Berlin 2011 Fight Night!

I took part in the Berlin Juggling Convention 2011 Fight Night. It’s a three club combat one-on-one knockout tournament. After chatting with a friend about my history at the event, I worked out I’d been in the final in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, winning in 2008 and taking second place the rest of the time. Against Flo I have a 50-50 win-lose ratio (roughly) and against Jochen (JJ) I have yet to EVER win a game in ANY round. The only times I’ve won a Fight Night with JJ, Flo beat him in the semi-final, and I beat Flo in the final.

This year JJ wasn’t in Berlin for the convention, and Alex was out due to injury. That meant Flo and I ended up in the final together. Who won? Watch the video to find out!

On a hard drive somewhere I have the entire Fight Night at the Karlsruhe 2008 EJC. I should put up the highlights from that event when I find the time!


Berlin Juggling Convention 2011 photos

This past weekend I attended my 8th Berlin Juggling Convention in a row. I had a lot of fun, even though I was recovering from illness. I took 1687 photos… well, I took more, but deleted quite a few from my camera. I set myself the goal of only sharing 200, so went through and picked my favourites. Almost 400! So I picked my favourites of the favourites, and got it down to 199 images.

I hope you enjoy them!

The best way to view the photos quickly is by checking the Facebook album, Berlin Juggling Convention 2011, as that way you can see who is tagged in each photo, and comment or like them individually.

A thumbnail of every photo is posted below. These thumbnails link to the full size files, not the images on Facebook. If you see a photo on facebook you like, find it here to download the original. Alternatively, here is the entire list of every photo both large and small, and the full resolution version..

All photos are released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. That means you can use the photos for non-commercial reasons, as long as you give me credit and link back to this website. For any other use, email me.

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Berlin FotoMarathon 2011: defeated by ambition and illness.

Here are the photos I took for today’s FotoMarathon. Click on the image to see the entire strip of photos in a proper size in a new tab, how the would be viewed in the exhibition:

Luke Burrage small strip

The titles of each photo:
1. I am me
2. Big city plant
3. Weekend and Sunshine
4. There are repairs everywhere
5. No beauty without danger
6. The TV tower has ears
7. Sweet life, sour life
8. We met in a garden
9. I want to have fun

And here’s the story of my day (and week)…

Last year I had an awesome time taking part in the Berlin FotoMarathon. I posted about it at the time, though I never got round to sharing my final photos. I should get on that!

1. I am me

Today was the third time I took part in the marathon. It works like this:

1. There’s an overall theme each year. Last year it was “Time Travel Berlin” and this year it was “Music is in the Air”, however, you don’t learn the theme until the 11am start of the event.

2. You then have 12 hours to take 24 photos.

3. Each photo has a theme. But you only learn the individual themes in stages, and you have to make it to series of checkpoints around Berlin to learn the next set of themes. This year all the themes were based on song titles from Berlin-based bands or musicians.

4. At the end of the day you give in your memory card with 24 photos, taken in order, unmodified, and every other photo deleted.

5. There are prizes, I’m sure, but I’m not really that bothered about the actual competition and gallery showing side of things.

2. Big city plant

Last year I turned up with no ideas, but quickly settled on using two wooden dwarfs from a flea market to tell a story of time travel, conflict, revenge, redemption, etc.

This year I had no ideas at the start, but I quickly settled on an interesting take. Here’s how my plan came together:

First, photo number 1 had the title “I am me.” I decided each photo would be a self portrait.

Second, the booklet said “We recommend that you shoot your photos in landscape format –based on how your photos will be shown during the exhibition. Each series will be exhibited as a 3m long strip, uncut.”

“Hmmm, ” thought I, and decided that the join between each photo would be just as important as the theme and the image itself.

3. Weekend and Sunshine

However, the tips on the website said:

“Charge your batteries
 Seriously, make sure they are 100% charged. Bring an extra set of batteries if you want to be on the safe side.
And this goes not only for your camera…have a good night’s sleep and get ready for an exciting, creative and dynamic Fotomarthon day on Saturday!”

See that part about good night’s sleep? About being ready physically? Well, I’ve just come off the most stressful week I’ve had in about two years! I guess it is still ongoing.

Monday: In quarantine with gastrointestinal sickness. Yay, much vomiting and no eating.

Tuesday: not recovered properly, I had to do two hour-long shows on the last night of the cruise. I only just got through them without going back stage to vomit (not due to sickness, but to exhaustion).

Wednesday: missed breakfast, long travel day, got home literally seconds before the first of 16 people turned up to my place for a meeting of creative Berliners. I bailed on a podcast recording with friends after it began, correctly gauging my energy had been completely depleted.

Thursday: visited a friend in hospital when I should have been catching up with sleep, hung out in the park when I should have been catching up with sleep, went to a stand-up comedy show in the evening when I should have been catching up on sleep.

Friday: lots of small jobs to do, and a friend arrived to stay over for 6 days, and I had to make time for an important date. Along the way I managed to slice my finger open so badly that blood sprayed across the kitchen. It is still painful, and still strapped up with plasters.

And I’ve not been eating or sleeping well since getting ill back on Monday morning.

4. There are repairs everywhere

Last year I was cycling and taking photos for over 14 hours in total, and by the end I was exhausted. At 10.30 this morning I was already as tired as was at 10.30pm last year!

I might have made it through the day if I’d just stuck to taking simple photos, but the extra creative challenge made it waaaaay harder.

First: self portraits? Each photo is taken with a remote switch and a 2 second timer. That means I have to frame and focus at the camera, then get into position, take a series of shots, then go and check they are right, and pick the best shot of the bunch. This adds a LOT of time to any shoot. How did I think I would be able to get through 24 of these images?

5. No beauty without danger

Also, I set up all these images myself, including camera, set dressing, props and lighting. If all I did was point the camera my way, that wouldn’t take too long. But nooooo, I had to move mirrors, decorate my kitchen with bottles, tie ropes around trees, position guitars on chairs, program the strobes and shape the constant light, gel the lighting to simulate weather and light from different times of day, etc. The only help I had was a random guy in the park who held the umbrella, and everything else was down to me.

And in each of the photos I had to ACT. As in take on a character for that pose. Which meant that even if everything else about the photo was technically correct, if I wasn’t looking in the right direction in the right way, I had to try again and again. And the moment in the throwing and juggling shots had to be perfect. In the last image I had to press the remote, pick up one bottle and make a “cheers!” motion, then get the timing exactly right to have the camera capture me throwing a second bottle back over my shoulder. But not only over my shoulder, but over the kitchen cabinet. So between every shot I had to get up and find that damn plastic bottle! Fuuuuuuuuck!

6. The TV tower has ears

Does this sound like fun yet? Well, yes, it was a lot of fun, but HARD.

And it gets harder!

Second: each photo “merges” into the next, remember? So at every image I didn’t just have to worry about that image, I had to worry about the one before it to match up the left side, the image I was taking, the image following it to set up the right side, AND some kind of idea what the image two photos later would look like.

That’s up to FOUR photos in my head while composing every frame.

7. Sweet life, sour life

So let’s do the maths. 24 photos in 12 hours means 30 minutes per photo, and that doesn’t include the “marathon” part of the competition, getting between the checkpoints. I thought I’d minimize that by always returning to my apartment after each checkpoint, but I’d also have to eat and drink… leaving me with about 15-20 minutes per photograph.

In reality, I didn’t take the first photo until almost 2 hours were up. And in the following 5 hours I took a further 8 photos.

Around photo 6 I realized I would never catch up, and decided to aim for 12 good photos, then just take 12 more random images to fill out the quota, and submit them anyway.

At the 7pm checkpoint I decided I just wouldn’t bother, and just stop at photo number 9, the one I’d just taken. As soon as I made decided this, a massive weight lifted from my body and mind, and I proceeded to spend the evening resting, eating, and sitting in front of my laptop. And I thought I’d write this, and finish it before the 11pm end time of the photo marathon.

8. We met in a garden

What I learned:

I should rest if I’m recovering from an illness.

I really enjoy planning and executing photographs. I only do it 2 or 3 times per year, and the rest of the time I’m doing much more documentary photography, merely capturing things already there rather than creating the image from my own imagination.

Aiming for something waaaaaaay beyond what is practically possible in terms of time constraints is both good and bad. Bad: I’m never going to win a competition if I don’t finish and submit the photos. Good: I probably would never have spent 6 hours working on images like this otherwise. I could have played it safe and gone for something simple or smaller, but I aimed beyond the possible and learned way more about photography than I would have otherwise.

Next year I’ll either keep it super simple: one camera, one lens, and try to be the first to finish. Or I’ll do something bigger like this, but try to get a team together. A model, an assistant, and me.

9. I want to have fun


Rebound Dating – a new song

Based on my dating life about a year ago, here’s a new song I shared with the KITAC group that met at my place again last night. It’s the first time I’ve played it for a group of people, so decided to video the performance to see if/when/why they laughed. I’m happy with the response!


Crashing vans, juggling 11 balls, etc. (Ten Years Ago Today)

Last year I wrote a blog post called “Ten Years Ago Today” in which I shared the story of a life-changing event; attending my first large juggling convention.

So today a friend mentioned that he’d just bought a car using eBay, without seeing it first. This reminded me of how I did the same, for my very first campervan purchase. This led to another life-changing event for me! And it happened almost exactly 10 years ago (May 21st 2001), so I thought I’d share it here too.

(I don’t know about you, but I love the fact that the last decade of my life has been documented (by me) in such detail with words and images and videos. Most people are doing that now, through Facebook, and in ten years I hope they’ll still have access to it all. Thankfully I have archives of my websites and blogs and diaries, and get the benefit already.)

Anyway, here’s the dramatic post from ten years ago. A “flash” in juggling terms is one cycle of a pattern, with each ball thrown and caught once.

How I Flashed Eleven

A short story on how I flashed eleven balls for the first time ever one Monday afternoon this spring:

A few weeks ago I decided to buy myself a campervan. I wanted to buy a VW Combivan type thing so I searched around locally, then nationally and finally on the net. On Ebay.co,uk I found an auction for a Fiat campervan and snapped it up for just over 300 pounds. I had a mechanic check it over and popped down to Wales to pick it up.

And this is what I got:

There was a bit of rust on the bottom of the doors so I patched that up, hence the white bits on the door you can see in the above picture. The only other thing that was wrong with it was the choke cable was snapped but I wasn’t in much hurry to fix that as it started fine without it.

The van was MOT’ed until October so I insured it via work and bought myself some tax. I was going to paint it and re-decorate the insides. The plan was to make it look a bit like Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine:

I took the “before” photo ready for comparison with the final product. I was going to do a short feature on it at this website so I even put a story of my brother and I hitch-hiking across Europe as an alternative transport thingy. I had big plans for my little van, I was going to take it to the European Juggling Convention and everything.

After a busy time with university and at work I had 5 days spare so I decided to drive over to my parents home and catch up with the family, maybe take my sister out for a ride in my new vehicle. So, it was on a sunny Monday afternoon I set off for the 80 mile trip from Scarborough to Barnard Castle.

I was thinking of going via York to do a bit of shopping but in the end I decided to take the more direct route, via:

missing image of the Sutton Bank Sign

That’s right, the Notorious Sutton Bank, the steepest stretch of road in England. On the map it doesn’t use the word “Notorious” but I think it should. It’s not often they put statistics on road signs to get the point across so I guess it must be a bad spot. Look at that, 178 lorries got stuck on the hill in 1 year. That’s over 3 a week!

Hmmm… I think HCV means lorries. I’ve always thought they were HGV’s, for Heavy Goods Vehicles. Maybe the C is a spelling mistake.

Anyway, that sign is at the bottom of the hill. I approached from the top were there are about a thousand signs saying “Test your brakes!“, “Steep hill ahead!” and “You’re in a caravan? Don’t even think about it!“. I have driven up and down The Notorious Sutton Bank many times in the past so I knew what to expect as I turned the first switchback and faced the long, steep straight at about 10mph.

Keeping in third gear and keeping my foot on the brakes I continued down the hill. And then, as the slope gets steeper just before a switchback to the right, I stepped a bit harder on the brakes.

And I didn’t slow down.

I put a bit more pressure on the brake pedal and if anything I started speeding up.

Then it dawned on me: I was driving down the Steepest Road, the Notorious Sutton Bank, and my brakes had failed. Every drivers worst nightmare and it was happening to to me in my brand new 22 year old campervan. Just my luck.

I pumped my foot up and down on the brake and slammed it into second gear. At this point I had to make a decision. Do I;
A – try and get around the corner at high speed in a very narrow, top heavy vehicle;
B – see if I can aim for a narrow track that lead off the road between a gap in the crash barrier, with no idea about how much chance I’d have of stopping before hitting a hefty gate or shooting off the edge of the cliff or;
C – pulling on the handbrake and seeing if I could avoid skidding out of control which could easily have flipped the van over the crash barrier to a drop down the cliff.

I took option A and tried my best to make it round the corner without even a hint of a working brake. I felt a couple of wheels leave the road and the next thing I knew I hand come to a stop, campervan on its side, but still on the road.

It went a little bit like that. I didn’t get a photo of the van on in the middle of the road but you get the picture. It was still on the road, round most of the corner but not quite the right way up. I brushed the broken glass out of my hair, opened the driver’s door and jumped out. I felt slightly shaken but strangely, I find car crashes highly exciting. I had survived this one and experienced all the sensations of a rollercoaster with none of the predictable, boring safeness. I’ve managed to survive three vehicle write-offs now. In the first, someone drove straight up my rear end and destroyed my Nova (but I claimed compensation and bought my camcorder with my winnings) and the second I lost control on an icy bridge and plowed into a brick wall. And now this. I’m good, me.

I landed on the road grinning at myself and I heard some cars pull up behind me. In no time a group of men had lifted my van back upright and we pushed it up to the side of the road so it would be out of the way of passing traffic.

Here’s a nice view of some of the damage. It’s a good job there was nobody is the passenger seat, they could easily have been killed.

Here is a view from the inside, again you see that it was quite mashed.

One man who had called the police stayed with me until a car arrived. The PC took my details and called a recovery vehicle. He then got back in the car and buggered off, leaving me beside the road licking my wounds. I wasn’t badly injured at all, just some scratches resulting from wearing shorts and flipflops.

It was at this point I felt the first signs of shock coming on. I had emptied most of my gear out of the van so I decided to use my available juggling equipment to relieve the oncoming stress and work off the adrenalin still pumping around my body.

And I flashed 11 balls.

I did it. I used eleven B4’s (Ben Beever Barnesy Bags) and got it on my first try after one or two flashes of nine.

I know that it might be a while before I catch it on video or even do it again but that isn’t the point. I flashed eleven. To put that in perspective, only five other people have done it. In the whole world. Ever. Not bad, eh?

I think the car crash definitely had something to do with it, my hands were shaking from shock and my heart was still beating double time. I strongly suggest to anyone wanting to smash their personal juggling bests that they should have a go at losing their brakes while driving down a very steep hill, it worked wonders for me.

Still, there you go. That was the whole point of the story but I’ll continue to a conclusion….


This is a pick up truck that came out to provided some flashing light support and a rear view of my van about to be loaded onto the back of a lorry. I signed it over to the recovery company and gave them a bit of money to take it to a scrap yard for me. No sense in me pretending I could do anything with it. Soon my father arrived and gave me a lift for the rest of the journey. Thank goodness for mobile phones.

And the thing that annoys me most? Well, when the van was lifted back upright, a door fell off and out dropped a bag. As there were no brakes, the van rolled back slightly and came to rest against the curb. Unfortunately it rolled over the bag, the bag that contained my laptop.

missing photo of broken laptop

A cracked screen and a jammed floppy drive. Not to worry, the laptop only cost me 30 quid.