Review of the British Juggling Convention 2003

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Review of the British Juggling Convention 2003
University of Sussex, Falmer Campus
Thursday, 10th April - Sunday, 13th April, 2003


Note: the following is not necessarily entirely accurate. However, it may be. While I have double-checked certain events with other people, I still might have mixed the days up or arranged events in a different order to that in which they actually happened. Please forgive me if this is the case. I am more than happy to alter anything on this page that I can be convinced is incorrect, please contact me for more information.

It's Sunday night and I'm sitting here wondering what to write about the convention, moreover how to write it. I have no shame in admitting (now) it was my first, and definitely not last overnight convention. I have been keeping a diary of the things I've been up to in a notebook, but did not get the opportunity to maintain it as often as I'd liked. However, this is what I have managed to record, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

BJC2003 - a story in pictures ... if you ignore the captions!

Day one: Thursday, 10th April, 2003

Bit of an early start, but I didn't mind! I got up about half past seven: for the first time in a week I think I got up without any assistance - must have been the excitement! Hurried down and had some breakfast (three Weetabix, two slices of toast and a cup of coffee), and then scuttled back upstairs to finish packing. It took longer than I had thought because I had to rearrange stuff until it all fitted in. In the end it did all fit in to the main holdall, backpack and extra carrier attached to the top. The holdall was a lot lighter than I had thought it would be, which would make dragging it less painful and the changes (three of them) required to get to Clapham Junction tube more fun (!)

Set off at 0910 (a little later than I had planned) from West Harrow tube, and caught a train four or five minutes later. From then on it was pretty much plain sailing until I got to my destination, as each change was quick and I caught a train within a few minutes at each station. Wicked. Arrived at Clapham Junction early at 1020 (which was a big surprise for me), and waited for Tom to get in touch, which he did. We grabbed the stuff and went to the car which was parked round the corner. I had heard it was going to be full, but until I had seen it I really had no idea just how full it would be. Met up with Rich soon after who had made the short journey from where he was staying by bus. We clambered in and arranged the stuff vaguely because we were to meet Nick at Crystal Palace station a bit further down the line. Ten minutes later we met him, so we got all the stuff out and packed it solid, starting with the duvet which was spread across the seats. Next I got in and packed some stuff around me, then Nick, and some lose korfballs, and we were away.

Agreed to have lunch at a greasy spoon somewhere along the way, which we did at about half one (or was it half twelve?) I had a Vegetable goulash because they had run out of veggie burgers. Was nice, maybe a little too healthy, but it was tasty. I made up for it by complementing it with a portion of chips. Carried on down to Brighton, arrived about half two (or half three?) after driving around for a bit to find the drop off point. Met Mike & Gerard just after we had parked up, they had bought full-price tickets (at sixty-pounds each) when Rich had two going spare at the pre-register price of fifty, but never mind. Unloaded the stuff and walked it over, and set up camp. I would be staying with Nick in his four-man tent, meant we could have some space. The tent was quite large and had a large porch, which allowed us to store the unicycle and the korfballs and some of Simon's camping stuff, as well as some lager! Chucked the equipment in and had a look around.

The first place I came across was the Big Top where a music workshop would be starting soon, so I went over with my guitar to investigate. There were a dozen or so people involved in the workshop when I arrived, including a couple o characters! There was a guy called Nigel on keyboard/guitar, three or so acoustic guitarists, a lady (I think her name is Alison) on a range of percussive instruments and a recorder/piccolo type instrument, and Jed (the bag lady) also about. There were a couple of drums and some spare guitars to pick up and play. We had a jam with the 12-bar blues in a range of keys, and took it in turns to solo. We also did a number of other songs, namely: Wonderwall, Brown eyed girl, Jammin' and some that I didn't know.

After that (1700 ish), I headed over to the bar/restaurant to join the crew, and had dinner: (vegetable risotto and green salad) at about 1745. I can't remember exactly what we did after that, but I know we did some stuff in the juggling hall in the Sportcentre, after a bit of a run around in the direction of the Mandela Hall. Didn't find the way in, but this was because it wasn't to open until 2300 when the Sportcentre closed. Had a bit of a club pass. Hung about in the bar for a bit, had some more food about 2330, in preparation for the Renegade show at midnight. Nick & I joined the rest of the group in the Big Top just before the show began. It started late, at approximately 0040 or so, but this was cool. There were some good acts, notably "Fist full of lice", a two-piece hat act who were fantastic, Gordon on didgeridoo (whom I had met in the music workshop earlier), and some others. Luke Burrage was the compere and did some funny tricks with a hat, sunglasses and ... something else that I cannot remember (any help anyone?) Ross, a young poet from Newcastle was also good. Luke did a funny thing jumping over his linked hands and then did it backwards, then did it with a flaming bar. After getting Jed to blindfold him and tape his hands to it and set it alight, he had to let go because it was too hot, so he had achieved one of his two potential goals: to burn himself. It was quite hilarious. Went to bed about half past two, or thereabouts. What pictures I have of the Renegade show will have to do.

Day two: Friday, 11th April, 2003

Didn't get up too late (about 0930). Rich was on the gate doing a favour for John Kennett. He was stewarding, stopping cars from parking in an area reserved for camper vans and caravans. I received a text from him and felt well enough to go over and relieve him, which I did at 1010 for an hour. I had one slight situation with a guy who came to drop off some cable on a large reel. I told him to park in a space in front of a barrier while he went to the Sportcentre to ask where to take it. No sooner had he left in the direction of the Sportcentre did a car approach wanting to go through the barrier, and now couldn't. The driver wasn't too bad though, a short wait and they were on their way once the delivery driver had moved off closer to the Sportcentre entrance. After that there weren't many other problems. Nick came to replace me afterwards and I went back to the tent and grabbed the stuff I needed for a shower, which I then had in the Sportcentre. Was nice and warm, and it felt great to actually be clean again! After that I dropped my stuff at the tent and headed out to find a shop to buy some supplies from.

Simon was doing the car park duty when I passed by that way, so I asked him where the nearest place was. He suggested a place on campus which was a five or ten minute walk away. I had a leisurely walk across the campus to find it, it was situated in a small shopping area. I needed some milk (for Weetabix), Weetabix (for breakfast), some bread (for lunch and bed-time snack), and some chocolate for energy. I found all the things I wanted and went back to the tent so I could consume some of them! I had not had breakfast so I ate four or five of the Weetabix using my large blue plastic mug as a bowl. Was just what I needed at that time. I also bought a filled roll and ate that and a packet of Twiglets, by which time I felt quite full. I hung about in the tent until 1345.

Following this, I headed up to the car park point with ten clubs. On the way, I stopped to take a picture of some people playing football on stilts - it would have made a really good photo if it weren't for the fact that my camera battery was on it's last legs. It had been a bit shaky at the Renegade show the night before, but had got through it even though I couldn't take some photos that I wanted to. I had managed to turn the thing on, but now it didn't have enough power to turn itself off, which was a bit silly, but after a few minutes it was OK. While I was doing this, I man approached me, and seeing the mess of ten clubs on the floor pointed out that I had ten long-handled Spotlight Europeans. He told me that they aren't quite so common anymore as they aren't made in the UK, and told me that he makes them in Amsterdam. I was in disbelief because I am looking to buy some for myself because I like their spin, so I was very very very pleased to get his card, and I will investigate further. I was also surprised at the cost he told me he could provide them for: twenty-one Euros a-piece which is about fourteen pounds. Impressive stuff. The only problem I have now is deciding which colours to order!

I met up with Mike & Gerard who were doing the car park duty and had a quick go on Gerard's unicycle. He was doing some crazy one-legged idling which impressed me no end. We had a go at some nine-club feeds, and Rich and I had another go at passing seven - every time we have a go we get a little better. I'm not sure how many catches we are up to now, but it is about twenty on a good run, which is a big improvement. At 1500 we headed over to a 5+ balls workshop being run by Ben Beever in Squash court four. We were a little late and missed the early stuff about which balls to use. He showed us some tricks with five balls, six balls and seven, I'm not sure if he got up to nine, but I was impressed as it was. The thing which blew me away was after he explained about different heights and the association of numbers for each throw: he juggled six (I think!) and did some higher throws. In a five ball pattern, I am guessing that he did a 7 then a 5. He continued to do this, raising the numbers higher and higher, doing 4's while they were in the air. I got silly when he said "If you juggle a bit faster...!" I think the highest throws he did were 13's or something outrageous, while the other four balls did really small 4's. It was an absolute pleasure to watch from start to finish, the round of applause at the end echoed this.

Afterwards, quite a few of us attended the seven club passing workshop in the Dance studio. It got rather busy and half of us were asked to come back in half an hour. Rich and I headed down to the juggling hall and continued to practice seven, and made some more progress. I think after this I did some three-count stuff with Nicky and Sheldon, and tried a 6-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-6 for the first time. I didn't manage to do the whole thing completely, but made significant progress towards it. I also tried some left-hand doubles and was pleased with what I could do at the end of the session. The three-count is great and will come in useful when doing a ten-club feed between three, because there exists a three count pass for all but the feeder. Shall investigate in due course. Went back over to the camping area and played a game exchanging the following objects in an amusing fashion: a mini rugby ball, a football, a juggling club and a Frisbee.

At 2030 we made our way out to the Fire juggling area to see the Te Pooka fire show. They are a group of performers from Edinburgh (I think). We got there a few minutes after the start and therefore didn't get as good a view as we had liked, but nevertheless. We were right at the edge of the stage, but it meant we could see some of the stuff that went on behind the scenes, the pictures will show what I mean. It was quite an impressive show, two performers in particular who did a small piece with long fire staffs was superb, and when they set fire to the model tents they had made out of paper everyone felt the heat! The show ended with all the performers on stage doing their thing, with "BJC" in flaming letters on one side and "2003" on the other. All in all, worth seeing despite the cold weather!

Next, we headed over to the bar to warm up and have some drinks before the Renegade show. We watched a bit of the Brighton Agitators, who were performing some ska and reggae music, which was exactly what everyone needed after a hard day juggling. We got a central table and played Perudo, a game I haven't played before, and drank beer. I met a friend of Simon's called Sanjay, who was from Cambridge. Headed over to the Renegade tent which was being compered by Devilstick Pete. Pete came on stage riding his tricycle to cheers and applause, and told us had taken him four days to cycle to Brighton from Somerset (including two days busking). He was also wearing a red and yellow jesters costume which looked fabulous. I have some pictures of this but my camera battery was going and I didn't get to take as many as I had hoped. We left about half-past-three, and got to bed at about four.

Day three: Saturday, 12th April, 2003

I must admit I was quite tired after the Renegade show the previous night, luckily it wasn't such a cold night. I got up about 1130 and had breakfast - five Weetabix. I think. I then ventured on to the Sportcentre for a shower and had a pass in the juggling halls. Did some seven clubs and some feeding with Mike & Gerard. While we were in there, Ali came to the convention, I didn't know she was coming so it was a nice surprise! We left about ten past two so we could go back to the tent and get ready for the parade. I had pretty much got everything I needed but went back anyway as everyone else was.

The parade along the seafront was due to start at 1500, so we got a bus from the site at about 1440 and joined the gathering crowds. I went to get a new battery for my camera so could get some pictures of the parade and the games, it didn't take me long to find a place and meet up with the group again. I had a quick look at the drummers at the front and took a few pictures, before meeting up with everyone else on a small jetty where there was a giant donut! We had a bit of a club pass and met a guy called Brian who kindly offered to take a picture of us all. He stayed with us and we started on the parade from the Palace Pier to the Ellipse.

The show was being hosted by Charlie Dancey, who knew what he was talking about and had a good sense of humour. The funniest of all the games was the "Doing poi and being mincy" game, which did go on for a while but was very funny, if had to eliminate people from. Other funny comments were from a guy looking for a flat-ended club so he could balance a cup of water on the top of his club. This was to prevent people from cheating because once the water is spilt people notice! Matt from the Derby group was the winner in the end, and well done to him. Another funny moment was the "Quick tricks" section where people could do a quick trick which was either skilful or funny, and there were quite a few of each! The last event in the games was "The Big Toss Up", which is the BJC's gift to the town hosting the convention. The idea is to juggle or balance whatever you like and when counted in, throw all the objects as high as you can in to the air. I don't have any pictures of this because I was recording the whole thing on camera for Nick, I am eagerly awaiting the results. It was great to see a sea of objects, balls, clubs, unicycles, whatever going in to the sky, hence it was a great finishing event!

By the time the games were over it was about half five, so we moved on to a pub to warm up and have a few drinks. We stopped off and had one drink in a pub which didn't serve food, before moving on to another. When we got to the second pub half of us split off to get food and the other half stayed. At 1830 we would return so that the others could get food if they wanted to. I had a veggie burger and chips from a place along the front, and how nice it was. After that we headed back to the pub and the rest went to grab food, but as there was little time to the public show, we agreed that anyone who wanted food could grab it on the way to the show.

We headed for the Dome. The venue was quite nice inside, immediately after entering the lower audience area you could see people making a large balloon chain as well as sending the balloons that fly around in the direction of the grill at the top. It was absolutely hilarious watching all the attempts people made to get their balloon through the grill. The show didn't start long after and included a wealth of people, some of whom I had heard of and some I hadn't. My personal favourites were "Bibi and Bichu" (I don't know how they are spelt), two Ethiopian jugglers who did a passing routine. I had seen at least one of them in the Millennium Dome when I was there and was very impressed with them then. Their act started with five clubs and built up to ten, which they then passed back to back. There were also the Gandini Jugglers, who had an act inspired by the music of Vivaldi, and a number of two and three-piece physical performance acts which I thought were superb. The final group on were The Racketeers, featuring Haggis McLeod, who had an act themed around tennis - juggling and passing tennis racquets. It was interesting to see what could be done and I was very impressed by them, not least by the fact that the girl who was with them was rather cute! Did I just say that?!

After the show we waited for five or so minutes for a bus back to the site, and went to the bar to get in the spirit of things for the Renegade show. We met up and had a drink by the stage. While the group were playing Perudo, I saw Ben Beever and thought I'd have a word with him to say how much I enjoyed his workshop the previous day. He joined us and we got talking about a few common interests. I also (partially) picked his brain on the number system notation used for juggling, which I am intrigued by. We headed over for the Renegade show, which started quite late again, this time being presented by two characters whom I had not heard of. Both were entertaining though: one climbed through a juggling ring and the other did some crazy stuff on a giraffe, so I was impressed. I had by now got a new battery so I took some pictures of some of the acts. We left about half-three or four and went back to the tent where a few of us had a jam on the guitar and toasted marshmallows on a mini barbeque that Mike has brought along. We were joined by a guy called Sean who stayed in Mike & Gerards tent overnight; he played some blues stuff which was good. None of us could play for very long because by this time it was getting quite cold. By 0430, I was ready for bed.

Day four: Sunday, 13th April, 2003

I knew I had to be up in time for the unicycle hockey session at 1100, so I got up about 0930, had a quick breakfast and had a shower. I met a guy in the changing rooms who turned out to be Russell Wells, who was the man who ran the unicycle hockey workshop. I got there a little late but still managed to participate in the tournament. I was playing with a younger fellow in team E. I don't think we won any of the games but I didn't expect to do fabulously well considering it was my first time. It is really hard work, even though the games are only five minutes long. When the session was over, I headed down to the traders hall so Daisy and I could purchase some equipment for Circus Society.

We spent a while going around and looking at what was on offer. After looking at some of the deals, I bought a bag of balloons and a pump (at a very good price) from Jesters. I also got some slightly shorter cottered cranks for my unicycle, which are apparently better for commuting with. In addition, I bought a cheap set of plastic pedals because my current ones are metal, and certain unicycle hockey people won't play hockey if you have metal pedals. I had go on Rogers 28 inch unicycle with some cranks on which I think were the same size as the ones I had bought. It was quite fast which was good, so it will be similar to how mine will be, only that my wheel is 24 inch. I look forward to putting then on! My final purchase was a very nice set of juggling knives from Passe Passe, brought to my attention by Gerard, who bought a set earlier on. They look more dangerous than my current diamond shaped knives, and were better quality, as my current ones bend easily.They had a nice edge which made them look like they were sharp, and came in a pouch, which is brilliant because I had been making them myself out of cardboard and similar such materials, and they had been falling apart like there was no tomorrow. I was impressed with that purchase, even if it had been a slight extravagance. Anyway, I don't spend like that usually, and wouldn't have got a deal like that if it wasn't a convention. Daisy and I also had a look at some flower sticks and devil sticks for Circus Society, as she is wanting to run a devil stick workshop in the near future, and our existing ones are not good enough for this. In the end we bought two of each. The flower sticks are particularly nice as they aren't as fast as the devil sticks, which will aid teaching. They were at quite a good price too, which please me, as it would be going on my debit card! We also bought some lightweight contact balls from Passe Passe because they would take a lot of abuse and would be good for practicing with. And they weren't expensive.

When all the buying had been done it was time to head back over to the tent, but not before I had had a conversation with Dave about making my own beanbags. He was on a Space Hopper and I must say it was very entertaining to watch him hop around on it. I went for a juggle in the juggling hall and did some passing and feeding with Mike & Gerard. We went back to get some more clubs because I didn't have any, and then had a go at "the walk around" and just about managed to get it to work once round a few times. It felt good. Mike and I also had a tinker with doing a two-count with doubles, which we gave up doing after a bit because we were both tired.

By this time it was about half one or two o'clock so I headed back over to the tent, expecting to take it down soon. The weather was absolutely fantastic, if a little breezy, so I got all my stuff out and started to arrange it so I could pack it in to my small holdall and backpack. Took a bit longer than I thought it would. I also helped Nick take down and fold up his four-man tent, which was quite easy and straightforward. Good tent you have there fella, thanks for letting me kip in it and store my stuff! While I was packing up, Nick and Rich showed me their new trick with six clubs: 6-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-6. Grr! Took me ages and I hadn't got it. Never mind, something to practice at Circus next term.

When I'd pretty much got it all together, people started to leave and soon after Simon and I left. We had a short walk to the train station with all our kit. Simon had a holdall which was about half as full as mine was, and most probably half the mass. He had a lightweight tent and a backpack, and I think that was it. I had my holdall (which was full), my backpack, guitar and unicycle. We tried initially to take our own stuff as far as possible, but I found this quite hard with the unicycle, which needed to be pushed/pulled in a certain direction. A bit further along, we agreed to carry the main bags between us, Simon took the unicycle and I took his tent and my guitar under my arm. It worked much more effectively and we carried the equipment like that almost all of the rest of the way to the station. The last bit over the bridge was bit of a haul after I had bought my ticket, because the train came in and we had to sprint the last bit, but we made it in time and I felt very relieved that the hard work was over.

It was three stops from Falmer to Brighton. When we got there Simon waited on the platform while I got a ticket back home, which I was impressed with - the single cost me £10.70 which I thought was excellent. Didn't take me long and we had ten or so minutes walk to the train before it left. While we half-struggled with the stuff, a guy offered to take the unicycle for us. His name was Nick and he had been at the convention too. We sat with him on the train and he told us he was in to devil sticking and a bit of juggling. We were also joined by a guy who was travelling round the world, I'm not sure where he was off to exactly, but he was going to Gatwick Airport. I changed at Clapham Junction and waited for about ten minutes for a connection, which was on time. On the final train I took some pictures of the equipment, and got back about 1840, which I thought was not bad at all, considering all the stuff I had to carry. Was strange to be home, it really was over, and it had been fabulous.


This being my first convention, I didn't know exactly what to expect. But it exceeded my expectations (that I didn't have anyway!) I met some great people, did some new things (unicycle hockey in particular was fun), and chilled out. The weather was a little cold at night, but it wasn't really that bad, once you were in your sleeping bag you didn't notice. The Renegade shows were good, I would like to perform at one eventually, so I'll just have to get thinking about an act for the future. If anyone would like to collaborate on a six/seven club passing routine, then get in touch with me! I'd also like to say thanks to everyone that made it possible: John Kennett, Mini, Tat, Security, the University of Sussex, and the caterers in particular for providing tasty hot and cold food and managing to cater for veggies as well, and everyone else who was a part of it. See you all again next year?! But where?

Louise's homepage, which has some pictures from this years convention:

For those who have not been to a convention before, you might be wondering, "What do you do at a juggling convention?" The IJDb can offer some guidance here:

For some information about the venue: or

"I'm having trouble with the 1, the hard 1!"
Me, with respect to 6-5-4-3-2-1 with six clubs, 2040, Thursday in the juggling hall. Or Friday!

"I can do it in time, but only when I start."
Me on passing seven clubs, Thursday in the juggling hall.

Man 1 (to Man 2): "Have you got a bottle opener please mate?"
Man 2: (Feels around in pockets a bit). "No, sorry mate, you'll have to ask someone else."
Neither realising that they, and everyone else in the room (including children) has a bottle opener, because the entrance passes have openers on them! Thursday night in the bar.

"What are you going to combine that with?"
Audience member to Sam with reference to his first few unsuccessful attempts at doing the following concurrently: spinning a hoop round his waist; balancing a spinning ball on a pole on his chin; spinning a cushion on one finger; juggling two balls in the other hand.

Charlie Dancey to the audience of the Renegade show on Friday:
"I know what he [Haggis] is going to say:
"I've been working with the Gandini's recently and we start like*this*.""
Charlie on the first (unsuccessful) attempt at club passing with Haggis around a volunteer.

"I'm spanking my monkey."
Mike during the interval of the public show on Saturday.

"Has anyone got a flat-ended club?"
Participator in the club-balancing competition at the games on the seafront on Saturday. A flat end was required because a glass half full of water was to be placed on the top of the club to minimise cheating!

Any additional quotes gratefully appreciated. Please contact me here. Thanks.

Maintained by Matt Pulford. Last update: 15-Feb-10.