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Canberra is hosting a national circus festival—and you’re invited!

A female circus performer is suspended in a hoop.

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Canberra’s homegrown Warehouse Circus is hosting the city’s first circus festival—and you won’t want to miss it!

Canberra is known as an education city. But for 30 years, one of our most successful “schools” has been teaching young people the fine art of circus performance.

Canberra’s homegrown Warehouse Circus has a proud history of harnessing the talents of young people and encouraging them to express themselves in some of the most creative and physical ways possible.

From juggling to acrobatics, stilt walking to the hula hoop, plate spinning, staff, poi, trick sticks, diabolo, trapeze, lyra, tissu, German wheel, unicycle, mini tramp, adagio and more, Warehouse has created some world-class performers.

The not-for-profit also uses the magic of circus performance as a form of physical therapy and an engagement tool for a large group of young people and adults with complex disabilities.

Next month the Warehouse is hosting the city’s first circus festival and it is the perfect opportunity for the committed circus performers from around the country, as well as the city’s circus-curious, to enter the big tent.

A red big top circus tent.

Director Tom Davis said the festival had started off as a fairly modest idea before taking off with an ambitious program between 19–23 April.

“Every week we see 500 students and we are very well integrated into the life of this city, but there are still some people who don’t know who we are. So we thought that something that really showcased the circus, how excellent it is as an art form, how pleasurable is as entertainment, and how it is a really healthy activity, would be a good thing to do.”

The festival has many facets.

The Youth Circus Training camp will host five days of masterclasses across a range of circus specialties including performance, prop-making and activities for experienced performance troupe members of youth circuses around the country.

Big Top shows will run throughout the festival featuring award-winning national acts, comedy, cabaret, magic and circus performance (staged in age-appropriate shows), while on Saturday 23 April, a Circus Market Day will bring together street shows, roving performances, food trucks, coffee vans, small local businesses selling handmade homewares and gifts, and an assortment of free workshops and disability-specific workshops.

The Warehouse Circus began in 1990 when former Flying Fruit Fly Circus performer Sonia Young could not find any circus-related fun in her hometown. With a three-month grant and a bunch of kids at the Belconnen Community Centre, the seeds were sewn. And when the grant was over, nobody wanted to stop the fun so they moved to next door to ‘The Warehouse’ Youth Centre. The name stuck.

Now the Warehouse Circus has permanent grant funding and two locations, in the Chifley Health and Wellbeing Hub, and at the UC High School Gym in Kaleen (where you can even study a Circus elective).

Tom said the circus had created a proud Canberra legacy.

“We have students who go on to become trainers and trainers who head off to actual circus careers which is something I am so proud of.

”We’ve had a number of our alumni work around the world and others have gone to the National Institute of Circus Arts or NICA (of which Tom is himself a graduate) and heaps of them have ended up at Circus Oz.”

Tom said circus school had an enormously broad appeal.

“A lot of kids do it because it is like a sport, but it’s non-competitive. You know, it requires every type of body and every type of person.

“Some kids are really drawn to the circus competitions that exist in the world. But it’s also creative and supportive and kind.”

He also noted that it was sometimes a ray of hope for a student at risk of disengaging.

“We teach a lot of school programs for early intervention and provide opportunities for kids who are school refusers. The circus can be an activity that gets them to school because it’s a safe place for risk-taking and you can be as gentle or as gung-ho as you like.”

Tom said one of the most exciting parts of the camp was creating an opportunity for young people who were serious in their commitment to circus arts to build networks and connections in the space and industry they loved.

By putting a national callout, those connections could provide future platforms for support and employment in fringe festivals and acts across the country.

“Ideally we want to grow this camp into an established event that can become an ongoing useful thing for the industry.”

NICA is sending delegates to facilitate some of the training.

Meanwhile, Tom promised some of the performances would be wildly entertaining—as only an internationally acclaimed foot juggler keeping five balls in the air could be—and also suggested people keep an eye out for Canberra-raised, national award-winning magician Tricky Nick.

“There will be something to impress everyone—that is the magic of circus.”

The Essentials

What: Warehouse Circus presents the Canberra Circus Festival
When: 19–23 April
Where: Lions Youth Haven, 244 Kambah Pool Road, Kambah
Web: canberracircusfestival.com.au

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