Yee haa! The wagons have rolled back down South, clothes have been washed and tents dried and inspected for damage. Now it’s time to reflect on one of the most memorable British Juggling Conventions we’ve been to.

BJC 2015 will stick in our minds for many years to come, not only because the shows and atmosphere were amazing (that’s true every year!) but because of the wild weather. Monday and Tuesday nights saw 60mph winds and the havoc that can cause to a field full of tents. As you’d expect from lovely jugglers, everyone pitched in with a mass exodus from the warm and dry of indoors to the wind and rain outside to help others whose tents couldn’t withstand the gales.

Special indoor areas were designated for homeless jugglers and parts of the convention started to resemble a refugee camp! I hope I’m not painting too gloomy a picture – while it can’t have been nice for those blown away or flooded there was plenty of comradery and once everything was rescued I think many people preferred the indoor accommodation!

So with the weather dispensed with let’s get on with the convention review in the form of HLGCBS (that’s high, low, goal, crush, bane, surprise if you weren’t sure).

Highs

Sooo many! Let’s start with the big ones. Water on Mars. Wow. This extended three-man show took over the entire second half of the gala show. Featuring three of the world’s most famous, creative and technically skilled jugglers in the forms of Wes Peden, Tony Pezzo and Patrik Elmnert, expectations were high and we weren’t disappointed.

Wes Peden performing his solo actWater on Mars featured 100s of props including the three large boxes used to house all the clubs, balls and rings. At its heart, Water on Mars is joyful and playful exploration of juggling and juggling props. The trio must have had fun creating it and they certainly looked like they had fun performing it. Wes, Patrik and Tony all have individual sections but the three also worked together seamlessly.

For me Water on Mars is also an exploration of order and chaos. Props fly in apparent chaos and as you expect them to all clatter to the ground, and indeed some intentionally do, each performer adeptly plucks three objects out of the air and you realise there was method to the madness all along. This sort of thing happens throughout the show; you have no idea what’s going on and then, boom, near perfect patterns suddenly emerge from the apparent mess. Even their costumes seem to encapsulate this. A mental combination of large, loud sneakers, gold leggings, sports shorts and over-size psychedelic t-shirts adorned each of the performers. These items of clothing shouldn’t ever be put together but with all three jugglers in matching getups order is created from clothing chaos.

I think standing ovations are awarded at conventions a little too easily but I was on my feet when Water on Mars finished their crescendo and took a bow in front of a stage covered in countless rings, clubs, balls, toilet rolls, clothing, boxes and water.

The other gala shows acts were also tremendous but they were a bit overshadowed by the spectacle and magic of Water on Mars, in my opinion.

Coming in at a pretty close second in our personal list of highs is another extended, but very different juggling show, Beta Testing by the Circus Geeks. Created and performed by Circus Geeks, Matt Pang, Jon Udry and Aaron Sparks, Beta Testing gives the audience an insight into the world of juggling and the life of a professional contemporary juggler.

Using digital projections, dialogue, monologue, sound bites, jelly babies, chilled fish and, of course, juggling the Circus Geeks illustrate what it’s like to be obsessed with the “strange” activity of juggling. Often belittled by other performance arts and with the constant threat of the inevitable failure, or drop, juggling can be as frustrating as it is rewarding. This theme was expressed by the Hitchhiker’s Guide inspired sequence, seen in part in the video below, where Aaron is rewarded with jelly babies for a successful trick but is slapped with a massive wet fish when he inevitably fails.

Another fantastic section of the show featured Jon and Aaron attempting to pass ten rings. They convincingly failed for a long time; all the while Jon’s aggressive and mean character berates the more submissive Aaron, who you just want to hug at times. The whole section is hilarious, especially with the added banter about the “Water Boys” (Water on Mars). The only downside of this long section being extended by Water Boy chat was that it may have gone on a tad too long but overall the show was superb.

Florent Lestage in the International ShowAnother high was the Vid Warren memorial Renegade. Vid, a talented juggler and musician sadly passed away this year. To celebrate his life his girlfriend, Tess, hosted a Renegade which featured touching tributes (including a tear-jerking song by Tess), frankfurter sausages, urn head-balancing and Steve Mills who may have had a jar too many to be on that unicycle!

The international show was also fantastic. It featured such stars as the three Water Boys’ solo acts, Marianna De Sanctis’ beautifully weird hoop act and Florent Lestage’s sublime cane and club act.

Lows

Lots of our friends leaving on Monday and Tuesday. Being too tired to stay up and watch fight night.

The wild weather. The Firetoys crew were all lucky enough to survive it but many others weren’t as fortunate.

The lack of spinning props (staff, poi, hoop, etc.) in the shows. Ok, we had a good fire show and the open stage featured some spinning (or “flow” if you’re American) but I think I’m correct in thinking that Marianna’s hoop act was the only spinning-centric act in any of the three main shows. And, yes, it is a “juggling” convention but a significant number of attendees are “spinners” rather than “jugglers” and it would be great to see that represented in the bigger shows. Perhaps us spinners just need to up our games in terms of stage acts…?

Goals

Do a good trade, chat to the lovely jugglers, hang out with old friends and have fun. Four massive ticks right there!

Crushes

All three Water Boys, Aaron Sparks’ adorable little face, Tom Derrick's beautiful posture and tutu, everyone involved with the Five Ring Circus and their highly entertaining show.

Tom Derrick's balletic routine in the British ShowBane

We’re going to be boring and say the weather. Although we survived it was a background worry for a while and regularly checking the tents in the wind and rain was a bit of a bore.

Surprises

Steve Mills surviving the rolla bolla trick in the Renegade. A cryptic crossword in the BJC newspaper (which I didn’t complete). Marky Jay actually being quite funny as the Gala Show compere, though I wonder if he’ll have any content at all once his broken leg is if fully healed ;-)

That’s it for our BJC review. All that remains is to plug next year’s BJC which will be held in Perth (that’s the Scottish Perth, not the Australian Perth!) The BJC was at the same venue in Perth in 2005. It was great convention back then and we’re sure 2016 will be even better. The weather was also fairly pleasant in 2005 so don’t let that put you off.

The distance is also not an excuse for you Southerners! Why not add an extra couple of days to the travel and visit some beauty spots on the way up/down? Alternatively there is already a Facebook group arranging convoy plans to make the trip more fun and entertaining.

See you there…