Galway Community Circus’ Springboard Seminar, which took place October 26th, brought some sunshine into a dreary bank holiday Monday. People of all ages, circus ability, and experience came together to hear all about what great opportunities are available for higher education in circus. The 58 attendees and speakers came from far and wide to be part of the discussion, and they brought with them a very warm and engaging atmosphere that kept a buzz in the hall all day long.
The event was opened by Ulla Hokkanen, Director of Galway Community Circus, who thanked the Arts council for their funding towards the event, before she handed over to Lucy Medlycott of the Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network, who acted as moderator for the remainder of the seminar.
Our first speaker was Tim Roberts (National Centre for Circus Arts, FEDEC). He explained all about FEDEC, which is the European federation of professional circus schools, and what their goals are. Tim explained how circus is special in its open and sharing approach to things: “The time of competition is over! The only way to progress is by sharing and working together”.
Mike Ribalta, from FiraTàrrega who run a Masters in Street Art Creation (Màster de Creació en Arts de Carrer), shared his experience from a street arts perspective. He encourages everyone to look at all arts with an open attitude and curiosity; “We should think outside the box and soak up all training, such as dance or theatre, and apply it to our own training”.
Galway Community Circus invited three former members, who have trained in circus schools, to join the panel for the day. Liam Carmody told the story of how he found out about circus higher education during a youth circus exchange in Sweden, and is now studying at Escola de Circ Rogelio Rivel, Barcelona. Freddy Burrows, who is now studying at Codarts in Rotterdam, quit boxing to join Galway Community Circus and was inspired to take circus further. Stevie Boyd had discovered his passion for circus through university societies whilst studying biotechnology. Having made a decision to pursue circus, he was accepted to Flic circus school in Turin, Italy, where he now works as a teacher and performer.
The final scheduled topic of discussion was audition processes, to which all members of the panel contributed. All said that the auditions were very physical including acrobatics and, dance, but they also stressed that your personality is equally important to your physical capability. In circus there is great emphasis on collaboration and perseverance. It was explained that each school is different and can offer a different style and the panel wants each auditionee to find the right school for them. Tim Roberts spoke about how each individual needs to ‘find their place’ in circus for them to fully benefit from it. All of our panel also emphasised that you should be only yourself in auditions, and to avoid trying to be somebody else to impress a school.
Ulla Hokkanen and Lucy Medlycott took the next slot to speak about circus opportunities here in Ireland. One such course is the MA in Festival Arts at the University of Limerick, which also has some aerial-circus modules. There are circus scenes in Galway, Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Tipperary to name but a few. Short master-classes are also an excellent opportunity to build skills. Galway Community Circus hosts its own intensive courses in forms of one-off workshops and the Springboard Training programme which is great fun and very rewarding. Another option put forward was gaining work experience at festivals around the country, be they music, art, or community festivals.
After an impressive video presentation of Liam and Freddy’s respective university work, an open discussion closed the day with audience members asking questions of the panel about the expectations versus realities of circus school.
Thank you to all the speakers, and to the Arts Council for funding the event. Also a special thank you to those who attended. Their enthusiasm was very apparent and contributed a lot to the whole seminar. The future of circus looks bright thanks to these young circus practitioners.