Stilt walker on beach

Learn to Stilt-walk!

Next month I will be running a short introductory course to stilt-walking for people aged 18+ in Galway Community Circus. It will run over three Thursday evenings 6:30-8pm, June 14th, 21st and 28th and cost €40. It’s open to adults who have never tried stilt-walking before.

Getty_Villa_-_Storage_Jar_with_a_chorus_of_Stilt_walkers_-_inv._VEX.2010.3.65Stilt-walking dates back as far as Ancient Greece and has uses for farming, fishing and plastering though now we mostly of it for entertainment purposes. Most people  can learn to walk on their own within a few hours, but like most things the hard part is making it look easy and graceful.

I’ve been stilting for about ten years and before that it amazed me when I saw people do it , mostly in the Macnas parades. I teach a weekly drop-in class for young people but had a lot of adults ask me about it so decided to run this course.

There are only eight places available on this short course and you can sign up through the GCC website: http://galwaycommunitycircus.com/circus-school/summer-camps/introduction-to-stilt-walking-for-adults.htm

Featured image taken at Silver Strand by Donal Kelly.

Eastern Europe 2017 – Part 1; the prep and plan.

In 2017 I planned on going to the European Juggling Convention (EJC) in Lublin, Poland. I had a meeting in Praha, Czech Republic, a few weeks later and decided to combine both trips. I also had a potential travel companion who wanted to visit Poland. So we began planning the weeks in between EJC and CZ together. It started off as a few days in Poland together and extended into a wide semi-circle clockwise from Poland to the-as-of-yet-unknown across about two weeks.

Circus clothing for EJC.

I bought my EJC ticket early on, and soon booked my flight to the EJC, arriving late on  Saturday 22nd of July (the first day). It was a good choice of flight as a lot of people I knew were to be on the same flight. Because I was leaving for Poland about two weeks before my travelling companion we had to throw together a plan. They wanted to visit a friend in Rzezsów, a small town in Poland. We decided we would try to take trains from Poland to Serbia, they would fly home, and I would continue on to Czech Republic for my meeting.

Pile of stuff to be packed.

This was the longest trip I’d ever planned, and the first time I would be travelling with someone so I was a bit nervous and tried to prepare and pack accordingly. I knew I was going to be camping at the EJC, but not after so I arranged to leave my tent with a friend who would also be at the EJC, to save carrying the weight of it for five or so weeks.

Backpack packed for six weeks.

Tragedy struck when I lost my bank card two nights before leaving the country. I had to withdraw all the money I had saved for the trip, including emergency cash. I resolved to carry some of it with me, and asked my travelling companion to lodge the rest in their account and we could withdraw and split money as we travelled. I knew I wouldn’t be spending much during the EJC (camping, supermarkets) so thought it was best if my travel companion lodged most of the cash.

We planned to meet in Krakow a few days after the EJC (post-camp-site-tear-down), travel to Rzezsów, Poland; Kiev, Ukraine; Odessa, Ukraine; Chisinau, Moldova; Bucharest, Romania; Beograd, Serbia; and then hoped we would have devised a plan for getting home and getting to Czech Republic.

What is an EJC?

The European Juggling Convention (EJC) is the largest juggling convention in the world. I mention it a lot and decided to explain it a bit. The EJC has been running since 1978, when it was held in Brighton and had only 11 attendees. Last year the 40th EJC was held in Lublin, Poland, and roughly 3000 people attended. Every year it welcomes circus people, not just jugglers, from all over the world. For the last ten years attendance has been between 1200-7200 (usually depending on how central it is).

The green space at EJC 2017 Lublin, Poland.

A sign suggesting you enjoy your coffee rather than taking it to go in a disposable cup.

Every year the EJC is held in a different European city. Independent teams, guided by the European Juggling Association, bring their proposals forward to the General Assembly of jugglers who vote on locations. These teams then voluntarily give up their time to organise an EJC including shows, venues, discussions with local councils, advertising and much more.

Currently the EJC is nine days, including arrival and departure days. Camping is included in the price of your ticket (though some people book accommodation, and some do both). Tickets are available online from four-to-seven months in advance and are sold in “Phases”. The earlier you buy, the cheaper your ticket is and it helps the EJC team in booking things. Arrival and departure days being the exceptions (but not always), there are workshops from 9am ’til 8pm (and more) which are voluntarily led by attendees, a major evening show (or two, if it’s an especially big EJC), and a renegade.

You can find a handy guide on what to pack for the EJC, compiled by the team of the 2014 EJC held in Millstreet, Ireland, here!

Standing ovation in circus tent

A renegade is a late-night show for jugglers, like open mic. Anyone can get up and do a trick, and it isn’t necessarily circus-related. If the crowd likes your trick you win a shot of alcohol or sweets.

A sculpture built of juggling clubs.While the days have some structure to them, which is worth keeping an eye on especially at your first EJC, there are lots of other things people like to do; juggling outside, touring locally, eating and drinking, building sculptures, making other art, napping, swimming, academic discussions, video projects… It is still vacation time and the EJC is a very open and welcoming environment which is a chance to live freely without having to do too much.

The EJC is open to everyone – EVEN if you can’t juggle [yet]. If you enjoy fun and shows, it’s a great way to spend a week and a bit late July/early August. The 2018 EJC will be held in the Atlantic Ocean in São Miguel, an Azores Island of Portugal, July 28th to 5th of August. If you have any specific questions you will find lots of information on their website, Facebook and the EJA Twitter. You can also find lots of groups on Facebook, some even for specific countries. Each European country also has its own country contact/representative who’s job it is to provide you with information about the EJC!

imag5565.jpg

Travelling Summer 2016 – Part 6: Berlin and Dresden

I arrived in Berlin 10:22am, Monday the 8th of August. I was tired after getting two night trains from Amsterdam after the European Juggling Convention (EJC) with an interrail ticket – and as soon as I stepped off the train in Berlin Hauptbahnhopf I realised I’d left my hat on the train!

imag4008

It’s a hat that belonged to my dad, of the cowboy style, which he gave to me after I pointed out how many of these he had. It made for a great sun-hat. I was only a few stops away from the hat’s final destination, Berlin Ostbahnhopf, so I followed it and found their lost and found. I explained as best I could in German that I’d left my hat on the train, filled out their lost and found form (knowing exactly what train, what time, which carriage, which SEAT even it was located above) hoping I would somehow be reunited with it.
SPOILERS: I was not reunited with it.

I returned to Berlin Hauptbahnhopf, and had breakfast there

imag4003

I also  made some reservations to begin the journey to Zagreb, Croatia, the following night. I originally thought I’d see some friends in Berlin but of course most of them were still travelling after the EJC!

So I wandered around Alexanderplatz, got talking to an Italian person who had just arrived in Berlin looking for work. They pointed me in the direction of some Wi-Fi and we parted ways, and I went in search of a hostel for the night.

I found The Circus Hostel – which is fine but I wouldn’t recommend if you’re looking for anything circussy other than the name.

imag4016

Though they did have a David Hasselhof shrine!

While the day should’ve been a day of juggling – it was just a day of laundry, buying yet another towel (the second of this trip so far – spoilers, this one also gets left behind), nice pasta – though I did eventually meet a friend for a drink.

We went to a hipster-esque bar nearby, Haus am See – like the Peter Fox song!

After which I went and slept in a bed for the first time in two weeks.

Got up the next day and packed, had disgusting scrambled eggs from a place called Godot, on my way the tram.

imag4021

Also it turned out I was in Berlin at the wrong time!

Got on the M12 (Berliner Allee/Weißenesee-Am Kupfergraben) to Friederichstraße. The ticket machine on the tram only took exact change, and I thought I’d be alright until  got to Friederichstraße but at the very first stop six ticket checkers got on! Tried to explain the ticket problem and one of the ticket checkers hurriedly tried to give me change for a €1 coin and ended up giving me 90c, and my €1 coin back.

Got the S-Bahn from Friederichstraße to the Hauptbahnhopf, and went to go buy a train ticket for Berlin to Dresden. I made a mistake in doing so. My interrail ticket allowed me five days of travel out of 15 days, which I had already planned out. Thinking Berlin to Dresden wouldn’t be so expensive I decided to buy this ticket. What I should have done was used a journey for this ticket and bought one of the later tickets, for example, Zagreb to Beograd. The train extremely buys though.

Arrived in Dresden at 3pm, and just wandered the city for a while.

I went to visit what was advertised as the Japanese Palace – but was not actually converted into an exhibition of dinosaurs. The people working there seemed as confused as I was.

The courtyard was the only part that would suggest what had been before.

imag4070

I took my time wandering back i the direction of the station.

There was a science exhibition going amongst the beautiful buildings.

imag4053

After buying food for the journey, doing some juggling on the platform I boarded my second night train for Wien. I didn’t have my passport taken as expected but instead had my interrail ticket taken. I was then shown to a six bed compartment I was sharing with two Danish people. They were very friendly and we chatted for a bit before going to sleep.

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.

imag3699

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.

imag3701

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.

imag3704

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.

imag3812

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!

imag3746_1

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.

imag3767

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.

IMAG2898

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.