BJC 2013 Review

As usual, during the weeks running up to the BJC there were plenty of mumbles from Southern jugglers along the lines of “camping… up north… in April… flippin’ freezing”. But this year even hardy Geordie jugglers were less than enthusiastic given the 12 foot snow drifts lying across Northern England. Thankfully, by the time the BJC opened its doors there were only the tiny patches of snow left where the biggest drifts had been, though it was still pretty cold.

The venue was the Ryedale Exhibition and Leisure Centre located in the Yorkshire countryside a few miles from Pickering. The centre had obviously undergone some renovation work recently so was a bit tatty around the edges. While not the most pretty venue it provided ample room to the 800 or so jugglers that came to the event. The 24 hours hall must have been one of the biggest in recent years, helped by the fact there was a big top outside where the shows could be held rather than taking up hall space.

The biggest downside of the hall was the concrete dust leftover from the renovations. This covered everyone’s props and, as a dragon staffer, turned my hands in to something resembling a reptile's hands as I ground the dust in with chi rolls!

The workshop timetable was packed with the usual vast array of things to learn and means of improvement. The big Gala show names also pitched in with Steven Ragatz’s workshops proving very popular, Loooop put on a partner poi workshop and Pavel Evsukevich also contributed. There were special areas set aside for workshops and even a games area that went down a treat with the “lazy” jugglers.

There were some great little touches to this year’s BJC. The event was sponsored by Yorkshire Tea so there was free hot drinks to be had all week. The organisers ran a postcard service so you could write and address a postcard to whoever and a magic postman or woman would make sure it got to the correct person (I even got one!)

The on-site shows were great and we were treated to at least one every night. These included the circus schools’ show featuring students from Circomedia and Circus Space, the Open Stage and BYJotY. The Open Stage feature Amy Amelia with a graceful and beautifully smooth contact ball routine and no less than 3 hoop routines including Kat Collett’s Barbarella-inspired glow hoop routine and Gale Francis’ double hoop act that made great use of hoop isolations and manipulation. The Open Stage also featured Ieuan Maiden, Su Nami, a wonderful acro-balance pair, Truan Mathais and his love affair with his broom and Sam Goodburn’s ridiculous unicycle skills.

BYJotY (British Young Juggler of the Year) made history, both for the length of introduction and, more importantly for awarding the first gold award in the competition’s 10 year history. The worthy recipient of this award and winner of the British Young Juggler of the Year was Dave Leahy. Charles Brockbank and Alex McGillivray also deserve a mention for winning the Bronze and Silver Awards.

And of course, then there’s Renegade. Renegade has been sparking a lot of debate in the run up to this year’s convention. Generally along the lines of “how can we make it like the old days?” It is a testament to the organisers that they went a good way towards achieving this. We saw acts from some of the Gala show performers including Steven Ragatz and other big names like Wes Peden. There were plenty of other great acts from less well-known performers mixed in with the usual drunken escapades. Perhaps all that Renegade needs is a little effort…

Saturday was filled with the games, a trip to Scarborough and the Gala show. After fish ‘n’ chips by the sea and too much fudge and ice cream we headed to the beautiful Spa theatre. Steven Ragatz opened both halves of the show with amazingly smooth routines that clearly showed his professionalism and dedication. Billy George was the second act on and it was great to see some Cyr wheel take to the stage even if we were drooled on by the ladies in the balcony while Billy twirled about the stage with shirtless finesse. Loooop made great strides in vindicating poi in the eyes of jugglers with their tight and technical partner poi routine which has got even better since they performed in the 2011 EJC Gala. Eugenius Nil seemed to be everyone’s favourite, including mine, with his funny but highly skilled ball juggling act featuring several surprising gadgets in the balls. To finish the show we were treated to some hardcore juggling from Pavel Evsukevich who smashed out 9 and 10 rings among other exceptionally hard juggling!

Firetoys wants to give a big shout to the organisers and the sterling job they did running this year’s BJC. We can wait for the next one wherever it may be… (For more info on BJC 2014 and how you can get involved click here).