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Forums > Social Discussion > The London Factor. (Or 'What Makes a Successful Technical Poi Community')

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Location: NYC, NY, USA
Member Since: 26th Aug 2001
Total posts: 9232
Posted:The London Factor, or What Makes a Successful Technical Poi Community.

During my visit to London I was taken back a bit by the technical level of spinners in London. Even those that had been spinning for a very short time were successfully doing high level technical tricks. Many different factors seemed to be working together to result in this veritable breeding ground for poi spinners. I thought it would be both interesting and useful to reflect on what those factors were and how they could be harnessed in other poi communities.

[Disclaimer: This is simply a reflection on why one community seemed to me to be very effective at fostering technical poi skills. It does not rank London above your city. It does not imply that those in London have larger genitalia than you. It does not put technical ability above performance or dance or love of the art. I am also taking all of the love and warmth that I received in London and setting that aside as well. I’m PURELY focusing on how what I observed could be used to better my and other communities’ TECHNICAL ability. Yes, I KNOW that there are other uber-communities like London and they’re all equally special. These are simply my observations. I also chose to put this in the ‘social’ section since most of these factors arise from social gatherings rather than technical know-how. And one more thing, I clearly spent a bunch of time on this and I’m curious to see what others think BUT if you are going to post can you do me the courtesy of reading the whole thing first? Thanks! ]

Factors which I believe fostered an effective technical poi community:
Large Exposure to Poi- Damn, there are a hell of a lot of spinners in London. It seemed you couldn’t walk through a park or club without seeing a pair of poi either being used or for sale. I think with the thousands of people exposed to poi you’d naturally get a few hundred that really got into it and then of those, quite a few obsessive people who were naturally talented. I only know of two places in New York where you can actually buy poi and I’m sure that VERY few New Yorkers have ever even heard of it.

Different Groups Within the Community- This was interesting to me. At “Poi in the Park London” there were several very large but independent groups of spinners. It seemed that no one there knew much more than half of the folks that showed up. I think this actually works to the benefit of the whole. You’ve got independent pockets, each working at developing and refining new tricks. Once a new trick is exposed, it spreads through each pocket of people who then make it their own. In contrast, my smaller poi community only works on stuff together and doesn’t have the opportunity to ‘jigsaw’ like that. The London crew counteracted some of the intimidation of its massive size by having name tags at big gatherings which was a really nice touch, especially when most of us have more than one name.

Social Circles- It surprised me that many of the poi spinners actually hung out with each other during non-poi events as well. When your true friends are out spinning poi on a Saturday afternoon, it’s easier to talk yourself into going and having a spin.

External Input and Support from Surrounding Environments- It seems that London has a large influx of people from neighboring communities as well. Scotland, Sheffield, Paris, and even various Juggling conventions help feed the influx of technical moves and information.

Juggling Background and Philosophy- This is actually a huge factor. In New York, Poi is a subsection of fire play. As long as there is fire being flung about, it’s all good and there’s no need to improve. London though seems to have an underlying juggling philosophy. A juggler learns a new trick and then asks ‘what else can I do with this?’ Can it be done on the other side, can it be done behind the back, can it be done backwards, can it be done faster, slower, what if I try it with my hands in a different position, what if I combine it with other moves and patterns? The fact that most of the poi that I saw was NON-fire poi means that people are able to really focus on the technicality of it. Jugglers also can be quite obsessive people. This is perfect for developing elite spinners.

Variety of Equipment- Sock poi, aerotechs, tennis ball poi, beanbag poi, cone poi and fire poi all lend themselves better to different tricks. Having options of tools help learn different trick. I know I’d have never gotten a hyperloop had I not had some sock poi to learn with.

Jedi- The number of elite and utterly inspiring spinners in London is mind blowing. Of course newbies are picking it up and sticking with it, there are some amazing role models to both learn from and be inspired by. Also, the Jedi can be comforted, supported and inspired by each other. It can’t be much fun being the only Jedi in town. Also, I truly respect the fact that there are a large number of elite spinners that are truly bustin’ their butts, practicing, refining and learning. They’ve put in more hours than I ever will and it shows in their community.

Organizers- Let’s face it, fire spinners aren’t the most organized of folks. You do need someone to crack heads, pick venues, organize events, post threads and send emails. London has it’s share of those who work hard to keep things organized, predictable and regular.

Education- There is also a large focus on teaching and learning. If you’re able to ask questions and get them answered, of course you’re going to learn. There seemed to be little emphasis on competition or pecking order which could hamper learning.

Opportunity- Having regular meets twice a week and irregular meets even more than that lends itself to ample opportunity to practice and play.

Of course, this is all useless whining if we’re not to focus on a solution to how one can use these factors to nurture one’s own fire community. By looking at the above, we can try to prompt the growth of these factors in a newly forming fire scene.

One should try to:
Expose as many decent people to poi as possible- I think my crew used to believe that the more people that were spinning, the more of a headache it would be. Perhaps in some ways that was true, especially with fire but with non-fire poi in the park, the more-the merrier. Technical prowess seems to grow exponentially by the number of tech spinners because they get to feed off each other.

Join the Cliques- If there are other poi groups in the hood, get them all together on a regular basis. Grab jugglers, staff spinners, drummers, diaboloers, devilstickers, and anyone else who would contribute to the scene.

Report back from other communities- Make sure people in your crew are branching out. Go on a road trip and find other poi communities to inspire and be inspired by.

Focus on regular, organized, weekly, daytime, learning, nonfire events- You shouldn’t be trying new tricks with fire, so why not spend as much time spinning socks/tennis balls/glowstics/aerotechs as possible? Keep it at a set time and a set place. Let people associate a certain day with the event. Moving it only confuses people and messes with schedules.

Treat it as juggling- OK, you can juggle 3 balls, now what about 4? 5? OK, you can do a 3 beat weave, what about 4? 5? 6? 7? Can you do it behind the back? On both sides equally. Embrace poi philosophy and technical appreciation.

Teach others- Maybe it will be depressing to teach a newbie a trick that it took you 6 months to get, but it will push you to be better AND maybe you’ll be inspired by something they get 6 months from now. Plus, fostering a warm and caring community will make it a lovelier place for you to play as well.

Make it fun- Bring things to play with as well. The poi will happen, bring a barbeque, bubbles, drinks, fairy wands, music, Frisbees, snacks, cameras, blankets, and whatever else will lend to people having a great day there. This way people will continue to come even if they don’t feel like spinning right when they get there. They can hang out until they feel inspired or just cheer others on. More learning will happen if people are having fun for 6 hours then if they are working hard for an hour, get tired and go home. Plus, it’s more fun if you have fun.

In conclusion, every fire community has it’s own personality but each community can also be influenced by seemingly minor adjustments. By learning what affects each community in a positive way, we may be able to transfer some of those qualities to communities which may lack in those areas. There is more to life then technical poi spinning indeed, but by looking at the successes of technical poi spinning communities we can learn how to promote a more technical environment elsewhere.

Love to all the technical spinners in London. Keep on pushin' the envelope.

[ 02. September 2003, 06:05: Message edited by: NYC@NYC ]

Well, shall we go?
Yes, let's go.
[They do not move.]

Location: down the bottom of the garden,...
Member Since: 8th Oct 2002
Total posts: 285
Posted:god i wish i didnt live so far away from london
very small poi community
hardly any nearby raves
hardly any good gigs

i'll draw you a picture ill draw it with a twist ill draw it with a razorblade ill draw it on my wrist and if i do it right a red fountain will appear washing away my sorrow washing away my fear

Location: Cornwall/ Brighton, England
Member Since: 27th Aug 2003
Total posts: 71
Posted:that was a very well written and inspiring peice, i wishthat more people thought like that and acted on it. I know very few who can poi better than i can and im a newbie trying to keep a friend interested. The ones i know seem to like showing off at partys with fire and leaving it at that. I wish there was more open poi communities like the london scene. I havent seen anyone just poi-ing anywhere near where i live. Ive seen some at uni but nothing like a group... and i feel too inexperienced and new to the scene to try and do anything about it.

not with cactus
Location: bristol/ southern eastern devo...
Member Since: 24th Jul 2003
Total posts: 2052

i wanna live in london after reading that.....

Me train running low on soul coal
They push+pull tactics are driving me loco
They shouldn't do that no no no


Carpal \'Tunnel

Member Since: 17th Apr 2002
Total posts: 15414
Posted:Thats why i LOVE London to bits..

next spinning meeting is..ooooh...tomorrow!


Liquid Cow
Location: High Wycombe, England
Member Since: 3rd Sep 2001
Total posts: 2629
Posted:Nicely done NYC

It's all that kind of stuff that's making me seriously consider moving to London at some stage in the future, despite the lack of greenery and high levels of air pollution (living where I am at the moment, pretty much surrounded by green belt land has it's benefits )

But there's no sense crying over every mistake. You just keep on trying till you run out of cake.

Location: east london
Member Since: 29th Jul 2003
Total posts: 46
Posted:I'm a newbie in London town and have already benefited hugely from the great teaching, organising and hugging abilities of the crowd here. I've never been so immediately involved in anything before.

Thanks, NYC, you've just put a large, smug grin on my face!

Good post; I'd like to think of people all over the globe getting a bit of what's grown up here in London!

- S

Location: Buckinghamshire, England
Member Since: 31st Aug 2003
Total posts: 7
Posted:Move to London? High Wycombe is close enough to London to be far enough away.

The real voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. - - - - Marcel Proust - -


Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: "In your ear"
Member Since: 9th Jun 2003
Total posts: 6207
Posted:i just read that whole post and though god dam thats 5mins of my life i want back!

no offece nyc IT WAS A GREAT POST, and i forone know how well london spinners do it, ( i watched some a few years ago in a park while wonderingon a day trip), but dam now i am confused!

anywho!its nice to see that a comunity who deserves it is being recognised for what they do!i love going to other groups to spin, they are always welcoming and cool!maybe ill come and stalk, i...erm.....hmmmm.....visit you guys again soon and then understand!

later days

Step (el-nombrie)


Mistress of Pink...Multicoloured
Location: Over There
Member Since: 6th Apr 2002
Total posts: 6140
Posted:That was well written NYC and really got me thinking about the actual community of the London spinners. I suppose i have never thought about it much living just outside London and knowing only of the London gatherings and people.

Never pick up a duck in a dungeon...


Liquid Cow
Location: High Wycombe, England
Member Since: 3rd Sep 2001
Total posts: 2629
Posted:Caislin -
True, but when I'm going into London once a week anyway and I'd like to be spinning there more often, two hours travelling each way isn't fun

Where in Bucks are you? Within travelling distance for an evening in London?

But there's no sense crying over every mistake. You just keep on trying till you run out of cake.


From the Ashes of a Ninja Rise THE HIPS OF RAGE
Location: Edinburgh
Member Since: 8th Jul 2003
Total posts: 371
Posted:thanks NYC that was really good and as pink pointed out it does make you reflect on the community itself.

I think the juggling aspect is particualrly true. Most of the jedi spinners are quite impressive jugglers as well, as well as a number of other disciplines. I don't know what the scene is like in the states or wherever you're from but I get the feeling that it's just poi sitting alone in a corner trying to develop itself. There are many other disciplines that fit in with the whole enviroment of poi. Take these other disciplines and if not transplant actual moves try to think about poi with the other object in mind.

It's all about moving things around in space and there are many different ways to do that some of
which lend themselves to many different things.

One example is a seven beat weave. The way your arms twist around is exactly the same way to do a juggling trick called mikes extension. Moving your arms and your whole body through different disciplines will help to get poi moving in different directions.

as a tall stunning blond once said on a renegade Circles are boring, and they are. move your poi in different ways or just don't move them at all i.e. gilligans there's a whole hoard of poi moves that don't involve cirlces and make people blink in amazement the way they should at such a cool discipline



Location: Paris, France
Member Since: 15th Jan 2001
Total posts: 356
Posted:Only NYC could put so much thought into something like this...!

I agree on everything.



Corporate Circus Arts Entertainer
Location: Auckland
Member Since: 27th Jun 2001
Total posts: 3989
Posted:--<sniff>-- I wanna PIP in auckland!

We had a juggling meet for a while

And we have afire night...but there's hardly more than 2-3 people spinning at once and you can't see anything anyway...

If baby hadn't come along it might be easier for me to organise it myself...but betetr brighter priorities at the moment...

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Kinudin (Soul Fyre)
Location: San Diego, California, USA
Member Since: 21st Dec 2001
Total posts: 1325
Posted:I wanna be in london again...
this time, only not so hot hehe

I loved you guys! I sat back there, mostly thinking about "Wow. These guys are actually friends even not around poi events..."

That was pretty spiffily awesome guys I'm jealous.



Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Bristol, UK
Member Since: 19th Dec 2001
Total posts: 3009
Posted:Thanks for the post NYC
I've mentioned this to you before but I thought I'd mention it aloud.

A comment you made to me was that whilst the technical level in London is high there's very little dancing going on. Like you I've seen people (ok, mostly girls ) who can only do a 2 beat weave and butterfly but dance and make the spinning really beautiful to watch.

My conclusion: us Londoners are too focused on the technical and need to find a balance with dance and body movement.


Froggie ... Ribbit !!!
Location: Back in Paris... for now !
Member Since: 8th Jun 2001
Total posts: 4224
Posted:damn that is an interesting post NYC thank you

I think your points are highly valid and i really think the jugglers factor ( GEEEEEEKS ) and the outside influence are major

outside influence meaning the fact that london is on almost every traveller s path and so they bring their talent and inspiration but also because so many Londoners/brits travel abroad and benefit from the amazing inspiration of other communities around the world.

much much love and respect
shine on

"I want brown bread... no, that is diesel oil..."
"So I was raised in Europe, where History comes from ..."
"NON !!! La Plume de mon oncle n est pas Bingibangibungi !!!"

Posted:Wow NYC thats a really well thought out article!

I've only ever spun in London, so I guess I didn't realise how lucky I was to have access to the community, the friends and the Jedi's!

I know from personal experience that this kind of gathering can exponentially help a lazy so-and-so like me!

I've picked up so many skills since coming into the "London Scene" and I've met many, many talented and genuinely lovely people. All of whom have helped me develop so much!

Thanks Guys!
Only 8 hours of work and then I can spin again!

and thanks to NYC for making me realise that we're lucky to have this!

In defence of the technical orientation of London spinners. I can't talk for all, but I have a go at getting that "isolated tangled side plane btb buzzsaw" or whatever, thats what I do at a workshop, and thats what makes the basics smoother. (maybe?!? )

I don't perform, I'm not good enough, but if I spin in public I find a quiet corner of a club and spin to my friends. To me spinning in a club is very different to spinning at a meet or a workshop, and my body movements are much more than if I'm just working on a new trick and trying not to hit my head/back/testicles...



geek, level 1
Location: everywhere
Member Since: 15th Dec 2002
Total posts: 5300
Posted:quote:Originally posted by Dm:
Thanks for the post NYC
I've mentioned this to you before but I thought I'd mention it aloud.

A comment you made to me was that whilst the technical level in London is high there's very little dancing going on. Like you I've seen people (ok, mostly girls ) who can only do a 2 beat weave and butterfly but dance and make the spinning really beautiful to watch.

My conclusion: us Londoners are too focused on the technical and need to find a balance with dance and body movement. eeerm. no.

having watched you all spin from afar for about a year, including many trips to play with y'all, i truly believe you are all becoming beautiful i your technicality.... in that the tech stuff is becoming so smooth it can only be done well...

don't feel i am explaining well so off now...

Holistic Spinner (I hope)

I don't want a title.

Member Since: 26th Jun 2003
Total posts: 940
Posted:That was a thoughtful and interesting post, NYC. The next step, I think, is to try to apply it to improve our New York community.

I've met some nice people in the few months I've been spinning, but most Thursdays there's only a small handful of folks out. What happened to that huge crowd that showed up when Cassandra was here? That night there were contact jugglers and the fellow with the accordian and smaller groups within the mass and it was just beautiful. I was so glad to have that as my introduction to the group.

It's been lovely seeing Bleu every week, and the others (Thessy, Susan, Dan, Dave, you, etc.) intermittently, but surely we can improve our meet-ups! I've heard of all sorts of NYC spinners who I've never met cause they simply don't show up, ever. Is there a meetup besides Thursday nights? If so, why is it so secret?

Let's see if we can make this happen in our city.

Large Exposure to Poi - Not much we can do about that besides trying to spread the meme to our friends. I've seen poi for sale at Dube and at House of Rave (or whatever that place on 8th is called), but that's it.

Different Groups - This will come naturally if we manage to create a large seed group. Each will bring in their own friends and pockets will form.

Social Circles - Again, I think this happens naturally once you have a large enough community. Wanna hang out sometime?

External Input - We're lucky to live in a very tourist-friendly city. People do visit from all over. Let's just make it clearer to them that we have available crash space and hugs! Free massages for all wandering spinny folks! If you hug them, they will come.

Juggling Background - Know any jugglers? Invite them. Invite jugglers you find on the streets. I just made some beanbags and want to learn. The association isn't there now, but can be forged. Just keep non-fire poi on you and when you see jugglers (happens often enough), say "hey, here's a new toy for you to play with!". I do agree that the more toys, the better. Honestly, though, in NY I think we need more staff people, even. I've rarely seen anyone using anything but poi.

Variety of Equipment - We sort of have that. I've seen folks on Thursdays play with fire, glowsticks, socks, comets, tennis balls, and those massive emergency road flare glowsticks (fun!!).

Jedi - Um. Are there any around here? I'd sure like to meet 'em.

Organizers - Man, if you help find people, *I'll* gladly be an organizational force. I'm good at sending out reminder emails.

Education - Not really a problem. Everyone I've met here has been willing to help out. Lovely people. You most definitely included, NYC.

Opportunity - This is one of our biggest problems. A few people show up at around 10pm on Thursdays, which is not an easy time to meet. Sure, it's late and great for fire, and pretty regular and default, but it's hard when we have work the next morning and very few people tend to show up. I'd be happy with a Friday afternoon meetup, but I assume most people work all day. Think there's any chance of convincing a group to show up on Sunday afternoons as well as Thursday nights, perhaps?

Aaanyway, that's that. We live in a great city and really ought to be able to pull something big together.

E pluribus unum, baby.


big and good and broken
Location: lunn dunn, yoo kay
Member Since: 29th Aug 2002
Total posts: 7330
Posted:quote:Originally posted by regyt:
If you hug them, they will come. so true!

nyc - that was a *great* post. it made me realise i'd overlooked some of the aspects of why the london community is different to some others.

i always knew i was very lucky to be around people like this though

"i see you at 'dis cafe.
i come to 'dis cafe quite a lot myself.
they do porridge."
- tim westwood

still can't believe it's not butter
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Member Since: 14th Nov 2001
Total posts: 6979
Posted:great post, oh NYC@NYC!
it's required reading, afaik!
of my own experience, I'd like to emphasise the very great importance in twirler retention.
getting reputation for people to show up at a fire meet is the first half of the battle.
getting them to ever come back again is the other.
It doesn't hurt to overcome some people's slackness with fylers, huggles, friendship, lessons, and of course sexual favours involving volkswagon beetles.

:tips my hat at the london massive:

Laugh Often, Smile Much, Post lolcats Always


Location: NYC, NY, USA
Member Since: 26th Aug 2001
Total posts: 9232
Posted:Thanks for all the postitive feedback guys! I did think that some of the London crew would have thought that they were the rule rather than the exception. (Can't everybody airwrap their isolations?)

Despite Dom's best efforts to derail the thread I'm glad it was recieved as I intended it to be...

Well, shall we go?
Yes, let's go.
[They do not move.]


Lambretta Fanatic

Member Since: 20th Dec 2001
Total posts: 4991
Posted:poo i allways miss all the fun.


"To be an angel, one need not have wings.
In giving love there is an equal grace.
Nor need one seek the aura in the face,
As love unveils the beauty of all things."

*Francois Couperin.

Matthew B-M
Matthew B-M

Lemon-Aware Devilstick-wielding Operative
Location: East London Wilds
Member Since: 9th Jul 2003
Total posts: 605
Posted:NYC, I think you missed one very important point, (or maybe I missed it in reading your post). The willingness not to keep tricks to oneself is hugely important, and this willingness in turn passes to the next generation along with the tricks and the technical moves themselves. As a relatively new spinner, the London community has been the thing that has made the difference (being able to go up to someone and say "oooh, that looks nice, how does that work", and in my turn I've had people say that to me, and I've tried to pass on the knowledge).

A minor thing that you touched on, but that I think is really important is the generally multi-disciplinary nature of the community. Most people will do more than one of poi, staff, double staff, devil sticks, diablo and juggling, and where possible, ideas and moves cross between them and evolve and possibly cross back again.

I'm not a juggler, but I was listening the other night to WeaselNinja's explanation of how the "Mills' Mess" juggling move came about. A lot of descriptions I've heard about juggling moves say "start with a Mills, then....". No doubt people have done such things before, but they've not been passed on. Mills had the advantage of making a film(/video, not sure?) about it, which preserved it for a wide audience. That audience could then build on it. In the same way, there are always people around in London from whom to take styles and moves (both get passed through, in my limited experience).

Other than that, a very good assessment, and something that I have been thinking about too, though I have nothing to compare it to, as yet.

Luv 'n' Lemons
purity :: clarity :: balance


Location: Florida
Member Since: 20th May 2002
Total posts: 1463


Magical Sock Dancer
Location: Newfoundland, Canada
Member Since: 1st Jul 2003
Total posts: 255
Posted:Great post NYC.
Must meet other spinners.


geek, level 1
Location: everywhere
Member Since: 15th Dec 2002
Total posts: 5300
Posted:one more thing....:

they all get to watch mine and pks videos before anyone else


Holistic Spinner (I hope)


Location: la-la land
Member Since: 15th Feb 2002
Total posts: 2419
Posted:quote:Originally posted by Trait Of One Eleven Two:
poo i allways miss all the fun. yeah but the thing is with the London peeps.. you know your gonna get a big hug and told to roll a doobie (if your into that. Pk - I know your not ) and be welcomed with a big smile..

Guys I don't get to see you enough.. and when I do I'm usually too or to say much.. but you'll smile and nod at me in that kinda 'yes Niki' way

I honour you as an aspect of myself..

You are never to old to storm a bouncey castle..


geek, level 1
Location: everywhere
Member Since: 15th Dec 2002
Total posts: 5300
Posted:yup. and having a spin session pretty much every night is rather god don't you think....

but mmmmm juggling.

just to demonstrate/question the quality of nerdiness in london i will post something and find out how many of them understand...

8,3,3,3,7,3,4 mills(with 4)

i think thats right.



Holistic Spinner (I hope)


Location: NYC, NY, USA
Member Since: 26th Aug 2001
Total posts: 9232
Posted:Indeed Matthew, I did see the willingness to teach others and lumped it all into 'education'... I guess that's what I meant by the lack of competition and willingness to get questions answered. I sort of implied it and then tried to follow it up in solutions 'teach others' but it's worth stating again.

Another factor which I sort of forgot, it that you guys are ALLOWED to play. The cops in New York wouldn't let you barbeque or smoke let alone light up fire. I got yelled at by park rangers for twirling tennis ball poi in the wrong part of Central Park. A gathering that big of hippies would be clubbed in New York.

Well, shall we go?
Yes, let's go.
[They do not move.]

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