This was my fourth BJC, my first being the BJC 2014 at Darton College and I haven’t experienced much of the convention scene. What’s new to me has probably been seen a thousand times by the regulars.
I arrived at about 5:30pm having walked from Nottingham Station. At the halfway point I stopped at Lidl to top up the supplies so I was ready to get rid of my bags. Registration was quick and there was no queue for the pre-registered line. I was handed the tshirt I bought in advance and a recycling bag and a standard rubbish bag (which I promptly forgot which was which). Other people from Glasgow Juggling Club were already practicing in the main hall so I hurried off to get my tent set up and join them.
The huge camping space was great, the lack of appropriately placed gates was a bit annoying but nothing the organisers could do anything about and some extra exercise is no bad thing! The lack of any kind of scullery is a bit awkward for people like me who prepare almost all their own food but don’t have a huge tent with everything including the kitchen sink. I can’t see an easy solution to this and I think when you have a venue like Darton College with a proper place to wash dishes you just need to be extra thankful.
I usually attend quite a lot of workshops because a lot of it is still new to me and it’s nice to try something you’d never get the opportunity to do elsewhere. In no particular order here are the ones I can remember attending:
- “How to run a workshop, workshop” – Jon Peat. He had prepared a few notes but the workshop took the form of a discussion and was definitely full of useful hints. Much of it was common sense, but workshop organisers (including myself in previous years) fail to do the basics well. My personal bugbear is when the difficulty level is not clear. For instance, I can do some basic passing stuff and enjoy learning more but I don’t want to go to a passing workshop were I let down my partner(s), nor do I want to miss one that I could do.
- “Low Numbers Ball Passing; The Chipmunk Series” – Katie Struthers & Ieuan Evans. Four balls between two people should be an easy way to start the first full day? Well, the warm-up patterns were, the later stuff not so much. A brilliant workshop though, well prepared and demonstrated. If I saw a workshop by Katie and Ieuan on the timetable I’d attend almost regardless of what is was after that one.
- “Tips on how to make a good juggling video” – Rosie Kelly. This wasn’t quite what I was expecting, I thought it might be a more technical discussion about what angles work, crazy techniques etc but it was more about the general ideas of cinematography. A good workshop though and I’ll refer to my notes from it in the future. Perhaps in future years have a creator talk about one of their videos? I believe Lewis Kennedy was the principal editor of “Corrections” which is the latest major video I can think of that was uploaded, it would have been nice to have him at that workshop.
- “How to be a stage manager” – (???) Run by the stage manager for most of the past four years of shows. It was an interesting insight and gave me an appreciation to the difficulty of hosting a show. I just turn up and expect to be entertained!
- “Prechac passing” – Pan. I first attended this workshop in 2015 and the crowd was much more interested and already into the mathematics behind siteswap than those of this year so it was quite different. However, he did a great job of introducing Prechac and his knowledge and enthusiasm to share his passion is excellent. I hope he runs this one every year!
- “Lasso” – Peter Lister, he runs this every year I think. I really enjoy it and as mentioned below, I now own my own!
- “Cushion spinning” – Thomas Bounce. He’s just lovely and one of the most approachable people I have met. Not enough people attended his workshop (there were maybe 6 of us) but it was a lovely atmosphere and there is talk of a world record attempt next year (he currently holds the record for longest spin). I saw him with Matthew Tiffany and Will (Scottish juggler based in Edinburgh) practicing in the main hall so maybe he has some competition!
- “Improving Juggling Technique Through Functional Neurology” – Jame McCambridge. Wow, this was a strange one. It introduced me to the arthrokinetic effect (I am not even going to try and explain that here) and started with him demonstrating how you can compress someone’s ankle and reduce their strength. OK, there is no way I can begin to describe it all here but I don’t think it’s pseudoscience and Jame approaches the subject with a good, sceptical mind. If he runs this again or you meet him then it’s definitely worth taking the opportunity to speak to him. It was at this workshop I joked to Jon Peat that I was stalking him because we seem to share a similar taste in workshops.
- “4 to 5 ball juggling” – Paul Donegan. Some interesting tricks and I put a name to a face that I have seen at every convention I’ve been to so far.
- “Aerial Silks” – CJ Carnell. I have no grace whatsoever when I am upside down. During one of the drops I somehow managed to grab hold halfway round and stop my progress. It’s on video somewhere. I am not linking to it here.
Held on the first evening and organised by Allen Goldie this was a great start to the convention. He maintained good humour throughout, despite the PA system conspiring against him. We also found out who put the rama lama in the ding a dong. I am terrible at pub quizzes but Jim from our club is a local quiz master so we managed second almost entirely thanks to his efforts.
I bought two lassos from Oddballs, it’s about time a juggling supplier started selling them in the UK! I also got some saddle advice from Roger a unicycle.uk.com, although I didn’t actually buy anything I will probably make use of the 10% discount.
I am a total cheapskate and only ate out twice, once at the local chip shop (excellent, huge portions) and Wok ‘n Go in Nottingham (just OK). I highly recommend bringing a sandwich toastie/panini maker suitable for a gas stove (https://www.amazon.co.uk/RidgeMonkey-Toaster-Silver-FREE-Utensil/dp/B01N4Q6149) Seriously, buy some bread and fillings and keep them in a cool bag. You’ll be eating like a king for the rest of the convention!
I’m not going to through all the acts, other reviews have done this already. Overall I really enjoyed it but it wasn’t my favourite Gala show that I have seen. Rosie’s humour didn’t crossover mine for a lot of her gags, the duck/children just wasn’t funny to me (but others loved it, so each to their own!), however her sarcastic pre-show announcements were excellent and primed the audience well before she even stepped on the stage. Iain from GJC injured his hand trying to catch a long range club as we returned to the hall. There was some impressive swelling. The convention organisers and Harvey Hadden staff managed the situation well.
I thought the technical level wasn’t quite as high as previous years but I enjoyed every act. I’m not sure about aerial acts being included because they are so hard to compare to the props traditionally permitted and I think that will have some behind the scenes discussion. I particularly admire those who haven’t performed before, the first act wasn’t a high level of technical ability and he was quite droppy but he still got up there and gave it a go when I wouldn’t dream of stepping on the stage! I just wish he didn’t have his mouth full for most of the act, I don’t like watching people eat!
One of the best I have seen. It was lovely to see a member of GJC on the stage. Louis Duncan did an excellent 3 ball act and I can’t believe that’s the first time I have seen him perform after watching him practice for the past few years. Matthew Tiffany is possibly one of my favourite characters on stage (and off of course) so it was a joy to have him compere. The British Show really was excellent and the perfect way to kick of the convention.
I hated the introduction, it was a rambling disjointed spoken word thing made from quotes which for me epitomised pretentious artistic stuff. It just doesn’t do anything for me. I get that other people enjoy it so I’ll live with it. However, once the show got going it was generally pretty good. Highlights included the 3 clubs with 3 guys and the cyr wheel vs eggs. I didn’t appreciate the loud volume of the “Oh my God” song. I covered my ears for the entire thing because my I care about my hearing and music that loud just hurts. The ending with the dancing Jesus man was… different. Probably not my cup of tea but better than the introduction.
I spent most of them juggling with Pan but managed to watch Kev win the balloon gladiators. I was relieved he did because his foe at the end evaded all contact and didn’t look seem to pop anyone else’s balloon throughout which I thought was contrary to the spirit of the game.
I did get a timelapse of the entire games which can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rmzl3e3zJ0Y
The huge spinning balloon chain rotating above the blower was cool. It was even cooler when two people passed through it. Perfect convention antics. I also thought the octopus that was made for the birthday which had props in his hands was adorable.
It ended too soon. So much fun.
I had chatted to Duncan about Kururins before the convention and gave him two of the tools I have made to assist in the making of them (http://jonathanjamieson.com/projects/kururin/). I didn’t get to play with the ones I have made as much as I’d like but I think Duncan did a better job introducing the wider juggling community to them. Oh, and thanks to the Secret Postbox people for finding Duncan from my description of him!
Scottish Juggling Convention
I missed the Glow Show to attend a get-together to discuss reviving the Scottish Juggling Convention. Ron did a brilliant job with the 2016 BJC and I think the time is right to bring back the SJC. Watc
- I only heard a whip being cracked once in the main hall, apparently there was a space dedicated to them at the school and they must have only been used there.
- Organisation. I didn’t notice any issues at all so that’s testament to the great work being done by the organisers. Well done!!
- Weather. The first convention I’ve been to which had proper shorts and tshirt weather.
- Everything. I just love the BJC. There really is too much to list here.
- It’s anecdotal but I think there were more thefts this year than usual. Some of it is probably carelessly taking stuff such as the missing Ugly after the big toss up but Callum’s phone was almost certainly deliberately stolen. Just not cool.
- Rubbish. I wish people would just tidy up after themselves.
- I slept very well and the campsite was well away from the sound systems but occasionally I was awoken at ungodly hours by people with the most inane chat. Seriously, it’s 3:30am, unless it’s important or actually interesting it can wait till the (proper) morning when you’re in a camping area.