When I first learnt to juggle from a set of instructions in a tube with 3 juggling balls on Christmas Day 1993, little did I know that there was a thriving juggling club just 10mins walk from my house! Not many people know that there are Juggling Clubs all over the world, and currently 65 listed in the UK on the Juggling Edge website, so the chances are that you might be near one also!
I currently belong to a club called MK Jugglers Anonymous (based in Milton Keynes). I use the word “belong” because the people that attend this club are more like a giant happy Juggling family than just a group of people I meet with on a regular basis. I used to run a club called Stirling Juggling Project (based in Stirling funnily enough with such a name), so I am writing from the experience of being a part of these clubs as well as visiting many others over the past 20yrs.
Juggling Clubs are for anyone who fancies trying out any type of Circus Skills (such as Juggling, plate spinning, devilstick, diabolo, poi etc). They are not just for professionals, but equally for hobbyists and anyone willing to come along and ask questions! It can be a very cheap way to learn a new skills, as a typical juggling club will most likely set you back a whopping £2 which probably includes all the biscuits you can eat and a hot beverage of your choice!
Jugglers in the UK are usually (there may always be an exception) an extremely friendly bunch of people who are more than happy to share their skills and time with anyone who shows an interest. A juggling club can be a great place to meet new friends, develop a passion for a skill you have always wanted to learn, and then be surprised when you enjoy another prop even more!
It is always worthwhile contacting the person listed as being in charge of any club you intend to visit. This will help to ensure that the club is definitely meeting on their regular weekly meet-up day (they may have an occasional break if their venue is being used as a voting station, or is being refurbished for instance). This will also give you the chance to ask them any questions and bring up any concerns you may have. By letting them know that you are coming along, and what you are interested in, they can make sure that they bring that particular bit of equipment with them. Most organisers bring a huge community chest of most items for people to use, and other jugglers will be very happy to share their equipment with you, so you don’t need to already own the items you wish to practice with!
Most people that run a juggling club have a wide range of skills to at least a moderate level, so they may begin teaching you in your skill before introducing you to others who will be keen to assist you also. They are always pleased to see new faces! If the Club is based in a University campus (and ran by Students), then you may have to arrange to meet them outside the venue so that they can sign you in.
Typically on a Juggling night, people will arrive at various times (the Hall may seem empty with only one or two people at the official start time, but within 30mins, be crammed full of people)! Some people will be trying to practice a certain skill, and others will be looking around the room and admiring other people’s skills. Some people may be sitting down chatting with others as Juggling Clubs are a great social meeting place and not just for juggling! The duration of a Juggling Club is usually 2-3hrs, but you are welcome to come and go as you please. Usually halfway through the night, the kettle will be boiled and people will stop for a rest and a chat and enjoy tea and biscuits!
Toward the end of the night, there may be some juggling games, with 3 club gladiators being a particular favourite! Don’t worry if you can’t juggle, as watching these games can be just as entertaining, and allow you to pick up some ideas and a gameplan for then you eventually might feel ready to join in one day!
Another bonus of attending a Juggling club regularly, is that you will have made a new group of friends. This is particularly good when you choose to attend your first Juggling Convention, as most likely, you will see several familiar faces, and may even be able to car-share and pitch your tents side-by-side! As I have been part of several Juggling Clubs over the past 20yrs, I usually look for a certain flag hoisted high to represent those clubs, and then I can choose to pitch with any of my juggling family!
The aim of this article is to encourage you to find your nearest juggling club and give it a try! What is there to lose other than £2 (for which you received tea and biscuits!) What is there to gain – a whole new range of skills, a wonderful new circle of friends, and a fantastic regular night out!