Durham Juggling Convention

Well, yes it was a just a one day juggling convention but not since Roger Davies
was one of the organisers - there was plenty of interest for unicyclists. There
were workshops, a Muni ride, a screening of UNiVERSE in the bar, but above all
there was Julien Monney from Switzerland who’d been flown in to appear in the
show and run a masterclass. It was a long day I got up at 4.15am picked up Dave
at 5.00 and arrived in Durham at 9.30 and drank a pint of strong coffee. The
venue was the large and labyrinth like Student Union building that had
apparently won an award in the 70’s for its use of pre-stressed concrete but
could better be described as looking like an arcane experiment with grey LEGO.
Early on there was plenty of space in the main hall to practice although I
nearly maimed a juggler trying to glide down the ramp to the main floorspace. I
also discovered that the black Snafu tyre on one of my unicycles was
conspicuously not-non-marking so I switched to my other (white-tyred) unicycle
until it would be less obvious who was creating pretty patterns on the floor.
Julien arrived and whilst there was space he practised lots of Newtonian-defying
coasting variations while the unicyclists looked on in awe and even the pure
jugglers looked impressed (even if they couldn’t work out what exactly what he
was doing). Inspired by this I practised hard and before I’d noticed the pain I
realised that the Miyata saddle I’d been riding had finally worn through both
sides of my jeans and was rubbing my flesh raw. After some anti-septic cream and
a change of trousers I followed the unicyclists to a smaller but quieter hall
where we practised more tricks and Julien work on a new one (to him) - 180
uni-spin whilst riding seat out. When he’d got that he worked on 180 uni-spin
whilst riding seat out followed by 180 uni-spin whilst riding seat out to riding
normally. When he’d got that he pulled of a few 360 uni-spins whilst riding seat
out! After a quick snack in the cheap student canteen the Muni ride set out for
a not-too technical ride down by the river - most riding on standard 20" unis. 5
mins later I set out not knowing where Roger was heading and asking passers-by
“have you seen anyone else riding one of these” after a string of blank faces I
headed off on my own in the general direction of some woods that I’d remembered
from the 1999 British Juggling Convention (held on the outskirts of Durham). I
spotted some Mountain bikers ahead and frantically pedalled after them hoping
that the would be cutting off-road soon. Sure enough I found myself in an
Autumnal wood with a well defined main track and smaller more fun tracks off it.
I’d lost the bikers by now as we’d turned downhill and I couldn’t keep them in
sight - but it was still fun to have a quarry to chase after. I followed their
tracks and crossed a main road that I recognised near 1999 convention site. 5
minutes later I’d caught them - well they’d stopped and were watching the 2
fittest in their group trying to zig-zag up a technical uphill path to the side.
I was going to ride past nonchalantly before any of them could work out
something “clever” to say but the hill was too tempting (as a downhill that is)
and I jogged up and rode down it including a few small drop-offs hoping it might
change their perception of unicycles. Back on the main track I found the river
and followed the riverside path watching the many rowers and scullers on the
water. Some of them looked very unsure of themselves in the narrow not very
stable looking boats - they must have been first-year university students being
trained up. I came back in through the busy city centre in sight of the
cathedral and castle concentrating hard on not falling off in front of the
shoppers and tourists on the steeply cobbled paths. Roger ran a beginners
workshop followed by Julien’s who either taught us lots of mounts and techniques
of learning them. After this we screened UNiVERSE in the bar but were prevented
from breaking ourselves and our unicycles immediately by the interruption of the
evening show. Keyleigh and Leigh did a pairs act to start the show on the road
and after it was rounded off by Julien who did “tricks to music” which went down
very well with several encores and the most beer* After the show the hall was
cleared and we carried on 'till 2am by which time I was tipsy, sore and aching.
I’d done my best jump up onto something but I’d twisted my only pair of 140mm
cranks jumping off the stage.

Thanks to Durham City Jugglers (especially Roger) for organising such a
cool event.

Leo White, Cheltenham (UK)

  • The performers were paid only in expenses plus beer or sweets - the amount of
    beer or sweets was determined by the raucous audience after each act who
    called for “more beer” or “sweets” depending on the age or character of the
    performer and on how good they judged performance was.