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!

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Fractal February 5th 2018

Blue returns to Fractal after visiting Fractal’s previous cohost, Ciarán Doyle, in Japan. As always, Korean Pop music you love curated by DJ Pretty James, local news, reviews and gaming, with added feature on holidays in Japan!

Fractal January 29th 2018

James’s last show alone before Blue returns form land of the rising sun! As always, Korean Pop music you love curated by DJ Pretty James, local news, reviews and gaming.

Fractal January 22nd 2018

James is joined by guests on Fractal; Niall Finn, who was recently on to talk about his travels in China, and Eoghan Doyle, brother of X-cohost Ciarán. It’s like a gathering of many previous convention hosts!

Fractal January 15th 2018

Happy New Year! The first Fractal show of 2018. James hosts the show alone while Blue travels Japan with X-cohost Ciarán.

View of Qlab file

‘Dún na mBan Trí Thine’ on tour

I arrived back in Ireland on the 5th of September after nearly seven weeks to find out ‘Dún na mBan Trí Thine’, the Taibdhhearc’s Galway International Arts Festival play from the summer, would be touring in November. I wouldn’t be operating the subtitles as the tour was of the Gaeltachtaí; Gaoth Dobhair, Ráth Cairn and Coirce Dhuibhne. Instead I was operating Qlab (Audiovisual), as our original operator had a new job.

I couldn’t be at the rehearsals leading up to the remount in Galway because the second #ABCirk exchange was taking place that week. Luckily the experience of operating subtitles put me in a good position to operate Qlab.

We had two shows in the Taibhdhearc, 8th and 9th. We packed up the van to travel after the show on the night. It took until 1am to de-rig everything, decide what to pack, and pack the other rentals away.

10th; We left at 9am to travel to Gaoth Dobhair, Dún na nGall. Amharclann Gaoth Dobhair was nice and had some staff on hand to help us. We did our get-in (literally getting all the stuff) – and then we got kicked out shortly after 7pm! They were showing a film. We decided to have family dinner in The Ivy. Everyone we spoke to had Irish and it was a fine evening! We stayed in Teaċ Campbell – a very nice B&B.

Our Lighting Designer and Stage Manager bring Alleen Babbejaan to dinner in The Ivy, Gaoth Dobhair, Co. Dún na nGall.

11th; Focus (directing and focussing lights), Q to Q (where the technicians go from each cue to the next to make sure everything looks and sounds right) then we had a few hours free before the show at 8pm. The technicians attended the local pub, which also proved to have very nice food (nice one, Gaoth Dobhair).  And show at 8pm! It all went well even though it was strange not to be in an enclosed control room.

A view of the beach in Gaoth Dobhair, Co. Donegall.

12th; The mostly free day. Found the beach! Show at 8pm. Which had some strange added heater noises! But went well otherwise. Then the get-out (like the get-in, but reverse), met some of the crew in Tí Sheáin-Óig again, and bed.

13th; Start the process all over again! Out of Gaoth Dobhair and on to Ráth Cairn at 9am. We arrived to find ourselves in a community Hall – which still had a set on stage!

Image of set-builder on-stage crying at the thought of having to take down a set before putting up our own touring theatre set, with ladder.

Set builder despairs at the thought of removing one set before even beginning our.

But our inventive touring set-builder deconstructed and reconstructed it to give us a great backdrop and masking (wings, for actors to hide behind before entering the stage). Here we weren’t kicked out until 8pm, which gave us enough time to rewire our 16Amp plugs to 15Amp plugs. Though we struggled to find food it Athboy, where we were staying in The Lawrence.

Arrived back after breakfast to find the bed made and Alleen Babbejaan stretched out in luxury.

14th; Focus, Q to Q and the show was well-attended in the evening! We enjoyed some refreshments in the bar next door, and got to hear some of the local musicians play.

15th; Found little to do in Athboy for the day other than stroll, nap and send postcards. Show again at 8pm and then the get-out.

16th; All aboard the bus again to leave for our last stop, Coirce Dhuibhne in Ciarraí. This was another lovely theatre space! We had some problems with sound because one of our cables (jack to XLR) got damaged, so we had to edit the file on Qlab to travel through one channel and rely on the one other jack to XLR we had. We stayed in Óstán Coirce Dhuibhne, which was beautifully located amongst the hills by the sea. I would have gone walking but the boots I had were letting in water sadly.

17th; Once got everything ready for the last time, and the show was well-attended in the evening.

A view from the control area we set up because the control room itself was too small for two of us.

18th; Our last night! Our touring lighting technician had a show in Dublin and our back-up joined us for the last show. We gathered everything up for the last time, checklist and all. Once again we had to rewire the 15Amp plugs we borrowed, and headed back to the hotel. Not only were we celebrating the last show and the end of the tour, but also the 70th birthday of one of our actors!

19th; A quiet bus ride back to Galway, rewiring 16Amp plugs on to cables, stopping in petrol stations, and we landed back to our home theatre for shortly after 5pm after completing the Taibhdhearc’s first national tour in over ten years.