Bath Upchuck is Bath’s biggest, best and only juggling convention. It’s run by the interestingly-named Gravity Vomit (gravity pulls down, jugglers throw up), Bath University’s circus society and is held in the university’s Founders sports hall.
Despite living close by, this was the first time I’d attended Upchuck and I will certainly be doing my best to get there again. The main hall, while slightly difficult to find, is a great size and it never felt too crowded. It had great natural lighting so was ideal for juggling but, of course, there were circus skills of all types going on.
The workshop timetable was almost as varied as the skills on display in the hall. The Bath Uni’s pole dance society occupied a squash court throughout the day to give people an introduction to what pole is all about. It was great to see this discipline included in a juggling convention as we’re increasingly seeing aerial circus and pole dancing appearing under the same roofs and appealing to the same people. We’ve also seen pole dancing acts appear in circus shows over the last few years.
Other workshops included contact and acrostaff, beginner, intermediate and advanced hoop, three three-ball workshops, club swinging, club juggling, club passing, diabolo, hat manipulation and board games.
No convention is complete without some juggling games and by far the most popular was sponge-on-the-head gladiators with several rounds being played. We also had unicycle gladiators, seven-ball endurance and many more. The games finished with club gladiators (aka combat) which kept rumbling on until it was time to clear the hall.
After a cheap pint (more conventions should be held at universities!) and a bite to eat it was show time! Compering the show was the inimitable Loz Because. In typical wacky style she entered the stage in an outfit made of bread other patisserie products including a pair of “loafers” on her feet. The show was filled with similar “crumby puns” and the audience was invited to contribute their own during the interval.
The first act was an acrobalance and acrobatics act from Matt and Michael, two students of Circomedia. Their unique act was funny and featured some good skills but was a bit heavy on the expletives for a family show. Following Matt and Michael were a trio of performers who have also trained at Circomedia; Josh, Harry and Paddy. The three performed a colour co-ordinated ring juggling and passing act that could have been devised by Kraftwerk!
Next up with a club swining and juggling act was last year’s compere, Frumpid Stumpleston. Mixing up two styles of music, Frumpid’s act fitted in well with the light-hearted, comedic theme of the first half.
The first half’s final act, Ashton, came straight out of leftfield! Entering the stage with a freaky mask Ashton performed a ball juggling routine to equally freaky music. He finished his act in style by juggling seven balls.
The second half kicked off with my personal favourite act of the show. Harry and Paddy returned to the stage with a kind of hillbilly hat battle act. Performed to “Duelling Banjo”, the exchanges of hats tricks between the pair worked extremely well with the competing banjo phrases. Very funny and packed full of skill, this was a great concept executed very well.
Gale “FunRa” Francis was next up and made the ultimate circus entrance; bursting through a ring with her name emblazoned on the front. I can’t remember the reason Loz instigated this (perhaps I shouldn’t have had that second pint in the interval!) but it was a good bit of fun. Gale performed her new routine which featured her brand of double hoop isolations and manipulation.
The penultimate act was supposed to be some members of Team Shreddie Crunch but they, unfortunately, couldn’t make it. So instead, Loz Because did her chucknomination (a more wholesome and juggling orientated version of neknomination – check the BJC Facebook page for more of these). You can see the video here.
Headlining the show was Luke Hallgarten, who trains at Circus Space (and works on the Firetoys stall), with his charismatic and technical club juggling routine. Luke, a bit too self-critically, said his act was “it was a bit droppy” but the audience loved it. Luke will go far and is definitely someone to keep your eye on.
Thanks to a great team of organisers, awesome performers and everyone who attended, Bath Upchuck 2014 was a great success. Missed it this year? Keep your eyes on this Facebook group for news of Upchuck 2015.