Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Circus Space

I had a wonderful visit to Circus Space today ("Powerhouse of Britain's Contemporary Circus"). Kate White and Eira Gibson gave me a warm welcome, and took time out of their busy schedules to talk with me about Circus Space's history and current projects, and to compare notes on the US and UK circus communities.

I was truly dazzled by the institution that Circus Space has become in the last 20 years. From a loosely-organized home to roving jugglers and fledgling acrobats, CS is now indisputably ranked with the country's premier arts organizations. As Kate and Eira explained to me, they are a higher-education institution with a firm commitment to excellence.

Circus Space is bursting at the seams. With 58 students enrolled in full-time classes, and an additional 15 beginning in September; with a full roster of recreational programs, team-building & corporate events, kids classes, and rehearsal facilities - every nook and cranny of the building is scheduled and fully booked up, from 8:30am-10:15pm every day.

And this is not a small building. It comprises numerous studio spaces, many reflecting the building's history as an electric power station: The Combustion Chamber, the Generating Chamber, the Energy Centre. Surrounding these main spaces are smaller studios and offices, home to the school's 35 full-time employees and over 150 part-timers.

It's all rather awe-inspiring. Just reading the prospectus of the degree programs boggles the mind: "Higher education courses in Circus Arts include the Foundation Degree, the BA (Hons) Degree and the Postgraduate Certificate, all of which are validated by the University of Kent." In September they will add the BTEC, National Diploma in Performing Arts, for students ages 16-18. They even have a Youth Circus program, open to students by audition, for serious-training-minded kids ages 11-18.

My visit has all given me a lot to think about, and I'll be sending more detailed notes and observations to my colleagues in Philadelphia. For the moment, Circus Space is truly living up to its energy-generating potential.


  1. If you're still in London (I'm guessing you are if Totem is!) it'd be great to meet for a coffee / beer before you go back to Philly!