bowl of food; I was given a child's paddling pool. I didn't even finish half of it. The food was delicious though & the company was excellent. All in all a top meal.

After a brief waddle back to the theatre the staff on the front door took our tickets & allowed us about 5 metres into the building. It wasn't long before we were allowed further though. Andy & I started the queue for the upstairs balcony & grabbed seats in the front row when we were allowed into the hall itself. The Irwin Mitchell Oval Hall of Sheffield City Hall is a lovely theatre with a beautiful ceiling & nicely raked stalls to ensure everyone gets a good view. The toys soon came out. I particularly liked the radio controlled floating sharks which were mesmerising to watch even if one got stuck on the ceiling. I was very impressed with the lone usher standing to attention like a Scots Guard stoically doing his duty with a silly balloon hat on his head trying not to be distracted by the chaos around him.

The Show

Our compères for the evening were Pete Gamble & Russell Wells who both looked very splendid in their flamboyant finery. I found their links a bit too kiddie orientated for my tastes but I was very impressed with the long whip which stretched over half of the width of the very large stage. Aside from whip cracking they did some knife throwing & a crossbow skit for Ashley from Romford's birthday which will hopefully embarrass him for many years to come.

I enjoyed most of the acts in the show; my only real gripe was with the stage management. There was often a wait between the compères announcing the act & the act starting. We were just left awkwardly staring at an empty stage. Waiting for Pete & Russell to get off stage after announcing the next stage was mildly distracting too, in their defence it was a bloody big stage so they had a long way to go!

When the first act was introduced as Voodoo Unicycles I thought, "Here we go, another monotonous presentation of jumps" but I was very happy to be proven wrong. Jason Auld, Mike Taylor & Simon Berry showed enthusiasm & worked the excitement in the crowd well while they bounced around the stage & three platforms. The finish where they performed drops from the large platform to land in between Russell's legs was very exciting. Well done lads, this was the first trials unicycle act that I have ever enjoyed.

Kathrin Pancakes performed her ring routine that I saw last year, but sadly was again too droppy to enjoy. Bekka Rose was having a much better day & presented an elegant club juggling act, filling the stage with graceful dancing.

Matthias Ramfelt from Norway was on fine form with a very slick ball bouncing routine bouncing up to 8 balls between his legs while sitting on a chair. Partway through the routine he missed a catch, the music stopped so he went to his bag pulled out a wood saw & hacked off one of the chair legs for no apparent reason. This continued until the chair had no legs left & he was sitting at floor level to make things more difficult. Very odd. Brilliant, but very odd.

Flambé Circus combined three of my favourite things: Tron, Daft Punk & Tor Callis in a sexy glowing outfit, & used them to create a staff/poi/fan/pyrotechnic/kitchen sink act that was a massive visual feast. The surprise of seeing the BJC logo in the pixel poi was a big crowd pleaser. Admittedly it was hard to see the skill underneath it all but the four person partner poi set piece was worth the cheer (I'm still not used to liking this poi stuff).

My favourite act of the show was the bonkers Gustaf Rosell tying himself in knots through his vest then dropping his trousers & tying himself up through his underpants too all the while juggling balls with many improbable throws & catches.

James Miller was excellent on the Chinese pole performing everything while wearing a blindfold. He showed great athleticism & pulled off some surprising moves that I had never seen before. This act was slightly marred for me by the dipping of the lights on the final plunge which pretty much ruined the effect. While discussing this after the fact someone suggested to me that they may have been going for a blackout to leave the audience wondering whether he hit the floor or not, which I guess could have worked but they got the timing (very) wrong & didn't get anywhere near a black out.

Marcus Furtner performed with his usual high skill & flamboyant style. I always feel that his single devilstick stuff is just filler though because everyone knows that he can do the same tricks while maintaining a second propeller. Marcus is still untouchable when it comes to devilsticking, why don't people talk about him the way they talk about Anthony Gatto & toss juggling?

The indomitable Loz Because threw everything into her comic hula hoop performance, high skill & bags of character. All the more impressive after learning that she was still in London at 3:30pm.

MHD Crew were a team of truly spectacular diaboloists from Taiwan. Following on from my recent post about how to walk on stage I love the way Chinese Circus artists run across the boards. They are so nimble & never put a foot wrong. Footwork aside the act was a breathtaking display of really hard stuff including 3 & 4 diabolos solo, 6 diabolos between 2 people, catching diabolos launched from deep within the stalls, some really big tricks with a single stage wide string with a diaboloist on each end, the best of which saw the diabolo spun vertax style then whipped across the stage & span around the waist of the girl in the middle. One of the performers had a bit of a droppy night but the act was still jaw droppingly good.

Closing the show was Emil Dahl with a faultless club juggling & manipulation routine that was both graceful & lightning quick (which doesn't go together very often). It was the most surprising club manipulation I have ever seen. The clinically smooth 7 club cascade to finish was very impressive. There were some among the TWJC crowd who only liked that part of the act but I really liked the contrast between the two styles & thought it worked really well.

Huge props to Natalie Randall for pulling that show together, especially after three of the acts scheduled to perform were turned away by immigration! Top work.

Also well done to baby Ulysses for sleeping through the entire show allowing Cat & Karina to enjoy it in peace!

On the bus ride home I was a bit worried because it started to rain & my tent was still in a collapsed heap. Indeed I returned to a sodden tent seemingly neatly vacuum packed over the shape of all my bags & kit. I popped the poles back in & was pretty lucky to only have a few damp things to dry out. I was still a bit fed up though so just sorted out what I could & had an early night.

Monday

A good sleep cures everything though & I woke up feeling much better. Kevin & I wandered down to the now open Vera's Cafe & had an excellent fry up, before coming back for another restorative snooze. Then I spent a few hours in the main hall. Graham asked me to join him as his passing partner in Brook & Andy's excellent 7 club passing made interesting workshop which did exactly what it said on the tin. I picked up some nice new patterns which to help me remember them were: 2 count with one person passing straight triples, the other straight singles (massive wait for the person on singles to start), Another 2 count where one person passes straight the other crosses so that the pattern switches every three passes (this is much slower than expected) & a synch 2 count where the selves are doubles & the passes singles. We tried the last one but struggled with the synch self double/single pass so dropped down to using 3 clubs then tried with 5. Turns out 7 is much easier!

In the afternoon we queued up early to get into...

BYJOTY

Previous BYJOTY performer Mark Watson did a fantastic job as the compère for the show, being entertaining & in control at all times.

First up was a guy who did some break dancing then some ring juggling including lots of solid rolls across the face, both sections were very good as standalone pieces but there was no mix between the two which just seemed disappointing. He was followed by another chap with a diabolo routine that was typical of what I have been calling generic diabolo act over the past several years. It was ok but didn't contain anything to make me remember it.

14 year old Lucy was the first to show real promise with her hula hoop act. She looked fantastic in a proper costume with weeping angel make up that looked very Tim Burton-esque. Her routine was high skill, well balanced & with a lot of variety that suited the music by Evanescence really well. The only thing that stopped her from getting my vote was the movement wasn't quite there. I think Lucy has a choice of which way to go. She either needs to be much bigger & bolder in her dance movements (I would have loved to see her hair whipping around to the music), or she could go further down the theatrical melancholic living doll route which would work equally well. As it was I think she was somewhere in between. I really hope she continues to work on this act because I know it could be fantastic. I already want to see this act again, & I don't say that very often.

Max Salthouse came on as Sister Max in a full nun's outfit. He showed great showmanship & played the crowd well. There was a bit of juggling 3 crucifixes in there & he played the drops in character superbly. It was laugh out loud funny but only a one joke act.

My vote ended up going to Arthur Hyam who performed a phenomenally high level single diabolo routine with tricks that were way too complicated for me to follow with precision & style. The two diabolo section was short, unnecessary & actually took something away from the act. I'm sure he would have seen a gold award if he had only performed the one diabolo section.

We then had a young 12 year old ball juggler performing 3-5 balls. It was droppy but very impressive for just a year's work. He clearly enjoyed being on stage which improved his performance. If compère Mark hadn't made all the old people hate young kids by listing some things that happened in the year he was born I'm sure he would have received more votes.

Cal Courtney is certain to be a star performer of the future. He performed 3-5 clubs with an endearing nervous character which was held flawlessly throughout. The first few drops worked in his favour as he covered with an amusing nervous laugh, but unfortunately because of the number of drops it started to grate by the end of the act. Overall though, very enjoyable to watch.

Alex McGillivray demonstrated a phenomenal improvement in skills over his performance in last years competition throwing lots of monster siteswaps with lots of balls, but unfortunately his act was less of an act this time round & was disappointingly more a list of tricks. Closing the show was Luke Hallgarten who is getting more professional every time I see him. His appearance was immaculate, the routine, movement & juggling was excellent, but sadly all too droppy.

It was obviously a tough decision for the judges who took a very long time to come back with the results, so long that Ieuan ended up bringing out bowls of snacks to keep the audience under control! When the judges did return we learned there was no gold award. Arthur & Cal picked up Silvers. Arthur also picked up the Judges Choice & the British Young Juggler of the Year title too. Arthur picked up a silver award & the British Young Juggler of the Year title while Cal picked up a bronze.

Stuff probably happened then it was time for...

Ceilidh

Once again the Rough & Ready Boys, including the legendary Tiff put us through our paces for the evening. The whole Atrium was filled to bursting with hyper enthusiastic dancers giving it everything which was a real spectacle. As usual I compensated for my lack of skill as a dancer with brute force & over exuberance. I was particularly pleased when I successfully managed to manoeuvre my arse backwards through an arch without hitting anything once in about a dozen attempts. Joy did tell me last year that she enjoyed twirling round so I was only too happy to oblige. I managed to keep her on her feet though, others around us weren't so in control/lucky & there were a few casualties along the way!

By the end of the final dance I was even more exhausted than I was after the Fight Night qualification which I didn't think was possible. I sat recuperating for a while with Ritchie & Joy. She commented on Ritchie's massive trainers which led to my favourite exclamation in a Yorkshire accent of the entire festival:

Joy: I love your big trainers.
Me: Yes, they are very Bill & Ted.
Ritchie: Who're Bill & Ted?
Joy: YOU DON'T KNOW BILL & TED!?
Ritchie: No.
Joy: Please tell me you know tut Goonies!

I got to the point where my hands were shaking because I was so tired & hungry so I made myself a midnight curry before making my way back to the main hall for more juggling. I discovered that at night the light effect around the skylight in the middle turned it into an almost perfect mirror which was great to run backcrosses under. Mïark grabbed me for some passing, we warmed up with some basic stuff before he introduced me to Jim's PPSPS which I was not in any frame of mind to try & work out but I had great fun trying though! By the end of our session I think I managed to get through the sequence successfully a couple of times.

I then joined in with the group combat at the other end of the hall with Luke Burrage, Jon Peat, Dave Leahy & others. There were a lot of really good bouts & I was pleased to score some genuine points against Luke. I took a few knocks & added a few more to Luke's already impressive collection that he picked up after falling off his bike earlier in the day.

I was completely wiped out so after a shower I was off to bed.

Tuesday

Kev & I went back to Vera's Cafe for another breakfast this time with Louisa (not Laura) in tow as well. Back on site I hit the main hall again where lots of people were trying the double balance. I watched Ronny come agonisingly close several times to pull off a 1 up 3 diabolo sun, 1 up 2 diabolo sun, 1 up 1 diabolo sun all before the first 1 up landed. I juggled for over an hour & pushed my 4 club scissors record up to 15 pairs which pleased me greatly before heading for the TWJC bar for a drink.

Sometime in the evening it was back to the Atrium for...

Open Stage

Ably put together by Ian Mrawa & compèred by Luke Burrage, the Open Stage show was kicked off by Jamie Fletcher & Lizzy Peat camping it up in Morris dancing get up accompanied by Guy Heathcote on the accordion to form the Morris dancing troupe the Tossing Wallop Morris. There was lots of silly skipping, bashing clubs & club passing interspersed with many moments that made me chuckle. Nigel Roder put on his pyjamas for a kung fu themed devilstick act, which now that I know that his trousers were falling down throughout was even better than I first thought!

Ross Burton did some slick ring juggling & it was great to see some decent ring spinning make it onto a big stage, if I recall correctly he did 3 on each arm & another 2 down one leg. It's really nice to see this coming back into fashion.

Nic the pirate bestowed a volunteer with the gloves of power to enable them to safely handle three legendary knives each with very distinctive blades. I bet he does very well on the street.

Merlin also camped it up & clumsily transformed herself from Diana into Wonder Woman while spinning a hula hoop with a little help from an amusingly fed up assistant.

Star of the show was Ed John Cliffe combining cigar boxes & a contact acrylic in fine style, manipulating the boxes while balancing & rolling the ball on top all the while. The stand out trick saw Ed balance the ball on top of the 3 boxes stacked in a staggered formation one on top of the other, he then span the whole assembly on one finger.

Dawn Marie presented an arty contact act where she did a little contact juggling with various letters of the alphabet & spelt out various poignant words. Sadly I was in far too puerile a frame of mind & spent the time looking for rude words, I think she could have made 'tits' & with a little artistic license: 'jism'.

Luke also did a ring juggling spot with colour changing rings, & also colour changing face whenever he changed direction. Jon Peat was awesome with yet another breath taking Jon Peat act packed full of Jon Peat tricks.

Closing the show was Fight Night star Iver Tronstad doing a lot of studly juggling with 3-6 clubs & balancing them on the peak of his cap. The juggling was amazing but I found the music a bit disconcerting.

It was a good show with lots of variety, & the acts were presented at a good pace. Ian did ask for criticism & I don't like to disappoint so I have to say that the lighting was poor for a number of acts most notably the first act. In general everything seemed a bit dark & there were a few times when it was difficult to see what was going on. I have no idea how whether this was down to the lighting available or whether it could be rectified though.

Later in the evening I found myself in the theatre for...

Renegade

I've been avoiding Renegade of late because it's not been as fun as it used to be for me. In amongst the evening's acts I was very pleased to get to see previous BYJOTY winner Thomas Bounce with a very slick 3-8 bounce ball routine, he was excellent when I saw him perform at Crawley a few years ago but has come on even stronger since then. I thought his routine was even better than Matthias from the gala show.

Trevor Organ churned through a fantastic number of cringeworthy jokes & stuffed a load of ping pong balls into his mouth. A tiny young lad named Frog got up for some diabolo & whip cracking which I think he enjoyed as much as the audience did. Surely he should be in bed at this time?! Jack & a friend smashed hard boiled eggs all over each other in interesting ways. There was a very touching gay wedding featuring a lot of acrobalance & ball passing. The Torwood Wheelers squeezed a wheel into the space & pulled off an impressive flat spin with 4 people mounted round the inside of the frame. Marcus & partner did some really nice partner devilstick controlling 2 devilsticks with one hand stick each & sharing a 3rd handstick in between them. They finished with 4 propellers with the girl on top of Marcus' shoulders.

The night finished with Chaz dressed up in an obscenely tight Jack Staff costume doing his wonderful technical contact staff routine that I saw at Cambridge last year which was great to see again.

Wednesday

I was up early in the morning, went for a pint of milk (the security guard was doing very well with 4 balls), had breakfast, had a shower, then went for a juggle in the main hall to find that someone had taken the time overnight to balance all the clubs that were left lying around on end which looked really beautiful. I had an excellent session & managed a personal record of 327 catches with 5 clubs on my first attempt!

I then went back to camp & ate far too much. Then I went to reception to see what t-shirts were left. My size wasn't available so I filled out a form for a reprint. About 20 minutes later I received a phone call to tell me it was ready which I have to say was extraordinary service!

I went along to the business meeting which was once again hosted by Lorri & scribed by Mïark. It was pretty long, can I make a suggestion that we cut out all the voting nonsense? Surely everyone knows that the audience for the biz meeting is in no way representative of the BJC audience as a whole? It was worth going just to see Abbi, Sam, Kat & Dee totally derail the discussion by turning up all looking sensational in fabulous full length ball gowns. As has been mentioned elsewhere the BJAG thing appears to have made progress, but I still get the impression that no one really knows what progress. I remain confused over the whole thing but will wait patiently.

After the meeting I spent a few minutes in the main hall again doing some handstand work & had my first inkling that a one arm stand may not be impossible.

In the evening I had a quick lie down, only to be rudely awoken two hours later by Kevin telling me it was time for the...

Cabaret Show

This caused me to blearily stumble over to the Atrium, but in the end I could have had an extra 15 minutes sleep due to a late start.

This show was hosted by Rosie Kelly & Charles Brockbank who just get better & better every time I see them. The, "What's your name? Don't care. Where are you from? Don't care." gave me my biggest laugh of the convention. I loved the Guess Who & the introducing skits. Fak & I had an absolute whale of a time dancing the epileptic crab too.

Act wise Luke sang two songs from his album Bitterly Autobiographical, I am Luke's Wallet & the Twin Song. I enjoyed the latter the most finding it funny & also very endearing at the same time.

Harry & Paddy from Circomedia were sensational with their duelling banjo hats. I was blown away when I saw them in the Circomedia Showcase Show last year. You'd think I would be slightly less impressed the second time around, but you'd be very wrong. Their act is blazingly high skill & beautifully put together.

Closing the show was Tom Derrick with one of the best acts of the convention. Set to 'Singing in the rain' (I must have been shattered by this time in the convention, my notes state 'singinginging in the rain'), Tom performed many balancing & twirling tricks with an umbrella. He looked fantastic, the pacing was spot on & the finale water bottle caught on the tip of the brolly finish in particular was executed flawlessly.

Tiff & his blue grass band continued the entertainment. I danced the night away with Joy (who seemed to make the lyrics to happy birthday fit every single song), Kirstie & briefly with Tor who was also looking stunning in another of those full length ball gowns, we had a quick chat & I was very pleased to learn that she & Flambé Circus look set to be very commercially successful with their latest act. Good luck to them all.

As it was the final night we joined in the effort to drink the Lazy Juggler bar dry, we must have been doing well as my usual cider ran out so I was onto the strawberry & lime Crabbies, that ran out too so I discovered the lovely spiced orange Crabbies. Suddenly Renegade started which confused me greatly & made me question where I was. There was some decidedly odd stuff on stage, notably the Pokemon monsters who transformed into Batman & Robin. I didn't quite get the group of people smashing brioche on a string either. There was a rousing rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, some good four person acro balance, BJC 2013 supremo Claire Stephens absolutely rocked her hoop routine & looked fantastic while doing it. The MHD Crew from the public show performed another fantastic act full of lots more ridiculous diabolo moves. Security guard Grandad got up & recited some of his poetry he wrote about the last BJC he worked at & Les, one of the star caretakers from the college stole the night with some fantastic lounge singing finishing with the Frank Sinatra classic My Way.

You'd think I'd know better by now not to make the last night before the journey home the latest one of the festival.

Thursday

Bleary really didn't cover it. Four of us went down to the cafe & had enough breakfast to see us through the whole day. There was a bit of rain & the wind meant that conditions were not ideal for packing away but I've dealt with much worse. Fortunately it seemed there were many more hands to spread the work around than usual so there seemed to be a lot less to do, although maybe it was just the lack of fencing to take down that made it seem that way. The amount of rubbish to collect was fairly minimal, very well done every body. I couldn't believe the amount of left over clothing & towels I collected from the pavilion though. Certain people made the most of the left over alcohol that was decided not to be worth adding to the lost property mountain.

It felt like I spent more time in the arms of friends than out on this last day. Which is just how things should be.


Thanks to

Massive thanks to Kevin for getting me there & back in a low number of pieces. Paul & Louisa (not Laura) for the fantastic bar & company. Joy for being the usual whirlwind that she is & for reducing me into a pathetic lovesick adolescent for a second time. The wonderful cleaning staff that did a fantastic job throughout the festival & were very pleasant to talk to every morning. But most of all to Jane, Natalie, Dee, AnnaBod, Claire, Jak, Ron, Kat, Hebe, Uncle Jon, Bryn, Paul, Ian, Ieuan, Nigel, Luke, Anna, Lorri, Mïark, Tom & all the rest of the epic team of people who made the event happen.

#bjc2014
#conventionreview

The Void - - Parent

Cal got Bronze, not Silver (only 1 of each was allowed to be awarded), and there was no Judge's Choice award. (Hasn't been for a while now.)

Orinoco - - Parent

Hahahaha! Ah yes I remember now, I was playing fantasy BYJOTY judge with our preferred awards system (Lucy & Luke also got silver, Max got bronze)! Thanks for the correction.

The Void - - Parent

No worries, also, I don't know if it's possible to add/submit corrections to trivia, but http://juggling.tv/users/5910/KathrinPancakes would appear to be how she spells her name, and I would regard Voodoo Unis as being an "Act" rather than an "Add". Could you pass those along to Marvin to mention to the GodEmperor?

Oh, and thanks for the review. Not sure I can be bothered to write much more than "Had a nice chilled time, played/filmed some kendama. Chatted/gamed/laughed. Thanks to all crew."

mrawa - - Parent

It was actually worse than you thought. The schools system didn't have an obvious (simple) way to have music being played from both the Atrium and on Stage, meaning that the acts couldn't hear their own music!

Yes the lighting situation was terrible. Turned out that the school had an overly complicated system involving control points, DMX, and who knows what else. It took Steve Cousins the best part of two hours to setup what we had for the Open Stage. The next day Joel and Mark ran around for at least three hours sorting out the lights and sound. All, but two lights in the Atrium were turned off, and the ones that were on were pointing in the wrong place. We had no way of moving them.

If we were to be at Darton again, then we would have to request the School provide us with some training on their complex system and have them position the lighting correctly!

Criticism is always helpful!

david - - Parent

Thanks for the great review. "Best convention review ever." Personal and professional.

 

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