A European Juggling Convention is a significant production, hosting a wide array of activities in circus arts. Throughout the week, performing circus artists and jugglers of International renown are invited to teach workshop sessions and master classes to convention attendees. Hosting the convention in Ireland provides a significant Irish contingent of attendees exposing up-and-coming Irish circus artists to world-class knowledge and skills in this manner. Previous International artists have included legendary circus artists such as Kristian (Kris) Gaston Kremo (France) and Sergei Ignatov (Russia); renowned Irish artists such as Jeremy James, Con Horgan and Denis Butler (The Fanzini Brothers), Ronan McLoughlin, Ken Fanning (Tumble Circus) and Johnny Phelan; as well as a host of International circus artists.
Typically, a full scale circus show is hosted each evening of the convention with additional shows, ‘renegade’ events and ‘juggle jams’ throughout the week on varying evenings. Evening shows provide a space for Irish artists to display their expertise to a highly discerning audience and are often the basis for opening dialogue with other artists in that field of circus. In addition, the evening shows provide opportunities for Irish compères to hone their skills in front of an international, diverse audience. Typically, an EJC will also host a Gala Show displaying the best-in-class artists from across the circus world and providing a special opportunity to display the best national talents alongside a world-class peer group. The gala production always runs for more than one show, opening a second or subsequent time to the public of the host region to showcase the event and the breadth of talent in attendance.
After the evening shows, renegade events are additionally hosted. These events are created to allow artists to showcase and test new material in front of a highly discerning audience in order to seek valuable feedback on which direction an artist may take with a particular performance. In a similar manner juggle jams, often held within a renegade event, showcase single tricks or ideas to the audience without the pressure for more fully rounded performances.
Traditionally, a night dedicated to the host nation is held. Along with circus based entertainment drawn from the host nation; music, dance and other expressions of the host nation’s culture are typically demonstrated. The 2006 EJC Irish night was a resounding success displaying local Irish dancers, traditional and modern Irish music and culminating in a huge Ceilí with hundreds of convention attendees participating. To promote this years event the team hosted a large scale Ceilí at EJC2013 in Toulouse, France on which the professional ceilí musicians remarked that they had never, ever seen a ceilí like it before.
Youth circus groups are also encouraged to attend the event. Expressions of interest have already been received from Ireland’s only youth circus, Galway Community Circus, to attend the 2014 event. Having a professional youth circus on board is a massive boost to the core team in attending to the younger members of the circus community. Further, creating a space for youth circus also allows the convention to be more fully inclusive for the wider local community. The youth circus contingent typically also operates a series of introductory and more advanced workshops specifically for younger attendees. Shows created by youth circus members are also hosted with technical support from the larger convention.
In closing the event a large parade is organised which takes a route encircling the local area. This allows a further exposure of the event to the wider community and is typically greeted with great enthusiasm and joy. The parade typically ends in an open area, outside of the ticket controlled convention perimeter where the local community and the attendees proceed to engage in the ‘Juggling Olympics’, the circus skills games which mark one of the final events of the week long convention. The games are typically non-competitive though some do require significant skill, such as 5-ball or 7-ball endurance juggling. Others are purely for fun and merriment such as balancing a plastic bag on ones face, hula hoop racing, juggling ‘Simon says’ and a vast array of other games. The games come to a close with the final marker of the end of any circus convention, the toss-up. The toss-up provides a final beautiful photo opportunity wherein all attendees gather together and toss their juggling props skywards to mark the end of the event.