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.

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!

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!