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The History behind Flying Teapots

The Flying Teapots Circus Skills Society is a popular and established group – founded in 1986 it’s been around longer than many of its members!

Teapots is an informal, fun environment to practise, meet like minded people, learn and swap new skills, hang out and have a good time. All are welcome, experience is definitely not necessary – everybody starts at the beginning initially! There are many members with inspiringly impressive skills, and several individuals have gone on to perform as part of their livelihood.

For all society members there are opportunities to get a feel for performing if you want to show off your skills, although there’s no pressure to do so – lots of people spin and juggle purely for the fun of it! We are often asked to promote various events around the university; we’ve frequently been found spinning and juggling on the university concourse to liven up Student Union publicity campaigns. We also had a great time performing in the creative societies “Showcase” and alongside the Gospel Choir as part of their “Brighter Day” fundraiser.

The first “Flying Teapots Live” night in the Raynor Lounge at the Student’s Union in 2007 was a great success which we will be repeating and building on for the future – we want everybody to have the chance to put their talents on display if they enjoy performing!

Over the past few years the society has hosted “ShefCon” – the Sheffield Juggling Convention (although called a juggling convention, as with most juggling conventions in the UK it has now branched out to include spinning and all other circussy skills.) Conventions are essentially mini-festivals, with workshops, practise space, random competitions and inspiring performances at the end of the day – always fun! A lot of Teapots’ members attend various conventions around the country throughout the year, and we try to keep each other informed about what’s on when.

We are extremely proud that members of the Flying Teapots organised and ran the British Juggling Convention 2008, an amazing five-day event with an unimaginable amount of workshops, performances, and talent!

After a bit of research, one of our longer standing members Dave Panther wrote the following early history of The Flying Teapots. Ever been curious about the origins of the society, the people who formed it, and, most especially, why they called it the Flying Teapots?

In a house on Hunter House Road (off Hunters Bar roundabout), there lived seven 'hippy jugglers'. Amongst them were Dean Morton, Douglas Dougle and Mike Davison.

Next door were a bunch of students, who were fascinated by the juggling skills they saw, and who wanted to learn how to do them. Their names were Toby Jones, John, Bill and Ian ('Sloth').

Another early member was 'Tris', who apparently moved to Wales and became a shepherd.

The next step was to form a Union society, for which a name was necessary. This was chosen by Toby- the 'Flying Teapots Circus' was the name of an album by a band named Gong, who are said to have engaged in a spot of juggling on stage, prior to their gigs.

With the £200 funding they received from the Union in their first year, the Teapots purchased lots of juggling equipment and set out to spread their skills to the rest of the world. Their activities also included shows for the local community in old folks homes and schools etc. Initial meetings were at the University Drama studios, later transferring to the Lower Refractory (when it had that beautifully high ceiling!).

Their greatest claim to fame in those days was coming second in the First British Unicycle Hockey Championships; apparently it was only the presence of the infamous 'Sem Cycle' (an individual who was so proficient in the sport that he got married whilst on his unicycle) that kept them from the coveted first place.

I should point out that,, a debate has arisen over the actual facts of the hockey championships. Some early members claim that the Teapots were indeed in the semi-finals, but were receiving a sound thrashing until Sam, the son of the infamous 'Sem Cycle', took pity on them and joined the team. However, my original source insists that his version is the true one. Don't ask me, I wasn't there."

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