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The Circus Village, Wales

In the summer of 2021 a group of Welsh Circus companies and practitioners partnered up to create a ‘village’ as you’d never seen before.

The Circus Village was back, but not as you’d seen it before. NoFit State Circus teamed up with circus organisations and freelancers from across the UK to put together a programme to support and inspire the circus sector after one of its most difficult years. As the world was recovering from the Corona Virus we took our first steps by organising The Circus Village at home in Wales….

The Project

The Circus Village - it takes a village to raise a circus

In the summer of 2021 a group of Welsh Circus companies and practitioners partnered up to create a ‘village’ as you’d never seen before. Borrowing from the Big Top touring culture we all know and love, the village was an outdoor site complete with circus tents and space for circus people of all kinds and creeds to set up camp. Living, learning, and working together in one space, the village created the perfect environment to explore what we do, how we learn, and test new ways of doing things - all whilst celebrating every aspect of the circus art form we share. Supported and encouraged by a professional creative team from across all reaches of the circus world - the Circus Village was the village you wished you grew up in.



Photography by Mark J Robson

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Why we created The Circus Village in Wales

With the world the way it was following the pandemic, unable to do our usual work, we thought, why not bring the circus sector together, here, in Wales and create a Circus Village? We wanted to reach out, listen, watch, and learn from each other, connect with our fellow circus friends, and open up conversations with those around the world who wanted to do the same. Our village was a supportive place where people could take risks and generate exciting ideas ready to launch into the wider world.

Everybody had a creative and social part to play here – with the aim of developing the Welsh Circus sector, ensuring its quality, longevity, and accessibility are crucial to the future of our art form; a future that depended on all of us. It was a working village, and every one of us shared responsibility for our welfare, the art we made together, and the shared ideas that have brought new and impactful ways of working both at home, and abroad.

The initial 2 weeks of the programme was designed specifically for the Welsh circus sector, with the remaining 4 weeks bringing together circus practitioners from Wales, England and Scotland, thanks to funding from Arts Council England and Creative Scotland following initial funding from the Arts Council of Wales to make the village possible.


Taking PArt

Who was The Circus Village for?

People from all backgrounds, cultures and a variety of abilities were warmly welcomed in the village.
The village was open to all Welsh, English, and Scottish circus and cross-artform makers, artists, technicians, trainees; and to the curious creative collaborators of the future. From experienced aerialists to intermediate jugglers, from seasoned techies to fledgling producers and everything in between. There was not a person out there who wasn't able to find something new and, perhaps even more excitingly, bring something of theirs to the table.


The Programme

Split Across 6 Key Areas

Welsh Fortnight - TCV21 - 2021_09_MJR_c-village-13_0166-web.jpg

Welsh focus fortnight

The first two weeks of the programme was geared towards the broader Welsh Circus sector, and the specific needs of the people in it. Whether you were a professional, an enthusiastic amateur, or an emerging artist, there were valuable opportunities for everybody to learn, develop and grow. Much of the programme was delivered bilingually, and there was a distinct focus on creating work in the Welsh language.

Through a series of 3-day residencies and a curated programme of workshops, the emphasis was split between creating shows, developing performance skills, and exploring how we could adapt our work to suit different contexts. Each day also included a dedicated open space period where we trained, tried things out, socialised, built networks and had fun. Finally, as the day drew to a close we came together to talk, share ideas and get to know each other over an evening meal.

All elements of the full programme were represented within the Welsh focus fortnight.

Teaching & Training - TCV21 - 2021_09_MJR_c-village-18_0728-web.jpg

Teaching and Training

For both experienced teachers and trainers, as well as those wishing to transition into teaching, we facilitated a sharing of knowledge and skills throughout the sector in an open and fun environment. Focussing on achieving best practice through tips, techniques and a range of masterclasses from specialists in different areas of circus teaching, there was something for everybody. Alongside developing the technical skills, we also explored ways of drawing out the artistry, working out how we could best create opportunities to inspire students and improve creativity in circus classes.

Special consideration was given to exploring the issues around increasing diversity and inclusivity within our programmes, as well as how to adjust our focus when inspiring and engaging with young people.

Working Outdoors - TCV21 - 2021_09_MJR_c-village-18_0268-web.jpg

Working Outdoors

Whilst much of the programme was delivered in the Big Top, we were also placing emphasis on creating work outdoors. With a varied programme of workshops, residencies, discussions and masterclasses, we looked to explore all of the key issues and considerations when it comes to making circus for the open air.

Looking at different contexts and environments, from festival walkabouts to larger-scale outdoor spectaculars, we invited specialists from across outdoor arts to teach and inspire us. Focus was placed on working within the landscape and how the environment, be it rural or urban, could contribute to and enrich a show. We explored the radical tradition and contemporary role that circus and street arts could play in exposing social injustice, and towards inspiring creative voices in protest and activism.

Digital Circus - TCV21 - 2021_09_MJR_c-village-13_0007-web.jpg

Digital Circus

After a period of closed buildings and cancelled outdoor events, exploring the possibilities of presenting work online has never been more relevant. Working to translate what is undeniably a live and three-dimensional experience is challenging, and much of what makes it special can be lost on screen. However, in the age of the 3 minute internet video clip, the 3 minute circus act has the potential to be a sensation. We looked at how we could combine the art of cinematography with circus arts and create something spectacular that brought the best of both, creating an experience that drove something different to the live showing, rather than taking away from it.

Working in small groups with professional videographers using high and low tech equipment, we explored all of the possibilities that technology could bring. From integrating digital content into live performance to looking at video mapping technology and live camera feedback, we played with as many ideas as we could in an open and experimental way.

Creative Riggins - TCV21 - 2021_09_MJR_c-village-17_0332-web.jpg

Creative Rigging

At the heart of many great circus shows is a great rigging setup. Looking at ideas both traditional and contemporary, we dived deep into the specifics of rigging in circus performance. Interrogating topics such as counterweighting, complex flown structures and outdoor rigging we looked to leave no stone unturned.

Working with a team of experienced riggers and with engineering and fabrication support, we provided as much hands-on experience with some creative rigging challenges. Taking place within the Big Top, the range of possibilities were vast, and we ensured that there was plenty of room for experimentation in an open and safe environment.

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