Thomas Senior, 16, admits he wasn’t “particularly academic or sporting” at a school feted for developing such skills – Rossall.
He also knew that the employment market could become a three-ring circus for a lad who didn’t want to go to sixth form or university.
Thomas has a gift for juggling. As entertainment, sport, even a form of weapon, it dates back to ancient times. For those interested in 1066 and all that – the warrior-minstrel of William of Normandy, Taillefer, taunted enemy lines with a spot of sword juggling before making the very first kill at the Battle of Hastings. He promptly died, but that’s besides the point.
Thomas has succeeded in the ultimate juggling act – turning what used to be his passion into his profession. Tomorrow he presents his first ever Circus Works workshop under his newly-registered business Thomas Bounce Juggler. Sessions are £3.50 a time, the first is free, at St John’s RC Church Hall, Breck Road, Poulton, every Friday (term time) from 5.30pm to 7pm. Beginners to advanced welcome, from seven years olds upwards.
Thomas hopes to extend the workshops over school holidays if the idea takes off.
The Thomas Bounce Affair started when he was a child, thrilled by his first sight of juggling at a circus at four years old.
By 10, he has mastered the craft himself, pestering parents into buying him proper juggling balls, the weighted softly padded type.
On a family holiday, he practised endlessly in front of a mirror until he was juggling his way into breakfast, to the beach, the shops.
Thomas had the juggler’s knack, crucial hand-eye coordination. Now he’s working on his upper body strength, using weighted power balls to build his stamina and skills up.
“Power balls are the juggler’s equivalent of weight lifting,” he explains.
Thomas admits his dream would be to join Blackpool Tower Circus. “It’s simply the best, although I love Cirque Soleil too,” he admits.
“The circus world is a bit closed to newcomers if you haven’t any family tradition for circus.”
He’s visited virtually every travelling circus to come to the Fylde and also had a short summer job at one.
“I used to love Eclipse, at Blackpool Pleasure Beach too,” he adds.
“It was a shame that went. The jugglers were brilliant. They took juggling to another level, which is what I would like to do.”
Thomas lives at Great Eccleston, but left Rossall School at the start of the summer holidays.
“I think my teachers and friends were a bit surprised when I told them I wanted to be a juggler and wouldn’t be continuing in education.
“They knew I could juggle. They enjoy it. I have taken part in the school talent shows. But I aim to make a living at it. I don’t see the point of sixth form or university for me. I’m not particularly academic.”
Thomas says juggling improved his fitness levels no end. “I wasn’t into sports but this has it all as I have to be able to do at least an half hour routine.”
Nor is it all balls-in-air. Thomas juggles silks, batons, knives... and even fire.
The batons, knives and fire equipment have all been bought for Thomas, as presents, from his parents – who must have nerves of steel.
His mother Val Senior admits: “We’re very proud of him. He’s very focused on his business.” Thomas is already a member of Blackpool Circus School, a community interest company run by former circus and variety entertainers.
“I am confident I can make a living in my own right,” he says. “People will always want entertainers for parties, and shows, and I’m already travelling to performances, thanks to mum driving me. I have to take quite a lot of equipment with me, steps, stand and so on. When I’m 17, I’m going to learn to drive and then my career will really take off. I’m passionate about it.”
Thomas started juggling by mastering the basic three-ball routine but is now a seven-ball performing “bounce” juggler and circus workshop entertainer. He is also a member of Equity and has CRB clearance.
Thomas adds: “Most jugglers juggle balls in the air. I do all that and more but also like to juggle upside down – bounce them off the floor. I use marble slabs which are fault free.
“The idea is to build up speed and do patterns, a bit like yo-yos I suppose, but better. It’s great to watch but hard to do. I make increasingly complex patterns. People get captivated by it.”
As well as perform in his own right, he’s held community workshops. “I did one with youths at Fleetwood. They enjoyed it. People can’t help but get interested. I usually start them out with juggling silks – softer but quite hard to juggle. I keep the knives for myself. They are special knives but can still do some damage!”
* His website includes a performance video clip: see www.thomasbouncejuggler.com.