EJCDurham: 15th - 16th October 2011

In a collaboration between Durham City Jugglers and Five Ring Circus the 15th DJC was also a youth circus gathering. Given the number of young people attending, this new venture was obviously a success.

Five Ring Circus is a project aiming to increase and create opportunities for young people to do circus activities in North East England. By the looks of things the project has been successful and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Five Ring Circus has four clubs set up in areas around the North East: North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Stockton and Newcastle. All of these are well attended and while I didn’t get the chance to see for myself, I heard tell of clubs with over 150 regular attendees!

The convention was also well attended by the slightly older juggling fraternity with lots of familiar faces milling about.

Saturday had a full workshop timetable with disciplines as diverse as slacklining, contact staff, ball juggling, tumbling, poi, hula hoop, diabolo, rola bola, aerial and acrobalance being taught.

There was no unicycling workshop but then there didn’t need to be. There was a dedicated unicycling hall and I have never seen such a concentration of unicyclists at a convention before. Unicycling is definitely “cool” in the North East, as it should be everywhere. It seems to be the thing to do if you’re a young person in these areas and, apparently, it’s the coolest way to get to school.

No convention is complete without the juggling games and DJC is no different. Unfortunately I was tied up with show preparations to be able to report of the feats of juggling skill/silliness that I’m sure was present at the games.

Durham Juggling Convention’s main show was fantastic. The audience were seated around tables and supplied with nibbles. There was a bar in the hall meaning you never had to be without a beer and you didn’t miss anything when you went for a top up. Luxury!

The acts were diverse and extremely skilled. Rob Roy Collins compered showing us his escapology skills along the way. Brydan Mathias from Organised Chaos Youth Circus and the youngest performer in the main show exhibited some excellent club juggling to a grimy soundtrack. This lad is definitely one to watch!

Natti Lunatricks wowed the audience with his hat tricks and Chazz Parham demonstrated his “cutting edge” contact staff routine. In a break from his previous style, Matthew Tiffany produced an act that not only had advanced technical juggling but a healthy dose of comedy and entertainment that went down very well with the audience.

Talking of entertainment, Rob Thorburn’s fei cha/dragon staff performance using a double brolly staff certainly treated Durham Juggling Convention to something they hadn’t seen before! The duo of Holly Johnson and Lee Tinion showed off some amazing parkour and acrobalance skills.

Unfortunately their act was interrupted by a technical fault at the sound desk but this only resulted in the audience being more behind the duo than they were before. When the issue was resolved and Holly and Lee competed their act they were treated to the rapturous reception from the audience they deserved.

International act, Australian Annabel Carberry finished the show with an extremely funny hula hoop and wine routine.

My personal favourite, though, were Voodoo Unicycles, aka Jason Auld and Mike Taylor, both UK unicycling champions. Huge jumps, smooth 180s and 360s and leaping over and around convention organiser Steve Cousins meant their act was full of entertainment and excitement.

By the time we’d recovered from our hangovers on Sunday it was time for the Youth Show. This show was entirely produced by young people from Five Ring Circus and farther afield. The Youth Show was a chance for budding performers to gain valuable experience not only on a stage but behind the scenes as well.

Rebecca Mackley and Brydan Mathias compered the show that featured the following performers:

• Lucy Mackley, the youngest performer with a self-written hula hoop act.

• Lucy Cobb with a unicycle act parodying some of the Voodoo Unicycles show. • Daniel Tate-Potts on poi and glow poi.

• Brydan Mathias with a different juggling act to his main show performance.

• Harvey Cobb on the rolla bolla and juggling (with eggs at times and with predictable results!)

• Jack Brown showing off some technical diabolo tricks

• Joe Hall with a dark and moody contact juggling routine.

 

My favourite act from the Youth Show was a double rolla bolla routine from brothers Josh and Ethan Vince-Urwin. Character, comedy and technical skill was wrapped up extremely well in this mature show.

Josh, Ethan and the rest of the performers in the Youth Show certainly show a huge amount of promise and I’m sure we’ll be seeing them in convention gala shows in the not-too-distant-future.

These young performers are also a credit and testament to the Five Ring Youth Circus who have nurtured them, provided the facilities to hone their skills and the opportunity to show off those skills on the stage.

Like youth circus in the North East, Durham Juggling Convention was a resounding success and Five Ring Circus are definitely fulfilling their aim of closing “the gap in the circus map, which currently exists between South Yorkshire and Scotland”.

If you’re in the North East and want to get involved with circus, youth or otherwise, check out the links below:

Five Rings Circus

Let’s Circus

Durham Juggling Convention