When my boyfriend asked me in March if I wanted to go to the European Juggling Convention (EJC) with him, I immediately booked my flights – not because of the juggling part, but because I wanted to go on vacation with him. My interest in juggling was basically zero, unless you count that I used to like to watch circus shows every now and then. He in contrast has juggled since high school and joined different juggling clubs. He is the one who knows that EJC is the world’s biggest juggling convention. I hadn’t even heard of it.
So there we were at the start of August – my boyfriend excited that we would go to the 9 day long EJC, I stressed out because I had no idea what to expect. We flew to London Heathrow, picked up our rental car there and then drove north to Newark-on-Trent where the convention took place on an old RAF field (EJC takes place in a different town every year). The first thing I learned was that juggling can be used as a much broader term than I knew. It is not only throwing and catching clubs and balls; it also comprises poi (ball on ribbon), diabolo, unicycling, whip cracking, knife and ax throwing, high wire, etc.
I went to watch many shows at the EJC and I was immensely impressed by all the presented skills. Most people practise juggling as a hobby and they are all so good. Apparently it is a very common free time activity in Germany – only I was the German who didn’t have any clue. There were also countless workshops for all kinds of juggling and for all levels. I eventually tried unicycling. Let me tell you that it is so much harder than it looks. I would have loved to walk on the high wire, but that workshop was cancelled because of storm gusts at the end of the week.
After watching everybody (and by that I mean hundreds or maybe thousands of people, even little kids throwing balls and diabolos without problems) for several days, I finally decided that it was time for me to not just be the accompanying girlfriend. I also wanted to juggle something. I eventually decided on poi because it looked pretty, it didn’t seem to be too difficult, the movements were flowy. I consulted one of the merchants at EJC and they sold me an absolute beginner’s poi set (for only £ 6.50). My boyfriend then taught me the basic movements and I really enjoyed the almost meditative movement. It also seems that my ambidexterity is a huge advantage here because I move both poi equally strongly. Since I liked it so much, I also bought a set of podpoi (glowy LED ones) on the last day.
And just like that EJC also made me a juggler (albeit neither a great nor an ambitious one). But I am now going to join my boyfriend in meetings with his club to practise a little more.
My highlights at EJC 2019 were definitely:
- The Future Circus where kids presented their skills. They were brilliant. Like I saw a 6 year old doing aerial silks.
- The fire show. Because it looks so cool in the dark and all performers had through-composed acts.
- Unicycling competitions. It is spectacular what people can do on one wheel (I can’t even drive it without holding on to someone or a wall). Like jumping, driving with one leg only, turning 360°.
- The gala on the last evening. There, famous artists came on the stage and it was again a whole different level of juggling – like that guy who balanced a sword on a balloon on a knife, which he held in his mouth.