If you’re ever on the Lemon-Scented Lawns on a Monday night, you might have some questions, like: Why are there so many jugglers? What the heck is that rope for? Is that hula-hoop on fire? The Monash Club of Juggling and Firetwirling has long been one of the strangest sights on campus, but they’re also one of the
most welcoming clubs. Maddy Luke managed to get Anthony Embleton to sit still for five minute to chat about his experiences in our local circus.
How did you get involved with MCJAF?
I found out about it through Host Scheme Camp, where we actually get most of our members. It’s good exposure.
Is there something unique about this club that makes people more inclined to join?
I think a big part about it is that it’s super inclusive, which is why jaffys go for it. You know, it’s one of the first experiences they have at uni and it’s with people who are just open and brilliant and who accept just about anything. It’s the kind of thing that most people wouldn’t normally think to try so we try to be as accepting as we can.
Do a lot of people come into MCJAF with prior experience with juggling and firetwirling?
A few people do, but those are usually people who have already been doing it and then realise ‘oh, we have a club for it.’ Like, for me, I came into it with absolutely no experience, and just loved it, and kept going.
I’m guessing this means you have some kind of training?
Because everyone in the club pretty much started from the beginning at the club, everyone is willing to teach anyone new things. First week of every semester, we usually have our beginner workshops going on, so people can try anything, and it’s a super friendly environment. Anyone that wants to learn the thing can ask somebody and they will teach them the thing. But really that’s true throughout the year.
Are there any mid-year events for people who want to join them?
People can join at any time. We have our Jams every Monday, where you can rock up, see if you like it, if not, well, then it’s not your thing. But yeah, like I said, anyone’s happy to teach at any time, so just rock up and do what you want to do, and there will be somebody there to help you. Everyone plays with their toys, learns new tricks, practices. A lot of it is just people hanging out because there are some good people there. Every four weeks – so every four Mondays – we have a Burn, that usually involves free pizza, so ‘come down for free pizza’, and yeah, we provide the fuel for people to basically do everything they’d be doing every other week, but with fire. We run events like workshops off campus, bounce days, things like that. But basically we just… any good thing that we think is relevant, we put on.
We have performances throughout the year, not at the club, but people from schools or small businesses that want to put on a fete or something with a circus-y vibe will ask us to perform, which is a great opportunity for anyone that wants to give it a go. Then there’s the Variety show, that’s our show. People in the club put on some incredible acts for anyone to come and see.
Is there a particular selection process for that show?
We have our performance coordinator, so that’s one of our committee roles, and basically, it’s completely open. Like I said, we are an accepting club, and anyone can put forward a performance, it’s not just ‘you have to be good enough.’ The only real criterion is that you actually have a performance ready in time.
Do you have any big events coming up towards the end of semester?
We have our end of year camp coming up, after end of year exams. Camp is one of the big ones and we have a lot of stuff going on; workshops running throughout the camp, fire both nights, and at the end we have a renegade show, which is just a small show at the end of camp that doesn’t need any preparation. It can be as simple as ‘look at this new trick I learned.’ It’s a great way for people to support everyone else with what they’ve been learning.
Nice! So maybe those people who didn’t get ready in time for the variety show can perform their tricks there?
It’s not just that, it’s just a good way to encourage people to not feel embarrassed about the things they’re doing. I’ve seen bigger applauses for people getting really basic tricks for the first time than someone you’ve seen for ages with tricks you can’t even comprehend.
Obviously it’s called the Monash Club of Juggling and Firetwirling, but it’s not just limited to those things, is it?
Oh God no, I yoyo! Like, I literally just had a performance where I did nothing but yoyo – I’m the only one who does it at the moment, but the president also started which is great. Really, it’s any kind of skill toy, or even just any kind of skill that needs practising. We even have somebody who’s just started dancing lately, just because it’s a fun place to practice it.
Yeah! What’s the most unique one you’ve seen?
Ha, I feel like my yoyoing comes to mind, shameless self-plug. Though one of the more recent ones has been a guy that’s started whipping. Um… that one may… we try not to annoy people around campus with that one too much, but that one’s been pretty cool. [At the Burn] he had a giant fire whip, aw that was great. We have some acro people, which is pretty cool. It’s a circus club, so a lot of people feel it’s out there, but for us it’s started to feel normal.
Are there many members of your club who don’t take up any of these activities, and are just there because they enjoy watching other people and being there for support?
That does happen more often than I was expecting when I started, but the general trend is that eventually they’ll get into something and keep going. You see a bunch of people standing around and doing fun things and trying not to hit themselves in the face and go, ‘Oh, I wanna try that, can I learn this basic trick? Oh cool, I learned this one, now I wanna learn this next basic trick’, and keep going.
Thank you for all this! Any parting words?
It’s not a club that requires dedication. Anyone can come at any time. It’s not like a martial art or a dance or something, where other people’s learning is dependent on yours. Everybody is learning what they want at their own pace, if they even want to learn anything. Otherwise, it’s just a fun atmosphere. It’s the kind of thing where you can just come down once, try, never have to see us again.
Although, of course, you’d want to see us again.