Contact juggler with crystal ball, street performer in London

I want to glide and be lithe and graceful; I want to be a street performer and create the most natural yet unnatural movements in the world.

A man stands on another man’s head and they both start juggling. Surely the man balancing on top of his friend’s head would tumble to the pavement after a single, minute movement. But no, they continue juggling and wiggling as though their bodies were looped together by a single piece of invisible string. The longer they perform, the higher the balls fly in the air and are caught with razor fast precision, and the bigger the crowd grows around them.

Reflection glass ball, contact juggling, South Bank, Street Performer, London
Look into my magic ball!

The best time to visit South Bank is in the summer when the sun is shining, and you’re guaranteed to see a wide variety of different acts. Some of the world’s best street performers flock to London in the summer to show off their tricks in South Bank – they make the impossible possible. But most street performers move so effortlessly that we often forget years of dedication have gone into their performance. I tried my hand at contact juggling once, but after an hour of perpetually dropping the ball on my feet I put my toes out of their misery, and let my resumé of cool party tricks hopelessly dwindle away.

However, my cousin, Marlene, is a street performer in South Bank, she’s one of the few contact jugglers captivating crowds with ‘glass’ balls that look to seemingly float, and glide along the body. Contact juggling is still a relatively unknown performance act compared to fire eaters, street musicians and acrobats but it was bought to mainstream attention in David Bowie’s film Labyrinth in 1986.

Contact juggling in London, South Bank, Street Performers in South Bank with Crowd
Marlene gathers a crowd as she performs her contact juggling

 All street performers glide and recycle their energy so that every movement looks new and exciting. And what I love most about street performers is that every movement made is deliberate and purposeful, like they have stepped inside a circle that is aligned with the contours of the Universe. In a simpler way, I think that is what travelling is about too… trying to find the long and beautiful whispers of the World’s contours.

Marlene’s friend, Nico, who is one of the best contact jugglers in the world!

And a visit to South Bank doesn’t end after it’s street performers – once here you can walk along the River Thames, cross the Golden Jubilee Bridges, head to the The Tate Modern and fill yourself with delicious food at Borough Market. South Bank really is a cultural hotspot not to be missed!

 Hungerford and Golden Jubilee Bridges in London, South Bank, Contact Juggling
With Marlene on the Hungerford/ Golden Jubilee Bridge which goes across South Bank.

The London Eye, Southbank, London, Golden Jubilee Bridges, Contact Juggling
In South Bank you are also very close to the London Eye, so why not head over and see London from a bird’s eye perspective?

Cyr Wheel, big hoop, street performer in South Bank
This is called a Cyr Wheel, and the performer incorporates his acrobatic movements inside and out of the wheel!

Mime, street performer london, south bank
Mr Charlie Chaplin

Contact juggling ball, contact juggling in South Bank, London, Michael Moschen, crystal ball, glass
Despite popular belief the glass or crystal ball is actually made of acrylic resin. I hope that doesn’t take away some of its allure!

Do you like watching street performers? Or do you have a crowd-worthy party trick?

A travel & culture blog specialising in Scandinavia and the Arctic, peppered with the rest of the world in between.


  1. December 7, 2012 @ 3:15 am barrelhopping


    Love your blog! You have some great stories and amazing photos. If you ever want to enter some in our contests at BarrelHopping, you can win some cash and get additional exposure to your work. Check us out when you have time and safe travels.


    • December 7, 2012 @ 7:58 am admin

      Thank you so much – your blog has stunning travel photography! I’m going to Warsaw this morning so will have a good stalk of your profile when I get back in a few days!

      Happy Travels! X


  2. December 12, 2012 @ 1:05 am TheTuscan (@anylatitude)

    Street performers we’re been watching last time were con men. You know… the “under which cup is the ball”-like games. Big gambling, big wins for accomplices, big losses for strangers. My wife’s friend was freaking out for just watching: “let’s go let’s go before they kill us” 🙂


    • December 13, 2012 @ 10:19 am admin

      Haha I’ve created a mental image of your scenario – and on that occasion I think you were right to err on the side of caution!

      Just make sure you stop for the ‘real’ ones – as they’re not all murderous con artists! 😉


  3. December 23, 2012 @ 9:38 am EarthDrifter

    What a fascinating lifestyle they lead. It must have its challenges. I admire them for doing what they love.


    • December 23, 2012 @ 6:01 pm admin

      Hello! I too find their lifestyle fascinating – and it’s inspiring that they can travel the world through doing something they love! Perseverance really does pay off!

      I just checked out your blog – you’ve been to many interesting places that I will enjoy reading about! Thanks for reading.


  4. March 31, 2015 @ 7:31 am Vicky Clements

    Do performers on the Southbank just turn up? Do they need to audition? Or hold a license?


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