Camvention 2019 – A Review, by Jen Peat
No, that’s not spelled wrong, it’s supposed to be an E. Different vowel, different gender, different side of the bed. Same colour eyes though, and same marriage certificate.
So Jon has recently started a degree course and isn’t going to have time to review as many conventions, which is sad for a number of reasons, but mainly because how will the juggling world survive without knowing what he ate for breakfast? So I thought I’d step up from my occasional cameo appearances in Jon’s reviews and take on the vital responsibility of cataloguing his culinary preferences myself.
We had a long drive from Leeds to Cambridge, so we split up the journey and stayed at Peat HQ on Friday night. Jon’s parents are in the middle of redecorating, and have temporarily relocated their living room to the opposite side of the house. Walking into the temporary living room, I felt like I was in a weird parallel universe – everything was familiar, but wrong. It was disconcerting.
Breakfast the following morning, for me, was Frosties. Jon was disappointed by the breakfast choices; it seems that Lizzy and Jamie took all the muesli home with them the last time they were at Peat HQ, so he was left with a choice between the Frosties or Weetabix. He chose Weetabix, and ate it warm, crumbled up and floating in milk, with two teaspoons of sugar sprinkled on top. He also had orange juice, which was stored in the parallel universe fridge.
The drive to Cambridge was spent flitting between Radio 1 and Radio 2, and marvelling about how we’re not quite the target audience for either of them. Radio 2 had a lot of yabber-yabbering, possibly with someone from the Kaiser Cheifs, if the live version of I Predict a Riot was any indication. Radio 1 was playing “anthems”, which all sounded very similar and flowed seamlessly into one another. We misheard a lot of lyrics. Apparently there isn’t a song called “I’m your sun burn” after all. Oh well, it was certainly better than “Friday Night is Rave Night”, which had been playing on the drive to HQ the night before.
We arrived at the convention to find the parking nicely signposted. It was quite a way away from the building where the convention is usually held, so much so that we wondered if it might be in a different building this time. Unfortunately there were no more helpful signs to clear this up for us. We decided to make our way to the usual building, as we’d not heard any different. This turned out to be a good decision: we were greeted with a big “Camvention” sign just outside the sports hall, and we went inside to get our passes.
The passes were strips of “seed paper”, with the Camvention logo printed on them. I thought this was a nice idea, as usually any paper convention passes just go in the bin, but this is much more environmentally friendly – just plant the pass in soil, and flowers will grow. Ed wasn’t quite as excited as me, and was worried that flowers might start growing out of his pocket if he became too warm. Cat decided she probably shouldn’t keep her pass in the same place as all her other ones.
I spent some time practicing my hoop routine, as I was booked to be in the show later. Jon warmed up and then juggled his eclectically coloured new loop clubs. I made a new friend, Kalen, who liked circuses, elephants and the Phantom of the Opera. After chatting for a while, we said goodbye and I went to a club juggling workshop. I thought the workshop leader was very handsome, and the workshop went at a nice pace. There was a wide variety of tricks, and not too much time spent on each trick, so I didn’t get bored lingering on tricks I wasn’t that interested in. I didn’t like the kick ups, as my clubs are too pretty to stamp on, but I liked dips, head rolls and shoulder rolls.
After the workshop I waited for Jon to finish chatting with his adoring fans (no autographs requested this time), then we left site to pick up lunch and check into our B&B.
Lunch was sandwiches from Sainsbury’s, which we ate on a bench outside. Strangely enough, Jon got cold in his t shirt and shorts in October. I was fine in my winter coat. Jon had a pasta pot with chorizo and some weird healthy-but-not-very-tasty-sounding ingredients. I had a chicken, mayo and spider sandwich.
After lunch we drove to the B&B. Outside it was “resident only disc zone” parking, so Jon went inside to check us in while I was the getaway driver in case a traffic cop came. It was all very dramatic. Lots of people cycled past me. We swapped over briefly while I did a quick bag drop and the proprietress told me all about her fostered cats. Our room had a weird door that wouldn’t close unless you knew the secret handshake. The pressure was too much, and I leapt back into the getaway car.
Back to the convention, I ran through my routine some more, whilst trying to avoid some small children. I think they might have been trying to jump through my hoops while I was using them, as they kept following me when I moved away from them, and running at me whenever a hoop was spinning vertically. I hoped if I ignored them they’d go away and eventually they did.
I took a break and chatted to Cat, a fellow Slytherin, and Evanna, a fellow performer. Then we watched / participated in the Games. There were a lot of classics, which is always nice, and the prizes were pretty cool – origami cranes, also made out of seed paper. Birds made of seeds. Creepy? Jon won the Five Ball Endurance and claimed a seedy crane for his very own, and I took part in my first ever Handstand Endurance. I’m still in the beginner “abject fear of not stopping at the top and falling onto my back” phase, so Jon stood next to me with his arm out to stabilise me in case I did go too far over on the ascent. I didn’t consider it cheating, mostly because there was literally zero chance of me winning. In the end I stayed up for barely a second, but I was still very proud of myself for taking part.
Juggling Limbo was truly spectacular. It was very entertaining that the last couple of contestants had to odge the bar up slightly with their noses as they slid under it on their backs. I thought for a second that Mark had cheated, because he was continuing to compete after I could have sworn I’d seen him drop. It turns out I was mistaken.
Confession time: until fairly recently, I had trouble following part of the plot of Lord of the Rings, because I could never tell the difference between Boromir and Faramir (despite them being played by actors who look completely different. It’s been easier since Game of Thrones came out and I was able to identify one of them as Sean Bean). I’m embarrassed to admit that I sometimes have the same problem with Mark and Cameron, especially since they performed together wearing identical clothing. Mostly I just refer to them as “the twins”, which simultaneously amuses Jon and makes him despair. It’s been easier for me since Cameron stopped tying his hair back, and I’ve not mixed them up for a long time, but what can I say? In all the excitement I had a relapse, which caused Jon to facepalm.
After the games Jon took part in the combat tournament, and came second to Cameron (or was it Mark?). Afterwards was the tech run for the show. I met Ian, who was casually folding his fisherman’s wheel, and we chatted about how nice Leeds is. I was amused to hear that Jon would be headlining. I ran through my routine a couple more times, until I realised my fringe was too long, and I went to sort it out. Jon told downright lies to Cat about where I was and what I might be doing.
The show appeared to start bang on 7.30, however I later realised the wall mounted clock was two minutes fast, which was sad. I stood backstage with Cameron and Mark until it was time for Cameron open the show with his colour changing ring act. It was easy to tell them apart this time, because when the compere announced Cameron’s name, one of them went out onto the stage. I deduced that I must therefore be standing backstage with Mark.
I didn’t see Cameron’s routine, but I could see his shadow through the curtain. It seemed to be throwing things around and catching them again, so I assumed things were going to plan. The audience certainly seemed to like him and made a lot of appreciative noises, which further confirmed my theory that it was a success.
When Cameron’s applause died down I listened for my own introduction. The compere, Pat O’Matic, had sent all the acts a questionnaire to complete prior to the convention, which had a variety of interesting questions. Having not had any interaction with him at all before the show, I assumed he had enough fun facts about me from my answers, and I wondered which one he would tell the audience. I was a little disappointed when he told them nothing except my name.
The lights came on and I started my routine, for real this time. It seemed to be going well. It was going so well, in fact, that I decided it might be fun to mix things up a bit and play “fetch” with Danny. He was somewhat surprised, but after his initial hesitation he seemed up for it. I had so much fun the first time that I decided we should play again. Danny wasn’t so sure this time, but the audience were definitely game, and they gave us a massive cheer for round two. Wiebke later told me she had enjoyed our interaction, which made me smile a lot.
After my performance I snuck in around the back of the bleachers to watch the rest of the show. My act was followed by Evanna, who did a very graceful, bendy hat routine. It was gorgeous. Her movements fitted really well to the music and her moves were really original. She seemed to tie her limbs in knots while she moved the hats between them – I can only assume some kind of witchcraft was involved – and then just as easily untie herself. It was mind boggling. I loved it.
During the interval I received a lot of really lovely comments and nice feedback about my performance, which I was surprised but very pleased by. Who knew that miming most of the two-hoop section would go down so well? I chatted with Steve, who was wearing his orange t shirt. He told me he’d recently made it to the quarter finals of the National Punning Championships, and I told him how Jon and I had met.
Jon materialised just in time for the raffle. It seemed his “raffle radar” was fully calibrated, and he proceeded to win a Rubik’s Pear Drop. Then he disappeared again to be mysterious backstage as the second half of the show began.
Pat O’Matic mixed up the running order and accidentally introduced the next-but-one act, but he was so casual and laid-back about it that I thought he was joking at first. It turns out he wasn’t, which was awkward, but also quite impressive, considering the massive aerial rig smack bang in the middle of the stage which should have made it obvious which act was next. I was also disappointed by his failure to pick up limes – not by the pun (which I was very amused by, good work!), but by the fact that they were still on the stage as the aerial performer was announced and he left the stage. Luckily a member of the audience was much better at pick up limes, and she quickly leapt into action and cleared them away as the lights went down.
I’ve seen aerial acts before, but never aerial chains. I had been a little dubious when I first saw the chains hanging from the rig, as they looked pretty heavy duty and put me in mind of pain and enslavement – pretty much the opposite of pretty aerial silks. But the act blew away all of my misconceptions, and was actually amazing. Rachel Arkle delivered a really highly skilled routine which demonstrated an impressive amount of physical strength and flexibility. She was dressed like a rock star in jeans and amazing sparkly trainers, which I thought went really well with the chains, and she had attitude.
Next up was Aine, who performed a very flowy routine with clubs. I loved her smile – it was slightly mysterious, as if she was letting the audience into a secret, and it really added to the performance. I enjoyed the way she used her body and balancing skills to move the clubs around and line them up in different and interesting combinations, and she had a really pleasing way of picking up the two clubs she’d previously discarded. I was surprised to see her performing barefoot, as during the tech run she had been wearing socks, and the bottom (soles?) of the socks had been the same colour as the clubs she was using. I’d assumed this was intentional and a dress rehearsal, but I guess not. I concluded that I must have found a kindred spirit who also accidentally matches the colour of her clothes to her props.
The penultimate act was Ian Marchant, performing gentleman (and fisherman) juggling. It was obvious from watching Ian’s routine that he does this professionally. Everything was so neatly and tightly choreographed, and his changing facial expressions were so subtle yet highly expressive. I laughed out loud a few times – I particularly enjoyed the massive fuss that was made of being about to throw his rolled up coat to an audience member and making sure they were ready to catch it, only to have Ian fling it away from himself but hang onto it so that it unravelled in a hilarious anti-climax. I enjoyed the variety of different skills and sections in this routine, and his energy throughout.
Jon was supposed to headline the show with his “Fireflies” routine, but unfortunately it went wrong again. This keeps happening, and Jon really needs to work on hiding his disdain. Still, he managed to pull himself together and had no choice but to continue and make the best of it. He managed to pull off some classic “Jon Peat” tricks, which went down very well with the audience. Some people stood to applaud at the end.
After the show we ate his-and-hers chicken burgers with fries and a lot of people complimented Jon on his performance. I should mention at this point that this was dinner number 2 for Jon, who had already eaten a masaman curry from the Thai van prior to the show. I should also mention that my stance on black pudding is unclear. I’ve eaten it, and I seem to remember liking it, but then I learned what it was and I was less happy about it. I then promptly forgot what it was (or maybe blanked it out because I found the truth too traumatising), and now I’m not sure how I feel about it. It definitely should never go in a sandwich though.
We chatted for a while, and then said our goodbyes / see-you-tomorrows to people, and left for our B&B. I did 10 press ups and then changed into my pyjamas – maroon Hogwarts bottoms, and a grey top with a quote from Musical Lord Voldemort (also a fellow Slytherin) – to watch trash TV before bed. Unfortunately the Cop Channel was really glitchy, so we settled for “World War Weird” instead. After learning all about UFOs in Canada during WW1 and reminding ourselves why we don’t have a TV at home, we decided to call it a night.
We both really enjoyed Camvention 2019. Thank you to the organisers for hosting a really good convention. We’ll see you again next year 😊
Great review Jen! That ticked all the convention & culinary boxes.
Quick note on handstands: Fear of falling & landing on your back is a good thing. Learn to fall before learning to stand. Purposefully over balance, lock one arm at the elbow & lift the other off the ground, twist your torso so that your front is facing the same direction you are falling & put your feet down. Once you can confidently do that you will be less scared of launching into a handstand & will progress much faster!
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