Second British Unicycle Convention Trip Report

Hi everyone.

Here is the world exclusive unveiling of my trip report which kept me up till
3 am last night. I got a copy of the video from my mate Ron, ad checked out
some stuff. Looks like Kevin was right – the final uni hockey score was
14-13, not 14-12. Perhaps you can help with other quantative facts too?
Criticism is most welcomed.


Back to work now!

The Second British Unicycle Convention

A Trip Report by Barry Prescott

Exhausted but inspired, I sit here writing this report having just returned from
the Second British Unicycle Convention in Hastings, Saturday 21st to Sunday 22nd
May 1994. It was utterly excellent.

For a total outlay of approx 33 pounds including travel down from Hull,
accomodation in an excellent guest house, and the piddling convention price
(that’s a piddling price, not a piddling convention) I had the best weekend I’ve
had in a long time, and I know I’m not alone.

Our high hopes were slightly dampened as Saturday dawned cold and wet. I had
visions of hundreds of sodden and miserable unicyclists crammed into a heaving
sports hall. However, upon arrival, the rain stopped and simultaneously we were
greeted in the car park by the sunny, ever-smiling organiser Andy from Hasting
Unicycle Group (HUG). Things were on the up.

After strolling through registration, we surveyed the scene - a sports hall
partitioned into various areas - a big area for hockey, games and workshops, and
a smaller area for the traders (DM, Semcycle, Butterfingers, Ball Space) and
general larking about. Surprisingly the place was not packed – it looks as if
the bad weather had kept the non-hardened unicyclists at home. I saw few of the
guys from the 1st Northern Uni-hockey tournament there, though the Mighty
Moggies made it down from Leeds. The lack of hoards of people did not spoil the
event - it developed a rather cosy atmosphere. The organisers, HUG were all
friendly and approachable and on the whole very efficient. The only problem we
had was not being entered into the uni-hockey, despite having been
pre-registered as the Hull Roustabouts. After some confusion and the creation of
scratch teams (who was it that coined the name Scabies?) we ended up playing
Royals II and Mozzies. The Royals II, we defeated 4-2, much to our own surprise
as 4 of us had never played before and 2 of us couldn’t even rock the uni – the
stick really comes in handy as a crutch! Mozzies, including the not-too-bad Yuri
Abrahams (Sem’s brother) zipped around us, well, like mozzies tend to and beat
us by 6 to 2, going through to the semis. Uni-hockey is exhilarating and
addictive and not just for the expert unicyclist. Try it!

HUG had got some real teaching expertise over in the unlikely shape of Sammy
Hellwig and his Tscha-tscha team (who we suspect were really his wife and two
kids). This guy runs the Cologne Unicycle School, presumably with ruthless
teutonic efficiency. After a rather Stalag-Luft 13 parade ground-like warm-up
(forget step aerobics – a unicycle is the ultimate work-out accessory), he took
us on a whirlwind tour of how to mount our unis in twenty or so different ways,
emphasing style and technique as pre-eminent. It soon became apparent that Sammy
wasn’t really a proto-Kamp Kommandant but that he was a really nice guy! With a
vocal style that was, ahem, `unique’ he taught us in an extremely effective way.
“Ve do ze freezing und zen ve do ze pulling of ze seat! Ah-Zo!!”. “Ze freezing”
was what he called standing up with the pedals level and legs straight. Just do
it! Sammy’s favourite exclamation for the the successful execution of a skill
was “JESS-SAH!”, punctuated with punching fists like Maori on one wheel. Soon
the hall was filled with the cries of “JESS-SAH!” as we kicked legs, unicycles
and each other into the air. Brilliant. I later learned from him that
“Jess-sah!” is a cry used by Japanese as they work to climb the final peak of a
mountain; it means “That works!” or “Go for it!”. Whatever, “Jess-sah” has now
entered the vocabulary of the unicyclist in Great Britain.

Dave Mariner, unicycle designer extraordinaire was there with his wacky uni
exhibition and also a high-tech unicycle connected to a computer that measured
your unicycling efficiency and may one day enable diagnoses of unicycling
faults, or something. He was hoping his users could give him some input on the
project which could be a quantum leap in unicycle history.

Undeterred by the terrible weather, the sea-front parade went ahead as scheduled
from the pier. Incredulous pedestrians marvelled at our skill, nerve and
stupidity. Meridian TV were there to capture us in our moistened magnificence. I
couldn’t get enough of stardom and posed mercilessly for the Observer
photographer. The lovely glistening wet sand of the beach was a wonderful
unicycling surface. I circled around a poor innocent worm-digging fisherman on a
6 foot giraffe (me not the fisherman) about 30 times whilst the photographer
tried to get that perfect shot. He didn’t — Russell `I’ve got a red hat and
I’m going to wear it’ Wells got into the paper, like he got into everything
else. At least I got into the Hastings Observer in the group photo.

Amazingly, as I cycled around in the surf, who should stroll down the beach but
my old mate from Hull University, Dom! He was down from London visiting his
grandparents in Hastings and had tracked me down! I introduced him to the
delights of unicycling by inviting him to the public show. I think that he was
the only member of the public there.

The show itself was great. Local HUGgers gave a great performance – juggling 4
chainsaws at one point, well OK, miming juggling 4 chainsaws. Later I learned
that the very good mime had been mugged the previous night. The muggers weren’t
mimes, unfortunately and the guy sported a rather alarmingly swollen eye. One
total nutter played guitar on a 7 foot giraffe in the style of Hank Williams,
Buddy Holly and The Ramones.

As this piece is hopefully going to be accepted in “The Catch” I ought to say at
this point that the comperes, the Norfolk Mountain Rescue Team did a wonderful
job in introducing the acts, especially the blonde guy. In fact their uni-ballet
act was really very good. Their payment was to extract material for their act –
the audience were asked over the interval to come up an answer to that old
chestnut oft-asked of unicyclists “Oi! Where’s your other wheel?”. The winner,
judged by audience applause was the surreal “In Nanny’s room, behind the clock”.
Other gems included “It’s a unicycle, dickhead!”, or the even simpler “Fuck
off!”. My personal favourite, and one which the dickheads of Hull will soon be
sampling is “It’ll be along in a minute”.

While I’m on the topic the other heckles I get are “I bet you can’t do a
wheelie!”, “Couldn’t you afford a proper bike?” and the more popular variant of
the previous heckle “Someone’s nicked your front/back wheel!” Replies to these
heckles would also be much appreciated.

Russell and Ollie used some stylish stuff from Sammy’s workshop to start their
show which climaxed in the ramp-of-death unicycle leap over Russell. Russell
obviously enjoys being jumped over — Yuri did it without a ramp the next
day. In the show Yuri did some great stuff - like an airborne pirouette and some
pretty hot yo-yo-ing.

Stars of the show had to be the Tscha-Tscha team. Probably the most promising
unicylist in the world, Sammy’s 13 year-old son Maseraty can wheel-walk both
one-footed and backwards and even glide with one foot acting as brake on the
tyre. Not seen in the show but seen in practise was riding backwards by moving
the wheel with his feet in the spokes! His younger sister Ferrary wasn’t half
bad either, starting her act with a running mount into one-footed riding with
the other leg extended gracefully.

The unicycling on ice party was cancelled by the rink people due to the `wrong
type of ice’ or something and we all piled down the Pig in Paradise for a
well-earned drink.

Sunday brought another excellent Hellwig workshop, this time on idling tricks
and group moves. Games were played and races run, unfortunately lacking much
structure — rules were being changed as we went along. This didn’t stop much
fun being had, although I was rather dissappointed that the pairs race which had
a prize of a 24" unicycle was not barred to people riding 24" unicycles.
Predictably, all 4 people in the final were riding 24" unicycles which are less
common than 20" cycles and generally have a higher top speed. What the winner
did with his 24" Absolute Balls prize is anybody’s guess. Sour grapes, I know
— I only had my 20" there.

In the unicycle hockey final, British champs Lunis faced off against the
friendly German team Lahimo, notable for containing 4 females. They were
actually the `B’ Lahimo team. From what I had seen of them already I concluded
that their A-team must be amazingly good! Lahimo commanded the audiences
support, due to disenchantment with Lunis’ seriousness in what is essentially a
silly sport which by definition ought to be treated light-heartedly. After a
thrilling 30 minutes the score stood at 11-11. Exhausted players rested for 5
minutes before re-entering the fray for 5 minutes of extra time. Lahimo’s
lightning-fast male player Christoph was in another class altogether. Lahimo
pulled ahead 14-13, winning a superbly-crafted trophy and bottle of champers.

Some great prizes donated by Semcycle, Butterfingers, DM, The Brighton Juggling
Store, Absolute Balls and Ball Space were raffled off. The low attendance made
ticket-buying an extremely attractive prospect. Some people had reams of
tickets. The Hull crew went home extremely happy with 3 scimitar-style knives
and a Tscha-Tscha t-shirt, which got autographed.

The end of the convention was marked by an attempt to break the world unicycle
chain record. It was clear from the outset that the world record of 191
unicyclists was not going to fall. I guessed that we would break the British
record which was said to be 101; set at the first British convention in '93. We
got 89 I think. It was a laugh anyway!

Unfortunately I missed the business meeting, but it looks like Cardiff could
well be the venue for '95, hosted by the ubiquitous Russell. Slight moan: Any
chance of a more central location for us northerners?

The was the convention that I enjoyed even more than EJC’93 and BJC’94. Looking
forward to the next one… JESS-SAH!!!