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European Juggling Convention
Lille, France 25 July – 1 August 2004

 Travel from Holland Exchange

I didn’t make it to Svendborg last year as I had booked myself up with juggling work before I had realised when it was on! This year, it was one of the first dates I put in my new diary!

I was happy when I found out that the exchange trip I would be leading to Holland this summer would finish the day before the European Juggling Convention started! This meant that I could get my travel all paid for (through fundraising) as far as Holland, which cut down on my costs. Noeleen and Graham were taking a van and luxurious 3 bedroom tent across to the convention, and so I was able to pack it with pillows, sleeping bag and little luxuries and have somewhere to stay!

When the exchange trip ended, Jonny and I set off from Schipol Train Station (near Amsterdam). We got to Carvin eventually, but the minibuses had stopped running for the night, so it took us 2hrs to walk into town. We were accompanied by a guy called Isaac who the gang had seen performing in Amsterdam a few days previously.

Although we arrived the night before the convention started, there were already loads of people there. We were warmly welcomed by Mini Mansell (our UK Juggling Representative) and given our passes which were black bags with an orange logo on them.

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The Gang

Many of the Stirling Juggling Project crew managed to make it across the pond to the Convention. From Scotland: George, Katharina, Ewan, Duncan, Lorna, Kirree and Andy (as well as Graham, Noeleen, Jonny and myself) all made it.

The Gang - Hamish, Isaac, Hazel and me

I made some excellent friends during my time at the Convention. I tended to hang around with Jonny, Hazel an American juggler called Isaac and Hamish, from New Zealand. Isaac celebrated his birthday, and we went to the Supermarket and bought a huge strawberry cake with cream which was delicious!

Isaac and his Strawberry birthday cake!

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I am so glad that the general public are not subjected to this high quality of juggling and performance on a regular basis, or else they would have such high expectations for us jugglers who are much less talented! We were truly spoilt by the talent at this convention.

The main show arena could have done with the stage raised a lot higher, as it was hard to see the action if you sat on the chairs on the ground, and if you stood up to see something, you blocked everyone’s views behind you. Trespass did an awesome diabolo act and got a standing ovation. Gandini’s put on a show called  “10,000” where they juggled for 10,000 seconds while having it counted out loud. Good idea, but I didn’t sit through all of it!

There was a very moving tribute to the great Francis Brunn, when during a show on the Saturday we watched a 15minute performance of his on the big screen, which blew our minds! Extraordinary guy and will be much missed by the juggling community.


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I didn’t see many renegades, as I found myself tired or just wanting to chill out and read! Weird. I did see Luke Burrage balancing a couch on his chin (with the help of a guy who had tried to do it by himself), and then Luke balanced on 2 halves of a ladder and juggled.

There was one of the best comperes I have ever witnessed at a cabaret. He looked like Freddie Mercury, and although many of the acts weren’t that good, he was such a fantastic compere, that he was worth sticking around to see and he even crowd-surfed to the technical desk to get his running order!

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5 Ball Workshop: The guy had numerous 3 and 4 ball juggling exercises which would help achieve a basic 5 ball cascade if practiced.

Quidditch Juggling: I had no idea what I was doing! Please see my games page for a better explanation of this game that has 700+ professional fouls possible!

3 Ball in one hand: The guy talked about getting the correct rhythm for the pattern, and it worked for me. My aim for this convention was to improve on this skill, so the workshop really helped me to get 20+ throws in each hand.

Busking Workshop by Canadian Bob: My one regret is that I didn’t realise that this workshop was on. Isaac attended and took 10 pages of notes, which he kindly talked me through. When I saw other busking shows throughout the week.

There were several workshops I turned up for which no-one turned up to lead. This was disappointing for the people who hung around waiting. Jonny led some stretching workshops which were well attended each morning.

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Noeleen and Graham turned up in their van the morning after I arrived. Noeleen had fell out the van on arrival and cracked her head and was feeling a bit concussed. Graham and I set up our massive 3 bedroom tent! We got into an argument with an Italian couple who told us that they wanted to park their campervan in the shade under a tree at the back of the campsite and that if we put our tent up on the only space left to us, they wouldn’t be able to come and go as they pleased! Camp Security were called in, but they didn’t speak English or Italian very well, so it was a comedy of errors, before we finally just decided to set our tent up regardless.

Stop Stealing my Stuff scrawled across Workshop rota

Noeleen and Graham’s bikes were stolen sometime overnight. They spent half a day down the police station, but it was no good and the bikes were never found. Bikes were not the only things that were stolen from this convention. Due to the sheer number of people being let in on day passes, it was easy for them to just wander amongst the tents and take what they wanted. Neither myself or my friends had ever experienced such an amount of stealing on a campsite before.

I lost my convention pass for 2 days. The signs stated that no replacements would be issued. I felt like I was a criminal every time I had to go from one part of the campsite to another, and had to stay on campus, until I managed to find it again. During this time, I had to rely on the kindness of friends to sneak me from place to place. I feel sorry for people whose passes were stolen or who genuinely lost their passes and couldn’t find them, as they were expected to pay full price for a new pass. I am not sure of what sort of system could be set up to avoid fraud, but it would be good to know that if I genuinely lost or had my pass stolen, I could get another one.

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Fractured Thumb

I went to a Gladiator workshop. For those who don’t know what this game is, please visit my juggling games page. After we were all taught some tactics, a team game 12 v 12 was organised outside in the glorious sunshine. Our team took our tops off (sadly the girls were all on the opposing team!) I managed to remain in the first few rounds and score some points, then during a combat, a guy whacked my thumb with his club (not sure if it was an accident or not). It hurt like hell. I went to the Red Cross tent, but they only spoke French, so I could only point at my hand and say “ouchy ouch”! For a few days, I couldn’t juggle much, or grip anything with my left hand, which was also my writing hand, so I couldn’t write my diary or take notes at any workshops).

It was only on returning home a week later that I found out that my left thumb was fractured. I had to cancel several juggling gigs and the hand took 6 weeks to recover fully.

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More Stuff

The parade was cancelled midweek and rescheduled for the Friday (for no apparent reason). It went well, and the musicians/bands that were brought in for the event really made a big difference. The fire show at the end was pretty poor, but the fireworks were good.

Wall Art

Weather was scorching the whole week long. The only cool place on campsite was under the bandstand, so I spent lots of time there! There were toilets near our tent, which were in very good condition and indoors. Not many people knew about them, and there was never a queue! Wooden games in the bar area were very addictive!

I really enjoyed that there was a free Internet Access point. It meant that I could easily keep in touch with my fiancee Rachel back home, as I was away from home for nearly 3 weeks in total, and she had just moved from England to Scotland to begin our new lives together! A BIG THANKYOU to the staff who did a wonderful job of making sure everyone got a shot of the free internet access.

Gate Duty: I took a turn with Noeleen and Graham on gate duty (checking peoples passes). We stopped one guy in a car who wanted access, and he tried to run us over and then got out his car to attack us. Security weren’t much help in resolving the situation. Van’s shouldn’t have been let on our part of the campsite, so any time the vans left, they were not being allowed back in, and this quite rightly made the vehicle owners angry!

Noeleen and Graham

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How I got back to Stirling

Although I had an open return ticket from Zebruggee, I had found out that the earliest we (Jonny and I) could come back was 4 days after the convention ended! We decided that it would cost just as much to bum around for 4 days and work our way back to Zebruggee than if we just tried to make our way to Calais and chance a ferry to take us to Dover.

Liebercourt Train Station was packed from end to end with jugglers trying to get home, and we all managed to squeeze on the train, but no guard could get past us to check for tickets, so we saved a few Euros! We reasched Calais Ferry port, and managed to get ourselves onto a ferry to Dover (along with Mike, Katharina and George). Jonny and Mike went hitching across London to stay with Jonny’s brother. George, Katharina and I caught a bus into London Victoria, and found there were no overnight buses with spare seats that night, so we found a B&B and stayed overnight. George and Katharina booked a bus for the same time the following night, and I got up at the ridiculously early time of 5am to begin my journey home by train!

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I didn’t enjoy this convention as much as other ones. Lille didn’t seem to be too friendly a place, and too much stuff was stolen throughout the week which created an atmosphere of mistrust throughout the camp. My fractured thumb meant that I couldn’t juggle much, and I was quite homesick as my fiancee had only just moved to Stirling as I began all my travels so I was glad to get back home. It was way too hot to do much at all (other than find shade!) I am sure that thousands of people did enjoy the convention (as the camp was way too overflowing with the record amount of people that came through the gates), and I am happy for them, but I will look forward to the next one, rather than reflect on this one!

Poster for the Gym

In saying all the negatives, there were some positives. The standard of juggling in and around the campsite as well as on the main stage was awesome. The free internet access was essential and well organised also.

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