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It’s Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain this weekend and there are two UK acts taking part, perhaps a milestone for UK circus.

One part of me thinks the contest element is stupid, how and why does circus compete in any meaningful way? Why does this format still exist? Apples and organgutangs etc.

Another part of me recognises that the festival launches careers, it showcases amazing artists and it has a historical significance which has had a direct and indirect impact on me. Mark Robertson competed for goodness sake!


Demain always reminds me of Luke Wilson. I think back to Luke and Ilka competing as LukaLuka in 2003, the fist Circus Space alumni to reach a truly internationally respected circus platform with their own work.

Luke had a great story of meeting Francis Brunn at the festival. Francis asked to see his hands, saw they were all callused and broken and said, “Good”. Luke was immensely proud of that.

Luke returned to the festival stage in 2011, he got picked to be a volunteer for a pickpocket. It was slightly set up as Luke had been given objects specifically for the act. As Luke pointed out, he would never utilise a belt and braces at the same time, for obvious reasons.


I’m proud of the NCCA, it’s so excited to see artists go through the UK system and come out on a level on par with the rest of the world. LJ and Korri are a credit to the progress being made in UK circus and obviously they’ve also worked crazy hard to get into the festival.

Good luck to them both and the other artists involved in the festival.

I’ll be watching the live stream here:

http://concert.arte.tv/fr/38eme-festival-mondial-du-cirque-de-demain

Travel Days

A day of travel, most feel the same.


Blurry starts as the sun rises. Skipping breakfast for extra sleep, relying on showers and packing the night before to get you on the waiting minibus in a punctual, if not civilised, manner.

Train tickets, phone battery levels and passport location checked and double checked. 

Deciding if engaging in conversation is best avoided or embraced being mindful of appropriate volume and tone. Sometimes silence is best.

So many annonomous drivers with few words and poor packing skills. Large bags should always be given priority.

Ticket inspectors, airport security and the triangulated formation of the French army pretending to be carrying out vital security work.

Frantic scrambles up flights of stairs heaving overloaded bags, forming groups of bags, functioning as a temporary fort so scouts can make trips for provisions before we once again board a train and consume baguettes.

Window views worth looking at. Smells worth avoiding.

Constant emptying and refilling of bags, pockets and stomachs.

Unwanted adrenaline rushes from delayed trains, missed buses and forgotten bags.

Finally arriving to utterly forgettable hotel receptions, passport out, key card, wifi password & lobby sweet.

E-mail catchup, half-unpack, dinner. 

Split the bill. Tip.

Internet, catchup with loved ones, read.

Bed.

Software

I’ve been asked a few times what software I use for work related stuff. Here’s my current list that may or may not be of use to you…

  • Scrivener – For notes / projects.
  • iA Writer – Great for concentrated long form writing.
  • WordPress – Websites / blogs.
  • Seconds Pro – Great for training – I’m also trying Pomodoro technique for work.
  • Streaks – Helps me complete everyday chores / form habbits.
  • QuickBooks – Finance/invoicing – this one is new to me.
  • Slack – Work communication – much better than email.

(I am aware of how dull this post maybe to those hoping for something more circus related).

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Ahead of his time.

Occasionally I would slip into an always enjoyable philosophical, futurist conversation with Luke. He had a deep love of technology, an Apple fan boy before it was cool and then not cool. He was optimistic about the future. Excited by the new.

I’ve recently been listening to Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, it’s brilliant to listen to the thoughts one of todays most famed historian and futureist. It’s striking how close Luke’s own thoughts and predictions seem to aline with this book.

I’m still struck by how overwhelingly sad I am that Luke isn’t around to discuss rambling ideas like this. And I know there are others who feel the same.

But I should remind myself that there are many new and exciting ideas to be found, better experiences to be shared and plenty of happy memories of Luke that he left me with.

4 years to the day.

Immersive Juggling Research

Circus Geeks received Lab:Time funding to carry out research into an immersive juggling experience.

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Doreen Großmann, Iñaki Sastre and Arron Sparks spent 3 days in the Creation Studio at the National Centre for Circus Arts generating juggling material and working through experiments on a friendly guinea pig voluenteer audience.

Inaki Sastre suggested the concept of creating a juggling piece in an alternative enviroment from the traditional show format of a juggling performance- imagining what and how a juggling installation might function. From that original concept, Arron generated a series of questions to explore and an array of different directions the research could head.

“Over the first couple of days we created two short pieces, one in which the external viewer could move where ever they pleased while a juggling piece took place in the same space (much like how a traditional gallery space operates with a sculpture). In the second version the performers guided an audience of one through the piece which happened over, around, to and with the aid of the audience member.

Based on audience feedback from day two and our own insights we decided to focus on the second more personal method used. We spent day 3 creating a 7 minute piece which we then performed as a continuous loop for close to two hours, receiving feedback throughout and testing adjustments.

With more research time it is probable that the first “free-range” method could be developed and refined to get over the obstacles we encountered, such as the audiences self imposing rules which restricted their viewpoint, enjoyment and even understanding of the piece. This could be circumnavigated by stating the rules of engagement from the start (with, for instance, the use of a sign) and is an area of research that could de explored and tested in its own right.

Exploring the possibilities of putting a non juggler into the world of juggling is something I have considered before. In an early version of Beta Testing we attempted (unsuccessfully) to simulate the pressure onstage that a professional juggler has to confront with an audience volunteer. However in this research -thanks to the questions we set out with and the softer, intimate approach Doreen and Iñaki brought to the performance helped us communicate to an audience the physical experience of juggling and the pleasure that it brings us.

After 3 days of research and a series of tests and feedback we are confident that this is an area of juggling rich with possibilities. We hope to further explore the area of immersive juggling in the near future.”

Arron Sparks

Immersive Juggling Research made possible thanks to the National Centre for Circus Arts, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, The Production Shed and all our friendly guinea pigs.