Chapter 1

Balls Up Juggling Club

Take a minute to listen to Ali introducing how the founder members all came together originally, in the video above

In 1983 Toby Philpott ran a juggling class at the Rubicon dance centre in Cardiff. He had been making a living as a juggler for ten years, but also had spent time promoting juggling and related circus arts through workshops and evening classes. A couple of the founder members of NoFit State came to that class.

Shortly after, the students from that group decided they should form a University juggling club. They roped in Pete Wells who managed the University Juggling club. The benefits included the uni paying for the tutor; some money for equipment, a van plus petrol mileage (for attending festivals) and the use of the main hall. And so Balls Up was born. It was a group of about 25 people (not all students at the Uni) and their interests diversified quite quickly, going from juggling to unicycles, stilts, tumbling and other circus/variety skills. They did discover the network of like-minded people across the country, through the circus festivals run by Goffee the Clown in Hay On Wye in between 1984 and 1990, so a lot of their learning was skill-sharing, At these festivals there were workshops in performance, clown, eccentric dance, and circus technique and Welsh contingent lapped it up and learnt what they could from their peers.

Balls Up Jugglers had a go at busking around Cardiff, and ran a float for Student Rag Week. At times they even did group shows at places like London's Covent Garden.

And in 1985 they performed a full show on Queen Street in Cardiff to raise money for Live Aid. At the beginning of 1986 five members of Balls Up decided to have a go at making a circus company and Nofit State Circus was formed

1983 - 1985

Ali and John in Conversation - the early years


15 mins.
Ali Williams talks to John Ellingsworth about the early days, before NoFitState was formed.

July 1983

Enterprise Allowance scheme launched

Other News

Wikipedia entry

"The Enterprise Allowance Scheme was an initiative set up by the Conservative UK government which gave a guaranteed income of £40 per week to unemployed people who set up their own business. [...] Introduced nationwide in 1983 against a background of mass unemployment in Britain, it went on to fund 325,000 people.

Anyone wishing to claim money under the scheme was required to fund the first £1000 out of their own funds, and also to produce a basic business plan.

Proponents of the scheme believed that it would have a great impact on unemployment, and support entrepreneurship. Critics pointed to figures which suggested that one in six of the start-up businesses failed in the first year, and said that it had no significant impact on unemployment figures as most of the start-ups were sole-trading operations."

14 Oct 1983

Workshop at Rubicon dance centre


Original poster for first ever juggling workshop - that Ali mentioned in the intro video.

Early 80s

A new kind of circus


Toby talks about how things were, back when NoFit State Circus was formed. (3 mins)

Winter 83/84

Two founder members of NFSC at workshop


Ali and Richie in the foreground...

Early 1984

Balls Up club formed


Richie Turner (in conversation with Toby Philpott) talks about setting up a university juggling club. (3 min 20 sec)


Balls Up juggling club


Here's some (not all) of the Balls Up members.

Playing outdoors

Juggle wherever you go

Queen Street, Cardiff

Balls Up go busking


A very early show- David Stubbs as a jester, peter Gregory as the dragon breathing fire

Rag Week

Balls Up enter a float


university juggling club members

Date Unknown

Rag Week

Community shows

Here's the float they entered for Rag Week

Anywhere and Everywhere

Balls Up throw shows together

On the move

First trucks


Ex-British Telecom trucks

Date Unknown

Balls Up take dome to Glastonbury


Balls Up took Stiltsie's dome to Glastonbury to run juggling workshops.

The first ever tent

Ingenious construction

Glastonbury Festival

Balls Up teach juggling


Here they are, in the Children's Field (there were no 'Circus Fields' at this point).

Richie talks about getting into Glastonbury for free... (1 min 30 secs)

In the Mood

Balls Up in Covent Garden

The download is a Word document with more pictures from the event in Covent Garden.

Download ➝
June 1985

Green Party formed

Other News

Formerly The Ecology Party, it changed its name in 1985.

In 1985, scientists startled the world with an ominous discovery. While monitoring the stratosphere over Antarctica, they discovered a hole in the earth's ozone layer. By 1987, the hole had increased to the size of the continental U.S.

1 June 1985

Battle of the Beanfield


A particularly vicious police campaign against the 'New Age Travellers" - The Peace Convoy - which drew many people's attention to the situation.

It happened near Stonehenge, where plans for a free festival were going ahead.

"On that dreadful day for civil liberties in the UK, when Margaret Thatcher, having crushed the miners, turned her attention to a new “enemy within,” the one-sided Battle of the Beanfield was followed up by legislation (the 1986 Public Order Act) that legitimized the government’s attempts to crush the way of life of travellers and Gypsies, curtailed the British public’s traditional right to gather freely without prior permission, and paved the way for a further assault on civil liberties (in the 1994 Criminal Justice Act), which was precipitated by the last large free festival in the UK, at Castlemorton, in May 1992."

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...and here's a little more about it...

13 July 1985

Live Aid - first glimpse of NoFit State as group


The Cardiff Uni juggling club - Balls Up - do a show for Live Aid. 20-25 people doing a couple of minutes each, but it was the seed for the formation of NoFit State.

Date Unknown

Miscellaneous early pictures


Picture shows Strathnairn Street.

More pictures (courtesy of Dave Id) can be downloaded.

Download ➝
19 Aug 1985

Circus Skills get you noticed

November 20, 1985

Windows 1 ships

Other News

Geek trivia: Remember floppy disks and kilobytes?

Windows 1.0 requires a minimum of 256 kilobytes (KB), two double-sided floppy disk drives, and a graphics adapter card. A hard disk and 512 KB memory is recommended for running multiple programs or when using DOS 3.0 or higher.


Albany Road


Everyone living together...