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WaterFord Spraoi, Waterford, 30th July - 1st August 2016


Waterford Spraoi made me smile, gasp, laugh and even, once, cry. It was my first visit, and I was astounded by the level of the performances and commitment to the weekend by the production team.

I have mostly seen circus indoors, so I learnt a lot about the challenges of street performance, with 360 degree audience observation and nowhere to hide, not even in the rain. Shows that had been developed for indoors, and then performed outdoors, highlighted these challenges, leading to really good discussions about the differences and similarities between street arts and circus, and how the two linked traditions can learn from each other. The international nature of the performers and was also very visible (Austalia, Spain, USA, Belgium among them), giving a clear sense of how street arts and circus thrives when it can bounce off and learn from as wide a range of cultures as possible – a valuable reminder.

I made contact with a number of different performers and companies, including Strong Woman Productions, Boom Circus, FidgetFeet and Outside the Box. All these contacts have been followed up and would like to be involved in Circus250. Just a weekend in Waterford has made a significant shift in the networks involved in this 2018 countrywide festival celebrating 250 years of circus.

The informal nature of the DELVE scheme is what made it so successful; it is about chatting to people, making connections, sharing enthusiasms and ambitions, plotting how to work together in the future. The power of talking face-to-face is often underestimated. This scheme shows how much can be achieved if people are allowed to be open, honest and get excited (rather than remain professionally distant and cool) in their conversations – sitting in cafes, pubs or a square in the Viking Triangle instead of stiffly sitting around a meeting room table. It allows us to dream together in much more innovative and heartfelt ways.

It was a long way from Achill to Waterford, a day-long trip that was well worth while. Shortly after I got back to the island, Gerbola circus arrived and pitched their tent on the sandy banks. After a few hours, they had to pull it down. The storms were too strong. All their performances were cancelled. It was another reminder of the peculiar perils of being a circus performer; your show can be brought down by the wind.

I’m hugely grateful for the opportunities and inspiration DELVE, so expertly run by Lucy and Louisa, has given to me personally and to the development of Circus250. I believe it’s a step towards even greater collaboration.

Dea Birkett

Ringmaster

Circus250 – www.circus250.org

Irish Street Arts Circus and Spectacle Network

Irish Theatre Institute, 17 Eustace St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland
00 353 (0)87 0541812 info@isacs.ie