Balls in the air…

There’s a juggler in the park here almost every day practising his craft alone.

‘Here’ is a medieval town with a high tourism draw and a long history of street performances. 


We no longer have bear baiting or hookers hanging out on Grope Lane, but the jugglers and fire-eaters will be here in force all summer, just as they’ve been for hundreds of years. And they must jostle it out with each other, with singers and actors and musicians – all of them trying to earn a living. It looks like play but it isn’t – it’s vital economics.


Last November this particular guy was struggling to keep three balls in the air longer than a few seconds. Now, five months on, he’s effortlessly juggling six whilst riding a unicycle backwards.

I walk past every day and have watched admiringly as he’s improved – despite the constant interruptions of other park-goers, despite the weather, despite those fumbling failings of his early weeks… he’s persisted, he’s practised, he’s just kept going, and now here he is: a plausible professional on the season’s cusp.

And I wonder whether somewhere there’s a Jugglers’ Group, where they meet and debate technique, form and style. Where they spend most of each day exchanging brief – often incompetent – displays, congratulating or criticising each other’s efforts. Where they discuss the rules of juggling until dusk, each sticking rigidly to the point with which they entered the debate. Where they never actually get around to practising, so busy are they talking balls…

Will those jugglers be ready for the streets this summer? No. Of course not. They’ll still be arguing the toss over whether red looks better than blue when tossed six feet into the air.

I’m off. I have a craft to hone…  😉