Chocfest 2016 – Convention Review (UK)
This Saturday was the 21st annual juggling convention held in York (UK).
Me and Jenni rose early and left without breakfast with the intention of getting our Chocfest tradition of breakfast in the ‘Red Bus Café’ on the A64. We were very upset to find the Café has closed and is for sale! :-( Called in at the next pub on the road but it was all locked up. We pressed on to York and went straight to the Beefeater near to the convention site.
I’m tempted to make that a tradition now. Superb all you can breakfast, I totally pigged out which meant that there was no need to stop for lunch, bonus! Pleasantly surprised to see Barnsey, Suzanne and little baby Bella who were also in for breakfast.
We headed over to the convention, agonised over which pass to choose and went to the main hall. I was surprised how empty it was but it soon filed up. Chocfest does have a lovely great big hall, a nice atrium area where there is usually a lot of game playing taking place and a nice show venue with raked seating.
I used the quiet morning time to work on some solo balls, headbouce and some club juggling. Lewis arrived so we did some club passing. We did some good stuff with lower numbers, when we got up to 9 and 10 we were slightly fatigued so called it a stop. Good passing session though.
I spent some time working on 5 club tricks and finished off with some 6 club half shower. Managed a couple of qualifies, once it is in the air it is not too bad, it is just getting it there!
2pm was combat tournament time. We struggled slightly for numbers but finally rustled up an 8th player meaning a full tournament could take place. It was quite a strong field, many of the players had made it through to the Semis at the BJC so it was quite tough going. Brook seeded first after winning all qualification matches, I secured second seed based on points as me and Dan had the same number of wins vrs losses. I met Brook in the final again and we had a good battle. I found a good tactic which seemed to work for a while which involved a lot of running around and making Brook chase me. I won that set, then Brook got wise to my scheme and destroyed me. The final point of the game was won by the ‘Brook classic downward sweep’ (which I really need to learn to avoid) which disarmed me completely. Well played Brook, very consistent performance again! Everyone enjoyed the tournament and there were some very good points and matches so it was a good success. Also kudos to slow motion guy who filmed some of mine and Dan’s match, I am looking forward to seeing that footage.
I decided to have a little lie down for a bit in a sweaty puddle on the floor before it was 4pm and time for the games.
Lots of traditional convention games took place. I lost my balance trying to maintain the club balance endurance. Basically crashed straight into Jenni (which was good otherwise it might have been awkward!) and ended up in a pile on the floor (I’m hoping that Alan did not film it). Me and Chaz exchanged some wordless communication and teamed up to win the stredging game. Awesome technique on the kick ups from Chaz and the best high fiving action ever seen. I managed to win the 5 ball endurance, I knew all that left handed half shower practise would pay off! Also managed to come second in the 7 ball endurance to Dan Wood. No shame there. The games rounded off with some 3 club gladiators. It was good fun to play in general convention melee.
I then abandoned the hall and went on to the show venue for teching for the show. I enjoyed watching the tech runs. Highlights of the show included Little Mouse, pretty hoops, robotic techno cigar box contact and ring balances.
I spent most of the actual show in the studio backstage where there was lovely lighting and high ceiling (York crew – get this room as the backstage green room for the show every year. It is an awesome place for the acts to prepare during the show!) I watched the cake eating bedlam but did not partake this year, I was a little bit full of fish and chips by this point. Had a nice chat with Alice in the interval and saw Jenni. I really enjoyed performing my club routine, I always enjoy performing in shows where Dr Ed is in the audience as I know exactly when I have done something he finds amusing. Gutted I missed the last catch of my finale trick, but to be fair that was quite fitting and I don’t think it detracted from the routine. It seemed very well received and I got lots of really positive comments afterwards which makes all the practise and hard work worth it, I was very pleased with how it went. :-)
That was the end of the day. Everybody packed up and went home. I wish that I’d had more time during the day. I didn't manage to pass rings with Mark, clubs with Brook or do any manipulator patterns.
There was a really nice crowd at Chocfest again this year plus a lot of faces which I don’t normally get to see at conventions (mainly because they hide out at Bristol and Bungay) so I would have liked to have chatted with more people.
Thank you to the Chocfest team for putting together another great convention. See you there next year!
The Chocfest Chocolate Cake Challenge was won (not at all suspiciously) by people from York. Em, Jake, Max, Tom & Elliot made a 24kg chocolate cake in the shape of a Rubik's cube, with stats like:
17.5kg of chocolate.
65 combined man hours of work.
24.1kg total weight.
4 tier chocolate fudge cake in the middle.
My highlight was probably actually the combat after the games - I must have played for an hour (or more? didn't really keep track) and burned off all of the calories. Good fun, and we kept playing some games with just four of us for a while, including a bit of team combat, which I always forget to suggest but actually really enjoy. Different things to think about and makes it a bit more interesting. I also managed to achieve by goal with only four of us of finishing the round with one club from each of the opponents, although I think after a while they realised I was repeatedly trying to steal clubs and made it a lot harder!
That point at the end counters the first point, where you knocked away my clubs before my brain had actually decided it was time to start playing combat...I always get punished if I'm not instantly alert against you!
That Rubik's cube cake was ridiculous. Does anyone know how much of it actually got eaten in the end?
Actually, my highlight may have actually been beating Dan in a knockout game of combat. For the first time. (he's beaten me in two previous tournaments in the knockout stages) I think the trick to playing against his weird style is just to run away for twice as long as you think you need to when he does crazy high throws...
It was my first chocfest in about 6 years or so, but as far as I can work out I think it was 20 years since the first chocfest I went to - although I remember more about chocfest 1997 than I do that first one.
I drove up from Bristol on Saturday morning, managing to get to the venue after only a 4 hour drive, the satnav telling me to turn left off a bride onto the road below, sriving through a section of york the satnav thought was a field - and then having to guess where the venue was because "you have reached your destination" was nowhere near a school. Turns out it wasn't even on the same road.
It's probably time I bought a new satnav, this one hasn't had any map updates in quite some time.
I made it to the venue for about 11am, and immediately bumped into loads of people I've not seen in ages. Having chosen a pass, I decided my priority was tea (as I hadn't had a cup in over 4 hours and that's Not Acceptable) - more chatting, greeting old faces, meeting a couple of new ones etc.
Eventually I managed to make it into the gym, where I met more people, did more chatting, and eventually yes - I managed to spend some time working on my list of stupid tricks with impractical props. Some times I wish I was an enthusiastic ball juggler, that would be much more portable than the salerno ring and golf clubs I seem to cart about.
Time was spent swapping construction ideas for props with various people, discussing how we're all learning the wrong trick with the salerno ring, catching up with yet more people, swapping anecdotes about second hand sewing machines etc.
All in all, not much juggling and a lot of chatting later, the hall became very noisy/hot/sweaty just in time for us to pop off to the pub for lunch.
Despite being warned in advance that we were coming, I don't think the pub were really set up for handling a table of 20 jugglers so service was slow and a little patchy, but still - we managed to get fed.
I think I'd happily go back there as my pie and chips was really tasty. Unlike a lot of pub pies, it actually was a pie being surrounded completely complete with hot water crust pastry. None of this "bowl of stew with a puff pastry lid" nonsense. Many thanks to Charlie for herding the cats on that one!
After lunch there was a bit more chatting, a bit more attempting to work on stuff I really should practice more than once a year, more chatting... and then Mamph suggested a trip to the chipshop for dinner. Which seemed like a reasonable plan, so another round of chips later...
It was then time for the show. I don't have much to say about the first half to be honest. I liked some of the compere's material, even if he does fall rather too easily into the magicians trap of "perform the trick as described in the instructions, patter included" which is a bit of a pet hate for me) - his magic square handling was impressively slick though, I tried to learn it once and gave up on it.
During the interval I watched people shovelling cake into their mouths, avoiding taking part myself. Partly because I was full of chips, but mostly because I have an alergy which makes eating "cakes where I don't know full the ingredient list" a bit like playing russian roulette.
That and chocolate cake is probably my least favourite type of cake.
The second half of the show was rescued by the last two acts, who really outclassed the rest of the show.
The venue closes shortly after the show ends, so it was time to disperse. I went back to sweavo/ami/jack's where ewano and I were crashing for the night - via a chinese because I hadn't had enough junk food for one day - and found Duncan, Lorri and Mikey sat around discussing lucid dreaming, slug sex, and all the usual post-fest conversation topics. I got to bed around midnight, which is probably fairly early as these things go.
In the morning, we were treated to a very welcome full fry-up by Ami (and an entertaining discussion about kitchen-aid mixers) Exactly what the doctor ordered, even if it was my 4th incredibly unhealthy meal of the weekend.
I headed back to Bristol around mid-day. The journey home was significantly quicker, despite the traffic being about the same. I'm not sure how that works, I can only assume that north->south is downhill or something.
I got home just in time to pop to screwfix and pick up the PVC sleeving that I'd ordered in, which was a prerequisite for getting my phone exchange back online.
High - seeing lots of faces I don't see very often
Low - probably having to drive all that way home
Crush - probably sweavo/amy for their hospitality, and jack for being one of the less annoying toddlers.
Bane - lack of ventilation in the gym
Goal - didn't really have one beyond "get to chocfest"
Surprise - seeing people I hadn't expected to see there, and catching up with some friends I've not seen in far too long
All in all, I enjoyed myself, even if I didn't do all that much actual juggling.
It was great to see everyone - which is mainly why we came, although I got a chance to play with the Dapostar a bit (everything's beginning to come together, very very slowly) and join in the club gladiators at the end of the games. Came 2nd a couple of times which was nice considering the other participants clearly take it more seriously than I do. Still working on a strategy to beat Brooke and his Inspector Gadget arms. The show was a little underwhelming for me but we enjoyed Little Mouse, the pretty light-up hoops and Jon being Jon.
Other things I particularly enjoyed were two evenings in the hotel that could have been rather lonely but were enlivened by chatting to Barnesy about babies; the pub lunch working out so well even with the unexpected increase in numbers; the kids enjoying a space where they could wang about their very bouncy balls without adults complaining for once; and the next day's visit to the Railway Museum, sadly lacking a Flying Scotsman although I hear it's on the way back next month.
See some of you at Bungay, no BJC for us this year.
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