Meet Megan Lewis – Firespinner and Juggler
Megan has been juggling and firespinning for about two years now. She joined the Purple Mermaid Circus Society as a “fresher” at the University of Birmingham. The Society is made up of students and residents of Birmingham, UK who have an interest in learning, practicing and performing circus skills.
(Do I have your attention?) Why don’t I let her tell you all about it in her own words…
Exactly WHAT is firespinning? Firespinning is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – spinning fire! You use either poi (two wicks on the end of a length of chain held in each hand) or a staff with a wick on either end. The wick is soaked in paraffin and set on fire. You then spin your staff or poi to create fantastic visual displays.
One of our members also makes fire frisbees. They’re basically just juggling hoops with a wick suspended in the centre. They’re not quite as dangerous as they sound and are a lot of fun once you get the hang of catching them!
Do you wear a costume when firespinning? We’re not usually in costume; firespinning ruins clothes far too easily for that! Some people have nicknames that they put on their circus shirts or hoodies, but that’s really just a society thing. They’re often related to any committee positions a person holds – the person in charge of the equipment is known as the “Ball Holder,” the treasurer is “Embezzler.” When I was the Society president, I was referred to as “Ring Leader.”
O.K., now that you have survived firespinning, how about we look at something a little less dangerous. I have always wanted to learn how to juggle, and I didn’t know of anywhere in my home town where I could learn. Prior to going to the uni, I did some research to learn what societies were available. As soon as I saw that there was a circus society, I knew that I had to join!
I personally can juggle only three balls or clubs at the moment, but we have members who can successfully juggle up to six or seven.
I am pretty certain that you don’t juggle and firespin in your house, so where DO you practice? We have weekly meetings at university where we can practice whatever circus skill we wish, maybe learn something new and have a drink in the bar afterwards. We take safety very seriously though – no firespinning whilst under the influence!
And once you are done practicing… The society gets hired regularly to spin and juggle for university events; we are usually the half time show at the American Football matches! We also do a lot of “goodwill gigs” for fundraising and charity events. I was the president last year which included organizing Ballring, our annual circus convention that we hold at the university. This included games, workshops and both amateur and professional shows. We’ve also had a team on the UK quiz show, “Eggheads.” We didn’t win anything, but it was so much fun.
Your other hobby is customizing “My Little Ponies.” Please explain. “My Little Ponies” are children’s toys that were first popular in the 1980s. They’ve enjoyed a recent revival though, with Hasbro redesigning and re-launching the brand. I really enjoy customizing them when I have the time and usually take commissions for particular designs. This includes changing their hair, painting them and sculpting additional parts such as wings or tails.
Have you always been creative? I have always loved creating things. When I was a child, we were allowed to draw on the walls of our playroom and encouraged to do things like play with clay and paints. By the time I was in high school, I drew almost non-stop. I ended up doing a one-year art course at college, followed by a year of a Jewelry and Silversmithing degree. When I felt that I could no longer continue in such a structured environment where everything I made had to have some kind of meaning, I switched to an Ancient History major and started making jewelry for my own pleasure. When it became apparent that other people like what I was creating, I decided to open Eirel and turn my hobby into a business.
Once I graduate I’m planning on looking for a career in book publishing. I’m a compulsive reader and find the industry a fascinating one! Of course, I’ll keep the jewelry going. Who knows, one day I may manage to give up my day job!
Megan on Twitter
Megan’s Facebook biz page