The dreaded question….

WhatUReallyDo_520


First my throat slightly contracts, then I can’t help but breath out a sigh and my eyes sink towards the floor. “I’m a circus artist” I reply.

I know my body language and tone could easily be misinterpreted as embarrassment, but unfortunately the emotion I’m trying to hide is not embarrassment, not even modesty. If it were, I could hope that the questioner would see my distress and move on to something else. Instead my interrogator jumps at the thread and pulls as hard as they can forcing me to unravel the conversation which is almost as rehearsed and practiced as my act. It’s not their fault, it’s mine. I shouldn’t have a job that sparks off so much interest, seems so wacky and unlikely from the outside and yet so normal to me. Perhaps these encounters are a fresh chance to remind myself how lucky I am to have a job I love.

Instead they just depress me a little. I’m good at opinions, I’m not good at anecdotes or jokes. That’s a hang up I have and one I’m constantly trying to change, but for now this is where I am. It’s hard to get opinion in a conversation about a topic which one half is almost entirely ignorant. That’s not a criticism on them, why on earth should they know about the differences in what I do and what Ronald McDonald or Cirque du Soleil does? It just makes it difficult for someone as socially unskilled as I to connect to someone in this particular conversation in any meaningful way. I know this because I have had this conversation 100’s of times; it either results in an uncomfortable parting or my other tactic – change the subject as soon as possible. I know some artists thrive at the chance to engage in this type of interaction, driving the conversation about themselves and enthralling onlookers, as if the conversation is a performance and a chance for the performer to shine.

I can’t criticize too much, I’m a performer by trade and writing a blog about my experiences and thoughts. However I like to think my ego is slightly different from this type of need for attention. But then everyone always thinks their particular brand of ego is unique. I suspect I just have a bad attitude towards the whole thing, perhaps I should say I’m a chartered accountant when asked, “What do you do for a living?”.

Note: I wrote this in 2009. I recently came across Derren Browns stunning read “Confessions of a Conjuror” in which he also comments on the dilemma of the question (far more eloquently than I). It’s a great read, particularly for any performing artists.

Circus Open Space

Funny I should find myself writing this on a bus on my way home from Bristol after just reading Jessie’s blog post about the very same commute.

But I’m not on a national express coach, I’m on a bus kindly organised by Circus Space to take anyone who wanted to attend Open Spaces, an event at Circomedia.

It’s Circomedia’s 25th anniversary and as part of the celebrations they have organised a networking/conference event for people interested in the future of British circus.

I’m a little surprised at the lack of artists on the trip but unfortunately it coincides with the 3rd year show at Circus Space so I suspect that didn’t help numbers and the coach also left at 7:15. Us circus artists are a driven bunch but morning people we are not!

The day was run on the Open Space method hosted by Improbable. The over all title of the day was ‘Devoted & Disgruntled. What are we doing about circus in the UK?’. Anyone can suggest issues they want to be raised and set up their own conversation at a given time and place in the room. One can drift in and out of conversation as one please and interject if feeling inclined. You can read more about it here.

The intro to Circus Open Space

I suggested a topic about ‘Circus & The Internet’ which a handful of interested people came and listen to me rant and rave about the failing of circus to embrace the internet and the various free useful web tools available to circus artists (watch out for an essay on this in the near future). It was great to meet the brains behind Sideshow Magazine and hear of some future projects they have planned.

Overall I found the experience a little frustrating, it felt like the conversations didn’t produce any clear outcomes or future goals – an action plan. While I think it’s great that people interested in circus actually meet each other and share opinion, it’s all rather academic if there is no real change. You can easily share opinion in the comfort of your own home and be far more concise and clear. Solution takes longer to work out and benefits most from dynamic conversation. I’m not convinced the conversations I heard produced real steps that people could undertake.

It’s too early to tell if there will be any lasting positive change from today’s Circus Open Space but I really hope there are. I enjoyed meet new people and listening to other passionate people talk about circus.

Thanks to all those who came and contributed and special a thanks to Circus Space, Ciromedia and Improbable.

Funny I should find myself writing this on a bus on my way home from Bristol after just reading Jessie’s blog post about the very same commute.But I’m not on a national express coach, I’m on a bus kindly organised by Circus Space to take anyone who wanted to attend Open Spaces, an event at Circomedia. It’s CMs 25th anniversary and as part of the celebrations they have organised a networking event(?) for people interested in the future of British circus.

I’m a little surprised at the lack of artists on the trip but unfortunately it coincides with the 3rd year show at CS so I suspect that didn’t help numbers and the coach also left at 7:15. Us circus artists are a driven bunch but morning people we are not! BTECH?

The day was run on the Open Space method hosted by Improbable. The over all title of the day was ‘Devoted & Disgruntled. What are we doing about circus in the UK?’. Anyone can suggest issues they want to be raised and set up their own conversation at a given time and place in the room. One can drift in and out of conversation as one please and interject if feeling inclined. You can read more about it here.

I suggested a topic about ‘Circus & The Internet’ which a handful of people came and listen to me rant and rave about the failing of circus to embrace the internet and the various free useful web tools available to circus artists (watch out for an essay on this in the near future).

I found the experience a little frustrating, it felt like the conversations didn’t produce any clear outcomes or future goals – an action plan. While I think it’s great that people interested in circus actually meet each other and share opinion, it’s all rather academic if there is no real change. You can easily share opinion in the comfort of your own home and be far more concise and clear. Solution takes longer to work out and benefits most from dynamic conversation. I’m not convinced the conversations I heard were real steps that people could undertake.

It’s too early to tell if there will be any lasting positive change from today’s Circus Open Space but I really hope there are. I enjoyed meeting new people and listening to other passionate people talk about circus.

Thanks to all those who came and contributed and to Circus Space, Ciromedia and Improbable.