nine ball flash
4th Durham Juggling Convention
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4th London Juggling Convention "balls and beer":14-15/10/00 - Review by luke burrage:not/quite/sure

The train up from scarborough to durham took ages. The train crash that I missed by one train last week means that all the trains arrived about 40 minutes late and trundled along the tracks at about 23 miles an hour. Yawn.

Mind you, when I actually got into Durham I realised I didn't have a clue where I was supposed to be. If I was intelligent I would have at least looked for directions on the internet somewhere but all I had was a date. Thankfully the organisers of the durham convention had put a notice in the tourist information centre so after only a small delay I was decending into the bowels of Dunelm House.

Of course, I didn't have any money on me either so after a trip to the bank I finally managed to throw my bag into a corner of the hall and have a look around. The main juggling space was a ballroom. It didn't have the highest ceiling but the size of the sound system made up for it. Well, it's the most impressive sound system I have seen at a convention, two nine foot speaker towers eah side of the stage.


A view of the hall.

ready for the muni. I was planning to get an "after" shot but I forgot.

As I had arrived quite late the room was already quite full up. There seemed to be a few too many unicyclists weaving in and out of the jugglers at the beggining, but soon enough they all disappeared on a muni trek.
After a bit Little Paul and Mini got out their rola-bola gear and we had play with them. I think the most extreme we got was the old four-inch-stand-with-the-tube-stood-on-it's-end-with-the-roling-tube-on-top-with-another-tube-end-on-with-a-board-on-that-with-a-jump-mount trick.

There were some workshops during the day, but I don't think they were very well attended. This convention definatly seemed more like a big group of friends hanging out and it just happened they could all juggle. It was a world away from the London Convention.
I was discussing this with some people and we reckon it must be a north/south divide type thing. In the south the juggling conventions seem to be a lot more about serious juggling and performing were as in the north the conventions seem to be more about having fun with juggling. I don't think the durham convention was called "balls and beer" for nothing.

As the building we were in was a student union there was a cafe and a bar just upstairs from the hall. I bought myself a chicken, cheese and garlic mayo burger and a cake. Nice. Me and paul paid together and we worked out that we hadn't been charged for his drink. Nice.


the club-brace-race.

The final battle in 3 ball gladiators.
At about 5 the games were held. With sweets as prizes, the games included: club bashing race with wheel barrow race at the same time, unicycle gladiators for non unicyclists, Le Mans start balloon dog race (which I won, much to my own surprise), lowest passing and highest singles. It finished off with a freestyle gladiator game, any prop allowed as long as it wasn't to sharp. Strangely, the guy who was simply holding a hat didn't win.

At about this point the hall was cleared so the chairs and tables could be moved in for the show. I was just walking up to the stage to pick up my gear and Mike, who was putting the show together said to me "You can be in the show, we don't have anyone just juggling balls yet and you're good with them."
I don't know where he'd got that fact from but once he told me I'd get beer in return I agreed. Though when me and Malta were warming up on the stage before hand we noticed the ceiling was a tad bit low. No 11 ring flashes this time then.

Just to go through the show quickly:

This was our compare Mike. He told some crap jokes and did some catchphase type game with us. I think that one above was "jester minute".

Chris and Rob juggled for us a while. The younger kids were suposed to be given sweets but these guys got beer. Not that anyone minded as the spare sweets were thown into the audience later on.

Kaleigh and Leigh rode around on their unicycles in a load of different ways. I saw these two the weekend before at London. This time they didn't wear their dresses and they slipped over on the very slippy stage a few time. Still, they managed to pull off some rock hard tricks between them.

I also saw Adam perform in London. I enjoyed his act a lot better this time. Maybe because he wasn't wearing ballet shows. Maybe because I was mildly less sober.

To be honest, I can't actually remember this guys name. He performed a series of 3 club tricks but it was his first time ever one stage and her was petrified. He dropped quiet a bit but finished off well. Ian was it? D'oh!
Beer rating = as many cans as he could hold.

The first of two acts performing for no reason apart from the fact they were given beer. Little Paul showed us 3 tricks on a rolabola. He did a jump mount, a 5 ball bounce juggle (while on the bola board) and stacking trick thingy (see above).
Beer rating = 15 miller.

The second act performing for alcohol was me. When I was told I was performing I practiced a few tricks with my big tennis balls and they all worked really well. The problem was by the time I actually got on stage I had drunk 4 bottles of Smirnof Ice. In about 45 minutes I think. And I was up to 6 bottles by the end of my act.
Anyway, I missed out about half of the tricks I was going to do and for some unknown reason, put in a few that I've never even tried before. Well, I think it went quite well.
Beer rating = 15 miller.

Interval here - no icecream. A bit more alchohol though.

Normally I make a note of the names of the people performing but didn't this time...
Some guy did devilstick for a bit. Eek.
Beer rating = can't remember.

Dave Barnes played with a loop of string and a couple of diabolos. I've not seen anyone do this many tricks without handsticks before. Very impressive. I liked the end where he threw the string and both the diabolos over his head and caught them in a tangle. That trick must have taken hours to learn.
Beer rating = 30 fosters

Malta did his Lurch act. I think the premise of this act was a zombie/ghool type character, um, juggles. Lots of technical and fiddly catches, comedy and stereotypical piano music. Nice. Confounded by the low ceiling some of his tricks didn't work and his big five club break-down at the end was a bit different from the time he showed us in London. Though there must be room for a bouncing clubs off the ceiling act.
Beer rating = 30 john smiths

This is where I feel stupid once more. The final act and I can't remember his name. Though it wasn't quite an act, it was more a list of trick...

Not a bad thing in the least. The list of tricks were the hardest unicycle tricks anyone in the room had ever seen. I can't even begin to explain them but there was every kind of wheel walk you can think of, mad mounts, jumps onto the cranks of his spinning uni and free rolling in circles. I'd give a beer rating of about 100 pint glasses of freshly poured guiness. Wow.
Beer rating = 30 foster + 30 john smiths

After the show at most conventions people go home. At durham however, everone stayed in the hall drinking the beer that had just been give away on stage. As I said, the convention was sub-titled "balls and beer". They were even selling glass beer mugs with that written on them. I bought one for 5 pounds. I threw it in my bag and come to think of it, I've not got it out yet. I hope it's not smashed.

Another thing, some people were dressed up as doctors during the show. They didn't actually do anything, just sat there. Does anyone know what they did this for? Answer on a postcard....

Some people at this point were juggling but most were sitting around chatting and just chilling. At about 2 am most people wandered up the road to a church hall where they spread out their sleeping bags and either got in them or went into the other room and juggled. Or drank more beer. I read a book and fell asleep, but woke up because I was a bit cold. I didn't bring a sleeping bag. I went into the kitchen and turned the gas heater on to warm up.

In the morning, um, something must have happened. I just went home though so I missed it.

Overall: On of the most enjoyable conventions I've been to. Maybe. I might just be saying that because it was the last one I've been to. I do like the "northern" type convention over the "southern".

Personal low point: That little kid who just sped round and round and round on a mini scooter. I saw him run over loads of people feet and juggling stuff. At one point I bent down to pick up my beanbags and he rode straight into me, bashing his shoulder against my cheek. I was out cold on the floor. He just rode off without even saying sorry. Brat.

Personal high point: Playing "strip keepy-up" with an inflated surgical glove and getting all the way down to my shorts, then watching Colin chicken out when he got down to his trousers. I actually played that? Groan...

2001 Luke Burrage