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.

Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 5; EJC continued

Day 4) Tuesday: It’s about this point you start to question if you’ll survive the heat. Luckily on this day a group of us travelled up the visit the Alps. It took a while to organise but eventually some people drove, and we waited for the bus.

Then we arrived at Kronoplatz, where the cable cars were.

We travelled up 2,275m to the top of the Alps-

To the top!

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If you look very closely, to the left, between the rail line and trees you can make out the blue and yellow big top.

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Went exploring.

And we found a GIANT swing.

After which we found the Dolomites.

Received some words of wisdom from the mountain-

and sat and took in the view-

before heading back down.

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That evening camp New-New-Ireland planned our take-over of the renegade tent for the following night; The Clashigade! Clashing usually means claiming you can outdo a trick during a renegade and then performing it. This was to be the clash of the hosts!

Day 5) Wednesday: Today was the day of the European Juggling Association’s (EJA) Annual General Meeting (AGM).

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Every year the AGM is hosted during the EJC to decide to next location (two years ahead of time). It was held in the renegade tent in the middle of the day and everyone attending the EJC was welcome to come and vote. EJC2016 is to be held in Almere, Netherlands. A bid had been put in for Azores, Portugal the past two years, and this year was to be their last year applying. Everyone expected them to be granted EJC 2017 but Lublin, Poland clashed. There was a lot of talk about how Lublin had made a loss last time they hosted the EJC, which had only been three years previously in 2012.

Lublin won the bid for 2017. While it is not the way usually to grant bids for three years ahead, a semi-exception was made to grant Azores the 2018 bid, but allowing a five month window for other teams to make a bid.

The Open Stage that evening was exceptional. A well known juggler, Jacob Sharpe, juggled eight balls. But my favourite act was Two Guys, One Club, which I’d wanted to see for quite some time; “As a juggler I feel like I can juggle anything. But not chainsaws. Or fire. Or balls. Clubs. One club. With another guy.”

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That day was also the schools show – anyone from any circus college who wanted to perform. I enjoyed very few of the acts during it. After was the Clashigade AKA The Irish Renegade (Ireland: EJC 2014)! Though in reality we just asked permission to run the renegade and it went really smoothly! A lot of people donated alcohol to be gven away from shots including a bottle of Prosecco, a gift from Toulouse (EJC 2013), Hazlenut Vodka from Lublin (EJC 2012 & 2017) and a bottle of Uso. The acts were particularly good that night.

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After which we revelled in our magnificence!

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Feeling on top of the world I struck up a conversation with someone I’d only spoken to very briefly previously. A conversation at the EJC after a renegade meaning, a somewhat drunken attempt to climb on top of them. Which one would expect to go horribly wrong but went terrifically right!

Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 5; EJC Bruneck

Day 2) Sunday: It was a bit foggy waking as we got up this morning (I moved from by the trees, which I was told was prone to flooding, to Camp New-New-Ireland which is comprised mostly of Irish jugglers from Dublin, and one Danish juggler).

I woke up this morning to find a spider in my tent. I tried to catch it with an empty botle but ended up drowning it in rum. I shouted out asking did anyone have a tissue and one of the Dublin jugglers asked why;
I just spilled rum in my tent!
“OH! Here! *another bottle of rum*”
I decided to leave the rum outside in case anyone wanted some.

Today was parade day. Parade’s are common enough at juggling conventions. They’re a way to thank the town for having us – and also warning everyone (just in case you lived in a tiny town like Bruneck and didn’t realise the world’s largest juggling convention had set up camp for the next week and a bit).

After the parade I went to find food. I’m not usually one for the shoe-less juggler look but there I was, shoeless, wearing short-shorts and a bikini top. Though I did regret not bringing shoes with me to go into a pizzeria. The local people, despite it being a very small town, were very welcoming and friendly towards the jugglers.

That evening also saw the first Open Stage and renegade! An open stage is where anyone (generally) can volunteer to perform something. It is usually a polished piece though, but people are happy to perform for other jugglers at a convention for free. I volunteered as a stage-hand at it and had a lot of fun, meeting all the performers.

After that was the renegade which is like an open mic for jugglers. It generally starts off with tricks people have just learned or short bits of unfinished choreography. As it gets later and people get more drunk it degenerates into a lot of shouting and chaotic madness and people doing tricks with extra beers involved (which is also very impressive). You generally also get a shot of tequila if the audience likes your performance.

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This person is playing a clarinet while balancing a juggling club on it with an added beer bottle on top. Pure skill.

Day 3) Monday: We woke up to a beautiful sky.

Time to go see what’s been added to the workshop board!

The two bottles of rum I left outside my tent had also multiplied in the juggling weather. So we decided to make a small bar.

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I found the UFO café behind the main EJC area.

 

 

Watched some of the Team Combat. Combat is where people juggle three clubs in cascade (the usual pattern) and try to knock other people out by breaking their pattern, stealing their clubs and such. Team Combat is basically the same but with two people working as a team – great for club stealing.

That evening we saw the Flaque show which was really amazing. They had a technician who was secretly a juggler – it really appealed to me. After that was also the second Open Stage – one of the acts, Yosuke Ikeda, was great. You should watch the video, especially if you like The Beatles. After this I went following the Dundu puppet.

Attended the improvisation night for a n hour and then to bed.

Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 4; An Introduction to the 38th European Juggling Convention

The European Juggling Convention is the world’s biggest juggling convention. It takes place in a different European country every year and was in Ireland in 2014 – my, and many other Irish people, first EJC! It runs for nine days from Saturday to Sunday the following week. It’s like a regular convention in that people give workshops, there are masterclasses, lots of shows, people playing games. It’s also different in that it’s longer, all camping (conventions in Ireland have little to no camp space), has people from all over the world, and thus has pretty much every circus discipline you can imagine.

We had arrived a day early to Bruneck, on the 31st of July. As had a lot of people who were currently camped outside the gates. One of our party new someone who might be able to get us in so we made our way straight from the station to the site – and magically passed inside when our small party was mistaken for the much larger group of circus students from Berlin. We had infiltrated the EJC a day early!

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The camp site was still very empty save for a few tents belonging to organisers and volunteers.

We didn’t bother trying to leave camp again and just set-up our tents near the trees,

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The small blue dot by the trees is my tent.

shared the food we had and went to the bar tent “The first one’s free”.

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Day 1) There were some romantic views to behold.

As well as some not so romantic.

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People mostly arrived today so it was time to check out the camp, the town, and collect my ticket!

EJC is like a small town. It even has its own rocks!

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Then I went into the actual town of Bruneck to get some supplies and have a look around.

I then returned to perform my civic-juggler duty and get people registered!

My ultimate language goal is to be proficient enough in three languages to work at an EJC registration desk. This year I settled for shouting at people asking did they need pens or paper – Stylo? Peann? Páipéar? Stift? That evening Matthias Romir had a solo show which was a Very big deal to me. He’s one of my favourite performer. He’s a great juggler but he has great stories as well. After which we all went to the bar, where people juggled and danced and drank – and that is what you can expect from a regular first day of a convention!

 

Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 3; Train to Bruneck

My journey continued in the train station at Innsbruck. Despite my misfortune hitching the people in the station were very nice and helpful and got me cheap train ticket to Bruneck!

After going onto the platform I immediately spotted a juggler I suspected was going to the European Juggling Convention (EJC), too.
Gehen Sie nach der EJC?
“…I’m sorry I don’t speak German.”
It turned out they were from England. We travelled together over the next three trains. Despite having to change twice, Innsbruck to Bruneck is easily the nicest train journey I’ve ever taken. Everything looks like a postcard.

My new travelling companion had cleverly packed some cards we played a few games between our first two trains.

On our second train we started to see more jugglers – people playing boardgames, juggling, clubs attached to bags, unicycles, rings tied to bags… And at our second change we found a neverthriving of jugglers including the Irish-Berlin jugglers! One of which I was midway through conversation with before we realised we actually knew each other quite well (it’s a small juggley world). So that’s how the last leg of the journey to Bruneck began.