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By Frederike Gerstner and Ben Nicholson on

Meet Ben and Fred, Josh Award 2019 winners

Josh Award winners Frederike Gerstner's and Ben Nicholson's road to being part of our October half term programme has been long, but they're really excited that they're finally here. Read on to find out more about how they got to where they are now…!
A man and a woman in white lab coats, looking up at two large inflated balls, one black and one red
Ben and Fred.
Image credit: Ben and Fred

Fred has been juggling since she joined the Youth Circus in her hometown of Bremen, Germany. Moving to London in 2003, she began studying in the newly founded degree programme at the Circus Space (now the National Centre for Circus Arts, or NCCA), and since graduating has performed in dozens of countries worldwide for many renowned performing arts companies. She has also produced her own circus shows for places such as Jackson’s Lane Theatre, London.

The foundations of the show date back many years to when Ben studied chemical engineering at university. Whilst on the course, Ben discovered the art of juggling and quickly turned it into a serious hobby after finding out about his Students’ Union’s Circus Skills Society and the local Leeds Juggling Club. This led Ben into performing juggling, which several years later eventually found him moving to London and studying at the NCCA.

A man and a woman in white lab coats juggling
Ben and Fred in action.
Image credit: Ben and Fred

When Ben was in his final year of study at NCCA, one of his assignments was to create a four-minute solo performance. This was the initial version of The Juggling of Science, which aimed at fusing the two areas of study of Ben’s previous engineering studies with a theatrical, characterful juggling performance.

Diagrams of juggling
A sneak peek into how it all works…!
Image credit: Ben and Fred

Ben and Fred first met at a juggling convention in 2011 and the two began working as a duet a couple of years later. A few short juggling shows were made, some of which involved club passing and live guitar. However, it was the idea to expand Ben’s original juggling/science show into a much longer duet version which has been their favourite project to date. This show combines Fred’s experience of performing and choreographing juggling shows with Ben’s background of engineering, using the technical juggling training of both performers.

In May this year, they won the Josh Award, the UK’s national award in STEM communication, established to recognise and encourage talented practitioners, who are in their early professional career, to pursue innovation and creativity in science communication and engagement. As part of the prize, they got to perform at BIG Event 2019, a three day get together for science communicators. They also received the opportunity to be part of the Science and Industry Museum’s October half-term holiday programme. They’ll be running workshops and performing shows every day, 27–31 October 2019.

A man and a woman in white lab coats holding an award, flanked by two other women
Ben and Fred receiving the Josh Award.
Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

The Juggling of Science contains topics studied as part of the secondary school syllabus, using juggling and a voiceover soundtrack to visually illustrate scientific ideas. Ben and Fred juggle balls and rings to show atoms and molecules. There’s even a section on the upcoming and eco-friendly technology of the hydrogen fuel cell. Now, thanks to Arcola Energy, the show even has its own working hydrogen fuel cell!

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