Travelling Summer 2016 – Part 5: Night trains to Berlin and the start of interrailing.

The morning of Sunday, the 7th of August, was a sad affair. The nine days of the European Juggling Convention (EJC) were over for another year. Camp Ireland, including some of us who’d been here two weeks, many at least twelve days, had to pack up our tents and head on. Most people weren’t leaving until at least the next day, one person was staying on for the take down, and many of us were to continue travelling before going back the way we’d come.

I woke up a lot between 6am and 10am and finally made the decision to get up and start packing. There were decisions to be made about what to keep, what to leave, who should take what home now, who could use that half bottle of shampoo best and who would make the most use of leftover food.

The ticket machine in Almere Poort only takes coins or card – no notes. When I arrived at it I was, of course, met by a huge throng of people. Eventually it transpired that  the ticket machine was no longer accepting coins – then no longer accepting cards. With some people in a rush to get to the airport and main train stations, people began climbing the gates – after taking pictures of the machine’s angry, uncooperative screen.

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I made it to Amsterdam Centraal early thinking I’d soon be on a train to Berlin. I was told I would have to wait until 8.28pm, take a train to Karlsruhe (south west of Germany) wait an hour and then go to Berlin. So I ended up sat in the station a long time. After bidding godbye to everyone back in camp Ireland I was t spend another few hours with me companion and a friend of ours who had a few hours to kill before heading to the airport.

After they left I went and sat at my own platform, 10b, and immediately had someone ask me “Did you enjoy the EJC?”. So there I sat an hour with a German juggler, who’d apparently spotted me simply because I looked a bit odd (I didn’t have any juggling equipment tied to my bag).

The journey to Berlin was long. It was my first time interrailing and for this journey I hadn’t thought to book anything beyond a seat. As well I did because it turned out to be quite busy and there was plenty of people sat on the ground for hours. I slept on and off, made an exciting journey through many carriages to buy water (somewhat Snowpiercer-esque).

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My alarm woke me at 3:30am. I gathered my stuff and got off in Karlsruhe just after 4am.

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I would’ve been more excited to be somewhere that had held the second largest EJC were I not wrecked and confused as to why I’d had to come this far south and not simply gone as far as Duisberg or Dusseldorf.

Got on the 5am ICE 1092. Was sat in a six person carriage that appeared to have only one other reservation – so slept on and off .

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I arrived in Berlin at 10.22am, Monday the 8th of August.

 

Travelling Summer 2016 – Part 2: The EJC

After a week of setting up the site, Saturday rolled around and it was time to open the gates to juggler paradise.

My own Saturday was spent doing shopping runs for the core and registration teams, traffic control (waving and juggling at cars and vans that looked juggler-esque on the side of the highway) and also the lights in the bar tent that evening!

It was my first time using an analogue desk, or a desk that was partially in Dutch. Before that was the first of the Special stages – ‘Liaison Carbone’ by Les Objets Volantes, which was a great start to the week. Most nights of the EJC there’s the Open stage, where people have arrived on site and volunteered an act (though they’re often the height of their discipline), and the Special Stages which are usually large scale shows and national collaborations. Last event of the day, most days, was the Renegade – an open mic event for jugglers to get up and do anything they like – ANY thing.

During the course of the week over 4,500 people entered the EJC site in Almere Poort. To give you an idea of that, some picture from the Gandinis’ show ‘SmashedXL’ which was on Sunday in Almere Centraal (“XL” beacuse it had 20 people in it instead of the original eight – and much porcelain did get smashed).

That night was Irish night in the Renegade. It was an honour as we were the only country not currently hosting, or set to host, an EJC that got a renegade night. And we killed it. Our host told the story about how a German juggler said to them:
“The best and worst thing to ever come from Ireland was a renegade” and they weren’t sure whether to thank them or not.

During the week we saw many shows. We also got to saw and met many famous jugglers – a bonus of having an interest in a niche activity; you can just talk to some of the people who are the best in the world at it.

Aside from the shows, games, competitions, juggling halls, swimming, parade, sight-seeing, there was also some serious business to attend to – the European Juggling Association’s (EJA) Annual General Meeting (AGM).

At the EJA’s AGM covers some different things including nomination and election of new country representatives/contacts (two-year terms) and most excitingly, the vote on the location of an EJC.

Some details: The vote used to be cast two years in advance of an EJC. For example, in Ireland in 2014, the vote for 2016 was cast. But in Italy in 2015, there was a clash where two teams, Azores of Portugal and Lublin of Poland, both wanted 2017. Team Lublin won, and Team Azores was given a preliminary decision of 2018, but a five-month period for any clashes to occur was allowed (in case any team had been planning on coming forward in 2016 for 2018). And this is why the EJC vote is currently cast three years in advance. The EJA is also seperate from EJC in that the convention isn’t organised by the association. The EJA provides the approved teams (voted for by jugglers during the AGM) with an interest-free loan and all the past experience and knowledge of EJCs, in the hope that the EJCs will continue growing and getting better.

The week continued like this and the days and shows all blurred into one. Eventually Sunday the 7th of August rolled ’round and it was time for us to sadly pack up our tents and leave.

Travelling Summer 2016 – Part 1: The journey to, and set up of, the EJC

My travels to the European Juggling Convention (EJC)began Friday the 22nd of July. I packed checked all my packed bags and travelled from Galway to Dublin with my companion to sleep for a few hours before getting up at 3.45am to go get the bus to the airport.

I got the 4.35am AirCoach from Cabinteely to Dublin Airport, T1. Coincidentally, my radio co-host and oldest friend was flying out the same day, and almost same time, from T1 – but to Japan.

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We only realised the timing about a week before so it was very amusing to navigate the airport together before our 7-ish a.m. flights.

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I arrived in Schipol Airport, Amsterdam, Netherlands, around 10.30am local time (GMT+1). At this time the  direct train was still available to Almere Poort, where the European Juggling Convention (EJC) site was, though I was a week early. I’d applied to assist site set-up but thought I was three days to early even for that.

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But I hopped off the train, and almost immediately had someone new come up to me, smiling, asking “You’re here for the EJC? Come on in!”. I later found out it was Tom, one of the five members of the EJC 2016 core team.

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I was introduced to the ten or so people currently on-site, given some water and coffee and asked if I’d like to start working now or later. So I started laying power cables immediately. One of my co-volunteers joked about how this was how he spent his vacation time; manual labour. And it was a great time!

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The weather was warm and the site was dusty from the lack of rain. None of the big tops were yet up. Everyone currently on-site, the core-team and five or six volunteers, ate together for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That evening set the tone for most for most of that week’s evenings; We sat around, people discussed their juggling clubs and circuses, people juggled and played instruments.

Everyday for the pre-EJC week more people would arrive until there was about eighty of us. The first few days were my favourite, when you knew everyone and worked the hardest, all day every day. Some days we took breaks if it got too hot during the day to work, and visited the lake nearby.

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During the week there was every kind of job to do, building fences, planning tent sites, painting signs, repairing the workshop sheet, building trusses, signage, laminating, registration packages….

And also hanging lamps!

And raising trusses and looking at new boards.

Then Saturday the 30th came to open up!

Dublin Circus Festival: 8-10 April, 2016

I attended the Dublin Circus Festival for the first time this year. In the weeks leading up to it they had a lot of announcements about events and Gala acts which had me really excited, but I also found out they had a limited capacity of 150 in their Gala show venue which damped my enthusiasm a bit.

I arrived late on Friday after getting the 7.15pm bus after work (the last bus), and caught just the end of the fire show. It was held in the courtyard in Trinity which was quite an impressive setting.

On Saturday myself and my companion arrived around 11am. The hall was very centrally located, though there were no sign-posts or any indication of what was going on inside. There were a great number of people I knew in attendance, so I spent the first while going around the hall chatting and catching up. People were juggling, playing games, and practicing for the first Irish Kendama Open.

However, mild tragedy struck soon after! A Galway juggler fell and we suspected they had broken their arm. Myself, another Galway juggler and two Dublin jugglers accompanied them to the nearest public hospital. I had some games with me, and the Dublin juggler who had led us left some more games with us. So we sat in the Accident and Emergency department playing games while we waited for news.

Not long after, I got a call from another convention attendee asking which hospital we were in, as they had also injured themselves, and wanted to come to the same hospital as us to play games while they waited. So it was an exceptionally merry time in the hospital for us all!

At 4:30pm we got a call telling us the hall was closing at 5pm, which was a bit disappointing. We’d been told it closed at 6pm, which already left the people who couldn’t make the Gala with nothing to do, and now we had a bit of a scramble to get back and get bags and equipment from it.

At 5pm half our injured party was sorted, with the other half nearly ready to go, so myself and my companion headed off to procure food. After this I made the twenty minute journey over to the Lir where the Gala was being held. I was very luckily one of the last five people to get a seat despite being there an hour and a quarter before show-time!

The show was quite good. The Lir is a beautiful venue, which has its own in-house staff, and great rigging and lighting set-ups. I enjoyed the show, which had a mix of local talent, Irish over from abroad, and visiting performers. Though my highlight of the weekend was actually the renegade.

We arrived at Doyle’s pub an hour early so had to wait before going downstairs. The stage area was also only about 6’3” in height, and the whole area was very cramped. But despite this it was my favourite Irish renegade I’ve ever been to (second only to the Irish renegade nights at EJC Bruneck 2015). The acts were all great, many of which even incorporated the height and size of the stage.

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After the renegade itself was a small dance party which went on until about 3am. Most people left shortly before 4am to catch the NiteLink buses.

My companion and I awoke about midday on Sunday and rushed to have breakfast and get the bus in so as not to miss the games. By some wonderful fluke we arrived the minute they were beginning.

The games had a nice mix of props, skilled and non-skilled games. I particularly appreciated the Simon-Says poi, as there is rarely a game for poi spinners. I proudly won the Rock-Paper-Scissors Worm Championship.

The all closed about 4pm, and many of us then convened in Merrion Square for more juggling, but mostly sitting, playing games and chatting. At about 5:30pm many people started to wander off shouting out what convention they’d see everyone next at.

Belfast Juggling Convention 12-14th February

I started my journey to my second Belfast Juggling Convention about 10am from Galway. I arrived into Dublin and met up with my companion and we got the bus to Belfast arriving at around 5:30pm. We had booked a double room in the Belfast International Youth Hostel which we found very nice and quite reasonable or the two days (we’d had some problems finding a double room BJC/Valentine’s weekend). So we were a bit further away from the juggling hall, in Queen’s University, than others but it was still very close.

On Friday we did a bit of juggling, and there was an Open Stage in the hall. It was quite casual and intimate, which worked as a lot of people were arriving only on Saturday. Some of the acts were really impressive and some were a bit faffy. It was all very enjoyable. After this we got to enjoy the downstairs bar in the QUB student centre. A great bonus in my mind to have our own space, where people could talk and play instruments and juggle LED equipment.

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Saturday there was a screening of ‘Surreal Circus’ an original film by Rachael Lyndsey, which provided a nice way to relax for hardcore jugglers. A person could also get a hot chocolate to enjoy during the screening from the café downstairs, if they were so inclined.

There was also the usual plethora of workshops including more unusual workshops on Rubix cubes and Whistling. People juggled in the hall, and a lot of people were learning to unicycle and practising handstands in the hall way.

The Gala show was in a church building next to the QUB student centre. The Gala show had a eight, very technically impressive acts. Being theatrically inclined I felt there was something missing from some of them, but the show was still impressive overall. The Gala hosts did a great job in building hype amongst the crowd but could have taken greater care when announcing the names of the acts. Sitting on the balcony I missed half of the names entirely.

After this was the Renegade (open mic for jugglers) which involved a 25 minute walk to the Rosario Youth Centre. Despite the long walk I thought the venue was a huge improvement on the 2014 venue. It was quite fast paced, with a lot of willing participants. There were some tables and chairs for people to sit at but most people stood or sat on the ground. There was also come very special craft beer being sold.

The renegade reflected the rest of the weekend in that it had quite a lot of music, which I didn’t interest me much. My personal renegade highlight was the host catching a diabolo on their beard. The renegade went on until about 1am, after which some dancing ensued and then we returned to the hostel, though I believe a party may have taken place somewhere nearby.

Sunday saw the games which included all the usual favourites; club-balance, combat, endurance, unicycle gladiators, hula-hoop race, diabolo-toss and distance passing, as well as some more unusual ones like people-surfing and a zombie variation of three-ball endurance. There was also the final of the Fight Night combat.

Finally we were kicked out at 4pm, took a wander around Belfast before beginning the journey back to Dublin.

Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 9; Berlin, Germany (and Dublin, Ireland)

Friday the 14th

Before getting to Berlin I had to survive the 12-hour train journey from Budapest, Hungary. Like most long journeys, the first half was fine. The next quarter was okay. The last three hours were excruciating. I reckon I managed it only thanks to a very interesting individual who entertained me with stories of their life for about two hours. They had gotten on about half way through my now journey. They were from China, studied in Ireland, married a German person (who still lived in Germany), but worked in Czech Republic.

I arrived into Berlin at almost 11pm (after having been delayed for some reason) and I’d never been so happy to find myself in Berlin Hauptbahnhopf. I quickly made my way to the Hackendahl bar where my friend Aaron, who I was to stay with, was. They were finished serving food but let me order something anyway when they heard I’d been travelling all day!

My time in Berlin was very relaxed. I’d been there quite a few times before so I didn’t feel the need to do anything touristy or see anything. I spent a lot of time meeting up with people, juggling, and going to English comedy clubs (of which there are many in Berlin).

Saturday the 15th
The bank card dilemma:
I’d had a problem with my bank card in Budapest, Hungary, which AIB had been unable to resolve for me. I got no further with this issue in Berlin. I explained the situation [anew each time I rang AIB] and the eventually told me they could send me “emergency cash” which meant my own money from my account and sending it by Western Union. GREAT!
Except it would take them 48 hours to do that. So I essentially gave up and had to contact a family member and asked them to send money via Western Union (which took about an hour in real time).

Sunday the 16th
I contacted some of the jugglers I knew in Berlin, some of which I’d only met at the European Juggling Convention a week before. One of them suggested Victoria Park to me, which was conveniently near the Katakomben, a popular juggler-training space. I headed over, did a bit of juggling, then went onto the Katakomben where I met two Irish jugglers. I knew one of them, who was also visiting Berlin and staying with the other. The juggler I didn’t know invited me to their house for dinner!

Monday 17th
I met another friend, Fabian, in Ostkreuz. Another juggler, who had been doing his EVS at my youth circus club earlier that year! We then met up with Tom, who was currently doing his EVS in Shake, Cabuwazi, another youth circus. We wandered around and eventually ended up by the water in Treptower Park.

 

We then went to find the bar where Tom was doing some stand-up comedy that night! We were early so we went to another bar beforehand, where I ordered my first bier (it had to be Berliner Kindl). It turned out that another juggler we knew also did English stand-up in Berlin. The bar the stand-up night was meant to happen in turned out to be delayed opening, so most of the comedy night took place outside! It was a nice night out so everyone still stayed to watch.

There’s a lot of jugglers in Berlin, in case that wasn’t already apparent. So it shouldn’t be surprising when I say there was some juggling happening in the house when I returned that evening (the house of four people had three jugglers, previously four).

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Tuesday, the 18th
I went with Aaron and another one of the people in the house to a new juggling hall nearby.

Wednesday the 19th.
Aaron and I went to check out a Magic out a new Magic Museum in Berlin. We were both super excited, but it turned out to be more about mysticism and spirituality than magic. So we were a bit disappointed. But there was a magician at the end which made up for much of it. We then went to a disappointing hummus bar.

We passed by Tacheles, an art squat that had closed since I’d last visited, which made me pretty sad.

Thursday the 20th
I packed up my stuff and travelled from Aaron&co’s house to Tom’s house. All the other EVS people had left so he was living on his own now. I managed to take the longest route possible to his house by deciding to go all by tram, and  ended up waiting almost an hour on a very particular tram, when I could’ve made the journey much shorter by just taking the S-Bahn.

The last three days of my time in Berlin were juggling and seeing English stand-up comedy. On my final night I decided to go out with Aaron and Tom. We started at 8pm and continued until 5am when I had to return to Tom’s to collect my stuff and go to the airport. I had a very exciting time in the airport while I wasn’t fully sober and forgot to move my two pen-knives from my back-pack to my check-in luggage. I flew from first from Berlin to Düsseldorf.

I had a few hours to spend in Düsseldorf before returning to Dublin, Ireland. I spotted  Tesla car and picked up some biscuits for the people I was spending the night with in Dublin.

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I was sad to travel back and as we got closer to Ireland the clouds got steadily greyer.

Naturally it was raining in Dublin. And it took an hour and forty minutes for a bus, simply going from the airport to the city centre, to appear. However after a shower and a few hours to adjust to everyone speaking English again I travelled down the next day to Galway quite pleased.

Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 6; EJC continued

Day 6) Thursday: The heat became pretty unbearable today, so there was little us Irish folk could do other than melt and nap fitfully. My new companion and deigned to wander into the forest where it might be cooler, where we found a gazebo that was perfectly fit to nap in. Then dropped by The Games! The Games are another integral part of a juggling convention. Usually taking place on the last day of a usual three day convention, they took place on Friday for the benefit of people travelling home over the weekend.

Common games are three-ball Simon Says (juggling three balls while either performing basic tasks like standing on one leg, or by completing tricks), combat (trying to break people’s juggling patterns while juggling three clubs), club balance (balancing a club on your face – forehead, nose or chin) and endurance (and game that involves doing something the longest eg balancing a contact ball on your head, holding a handstand, juggling and number of balls or clubs, often up to seven balls or five clubs).

That evening there was Irish dinner! Where camp New-New-Ireland all got dinner together, rather than people eating loads of potatoes.

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The official Fire-show took place that evening, but it was very hard to get a spot, so I ended up buying delicious ice-cream and chatting with one of the Irish-Berlin jugglers who had also failed to procure a spot. I didn’t attend much of the renegade though a technician asked me would the Irish be taking over again, and they seemed disappointed I said no, before briefly heading to the bar and then bed.

Day 7) Friday: Many of the Irish jugglers retreated to the gazebo my companion and I had found, to escape the heat. We came well-prepared with food, booze, books and cards.

That evening we took over the Renegade Tent again. It was all going very well, we’d been granted an extra hour as well as it was going so well – until a sudden rain storm hit and flooded the tent at 1:40am. As I stood up I realised at a most inopportune moment I was too inebriated for my own good, stumbled towards a gym to hide from the rain for a while before returning to my tent.

Day 8) Saturday: We all got up about midday and returned to the gazebo with boardgames and cards. We made friends with some people from France who played Star Realms (a great deck-building game).  After which we went to a Chinese restaurant; the menu was in German and the chopsticks had French instructions on them.

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That evening was the Gala show – the biggest show of every juggling convention, so you can imagine what the biggest show of the biggest convention is like. It was pretty spectacular with multi-prop juggling, swinging trapeze, a uncicyle duo, a ladder act, foot juggling, four-diabolo juggling…

After which my companion and I took a wander around the town. I had to check the train times for my departure the next day. My companion was staying another night before returning to Munich, Germany, to fly out. We then found a “Beach Party” which appeared to be some sort of outdoor-beach-themed-rave-nightclub. Not what we expected to find in the town of Bruneck, but we fanangled our way in with some minimal German, where my companion threw some juggler shapes.

It wasn’t terribly enthralling so we returned and slept before..

Day 9) Sunday, he last day. The saddest day of every convention when every has to pack up and leave. Some people were a lot worse for wear than others.

Plenty of people weren’t flying home that day but still had to get off site for take-down. I was told I’d be missed by Dublin jugglers “You’ll be all the way in Galway” and one of them gifted me a knife with a handle in the shape of a banana. After packing up all my gear, getting some pizza for breakfast, helping my companion pack their tent I commenced some “Bye for now”s, and headed for the train back to Innsbruck, Austria.