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ISACS Member - Inferno
ISACS Member - Inferno | Photographer: Petr Stary

ISACS is the national voice for the Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle sector with a vital role in developing recognition and respect of these emerging art forms in Ireland. An important part of the work of ISACS is to stay informed and to inform current policy, academic research and strategic developments, both nationally and internationally.

Please refers to our Policy page for current policies and local authorities resources.


Researchers & experts





  • Niamh NicGhabhann

University of Limerick - Irish World Academy of Music and Dance

Researcher in Irish studies, with an emphasis on the art and architecture of Ireland, concepts of space, memory, performance and the body. Assistant Dean for Research, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and Course Director of the MA in Festive Arts at the University of Limerick.

Main research: "territories of the Devotional Revolution in Ireland, with an emphasis on religion in public space." 



  • Simon Thompson

University of Limerick - Irish World Academy of Music and Dance

Researcher in Arts Practice

Main research: "Creative Pedagogy through Mask and Clown"

About | Linkedin


  • Stephen Cadwell

University of Limerick

Researcher in Circus Arts

Main research: "The Research on Youth and Social Circus Pedagogy Project"




  • Ana Camillo

University of Limerick

Researcher in Ethnochoreology and Festival Studies 

Main research: "Moving festivallers: gesturescapes and embodied identity in festivals"




  • Jack Beglin

Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology

Researcher in Cultural Event Management

Main research: "Drawing The Crowd: 2018 Audience Mapping Project"

About | Linkedin


  • Shane Holohan

University of Limerick

Researcher in Arts Practice

Main research: "Facilitation and Documentation of Embodied Creativity in High-Performance Circus Artists"



  • Pamela Cotter

University of Limerick

Main research: An examination of Festivity  and the Traditional Arts in Contemporary Practice






A peer-reviewed journal which promotes interchange between scholarship and practice in the expanding field of performance.


A peer-reviewed journal that acts as a research forum for practitioners, academics, creative artists and pedagogues interested in training in all its complexity.


Peer-reviewed journal that focuses on all aspects of performance: what it does, and why it is meaningful.




Articles and discussion about Burning Man and Burning Man culture in the world. Open comment policy, allowing for dialog among readers around the thoughts, commentary and issues brought up in the blog posts.

Research Platforms & Organisations




  • National Campaign for the Arts


The NCFA maintains a continuous focus on research through various means, including: regular member and public surveys, policy reviews and comparative analysis.  From its founding, the NCFA has set a clear agenda for its research activities, including its Strategy on Research.


  • The Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network

Audience research

The Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network (ISACS) has established itself as the main point of information and resource sharing for the Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle in Ireland and you can consult an extensive database of policies and research on our website. As part of our commitment to build a strong case for these art forms to grow and develop collectively, we have also undertaken a long-term audience research programme.




  • The Audience Agency


The Audience Agency UK joined ISACS at the Circostrada Summer University this Summer and gave a detailed presentation on gathering audience data for Outdoor arts. You may view their most recent report into audience data here.



  • Outdoor Arts Portugal


An independent platform with focus on the street arts and contemporary circus, that looks for the national and international promotion of  this artistic field and a mission for investigation and observation of the sector by: 
- sharing of information; 
- promotion of networking and showcase actions; 
- awareness for new practices; 
- development of strategies for the creation of opportunities.





  • Circostrada Network

Data | Publications

Research into circus and street arts, and outdoor artistic creation in general, is still underdeveloped in Europe and worldwide. Circostrada supports and promotes research by regularly carrying out and publishing thematic studies and guides that shed light on innovative practices and identify the emerging trends impacting and challenging our sectors.


  • Caravan Circus Network


International non-profit association founded in October 2008 with 6 European youth and social circus organisations. Provides guidebooks, presentations, reports, etc.


  • European Federation of Professional Circus Schools


Provides resources such as manuals, collaborations, charters, studies, guides, newsletters, etc.


  • European Federation for Education and Training in Street Arts


EFETSA is the European Federation for Education and Training in Street Arts which was formed in March 2015 in Maribor, Slovenia. This is a continuation of the gatherings of SAWA - a pan European network of professionals, academics and students who gathered biennially to discuss a European way forward for Education and Training in Street Arts (ETSA).

EFETSA’s main aims are to:

 - Improve the quality of Education and Training in Street Arts (ETSA)
 - Disseminate good practice 
 - Advocate for the recognition of Education and Training in Street Arts.





  • CARP (Circus Arts Research Platform).


A collaborative project between circus arts resource centres, circus networks and researchers around the world featuring:

• A directory of scholars (Masters, PhD and post-doctoral students, professors etc.) from various fields - the humanities, social sciences, medicine, and technology, to name just a few - who share an interest in circus arts research.
• An online map where you can find resource centres, libraries, archives and private collections open to researchers.
• An international bibliography of academic publications and articles specifically related to the circus arts. (Studies, theses and articles published in an academic context – like MA, PhD, Post-Doc, studies, articles, webdoc, seminary reports, publications by academic publishers).
• Information on conferences, lectures and open calls for papers (CFPs). Also, an archive of past academic activities.
• Links to useful academic blogs, web documentaries. You could find others existing library or resource centre catalogs.


  • Circus Talk


CircusTalk is an online casting tool and social marketplace for the circus and variety industry. Browse through its research section to find useful articles on the latest research in the sector.


  • Mahatat for contemporary art


Publishes documents, manuals, etc.


  • The American Circus Educators Association

It was formed in 2014 as a branch of the American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) and is dedicated to supporting circus educators. ACE is the trusted authority when it comes to all things circus education and is the primary source for professional development, networking, and information about circus education for anyone identifying as a circus parent, teacher, educator, coach, program director, or administrator.

Provides a collection of studies, papers, and articles about Social Circus: Research


  •  Circus librairies and archives at Universities Around Globe

Find out all the circus librairies and archives providing resources you need all across the world here.

Research Papers 




This essay reflects on the Halloween night time community festival, The Dragon of Shandon Parade, on the streets of the Cork (Ireland) led by Cork Community Artlink as a particular iteration of a performative jousting with death.



  • Dance Meets Circus - ISACS Network & Circostrada (2017)

On the 27th of January 2017, ISACS were delighted to present 'Where Dance Meets Circus', curated by ISACS CEO Lucy Medlycott, at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick, a focus session exploring the boundaries between dance and circus in partnership with the European Network for Circus and Street Arts Circostrada Network and MA in Festive Arts director Dr. Niamh Nic Ghabhann at Irish World Academy of Music and DanceUniversity of Limerick. This event was an opportunity to gather choreographers, performers, programmers, researchers, and policymakers, among others, to explore where one art form crosses into another, the different paths that have been taken by Dance and Circus artform, and how these routes impact the work, the artist, and the outcomes.



International conference querying how circus wrangles with issues of gender, globalization, race, queer experiences, and the way animal bodies are read on stage in 2016 in Montreal and 2018 in Prague. This article is edited by Karen Fricker and Hayley Malouin. With a welcome message from Jennifer Miller and an introduction from the editors, the articles are separated in to five major categories of ‘otherness’ in regards to circus, including Gender Differences in Contemporary Circus, Reading Circus Bodies and Signs, Location, Locatedness and Mobility, Is Social Circus the Other Professional Circus?, and not the least, Freak & Queer.


  • Juggling Increases Brain Power "Complex tasks such as juggling produce significant changes to the structure of the brain, according to scientists at Oxford University." (2009)
Youth & Social Circus  


This article attempts to support the claim that youth and social circus can affect young people in an extraordinary way. The multifaceted nature of circus reveals it to be an art form that it is adaptable to almost any situation or any kind of participant. Whether it is young performers in Ireland, people with learning difficulties in Finland, or displaced children in Afghanistan, circus is being used as an empowering and educational form of entertainment with extremely positive results. Some causes for those effects are proposed and in doing so, an insight into the nature of youth and social circus training is offered.


This article explores the perceived impact of a social circus program on the participation level of young adults’ living with physical disabilities from their own and their parents’ perspective.


Circus training can benefit children diagnosed on the autistic spectrum and their families. In 2010, as Head Trainer at Flipside Circus in Brisbane, Kristy Seymour developed a method for using circus as a therapeutic tool for children with autism. In this article, she and Patricia Wise work between experiential and theoretical positions to explore how circus can open up a new world to such children, enabling them to take risks physically and emotionally, and to stretch the capacities of their bodies in an environment that enriches their social development.


Thanks to its multidisciplinary, playful, risky and bodily character, social circus practice has great potential to overcome and transform boundaries and hierarchies, support identity building and undermine essentialist views. This paper stems from the author’s long-standing  engagement with circus and social circus practices, and is based on ethnographic investigation of contemporary circus practices in Italy. The case of social circus is analysed to look at the ways in which Organised Cultural Encounters (OCE) foster ‘meaningful encounters’ (Wilson 2016), delineating new lines of enquiry into the nexus between subjective and social effects of social circus. The article argues that the specificities of circus practice – embodied knowledge, trust and creativity – hold a significant potential within the cultural encounter frame. It describes the strategies employed by circus educators to manage bodies and emotions during the circus workshop, claiming for the need to include unpredictability in the design of social circus as an OCE.


The Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht presented a report Utilising the Arts to Combat Social Disadvantage.  Published on 9 July 2014, this Report examines the feasibility of utilising the arts as an instrument of promoting social inclusion. It makes 19 recommendations (pages 7-10) to the Department with a key one being that the Department carry out a comprehensive study on the impact of arts funding in combatting disadvantage and promoting social inclusion in advance of implementing any policy changes. Download a copy and assess this Report’s recommendations.

Previous to this there was a report entitled In the Frame or out of the Picture which outlines the importance of making cultural citizenship for all a reality. This document highlights the fact that Circus is the only art form which transcends barriers relating to socio-economic background, educational attainment and income. There are many other research documents available to read via the Economic and Social Research Institute and the National Economic and Social Council around these and other issues.


This article collection is the product of the Culture Has an Impact! seminar that was held in Tampere,
Finland in December 2013.

The Culture Has an Impact! seminar served as a platform for the project to both broadcast its results,
and to ignite an international discussion on the future of social circus studies globally. As an immediate
result of the seminar, a network for circus researchers, The Global Institute for Circus Studies was
formed. This publication can be thought to be the first practical product of this new network, as it
showcases the work done by many of the founding members of the network.


  • The Key to Happiness: A Taboo for Adults? "Adults are oblivious to what they knew as kids - that play is where you live....It turns out, though, that there are few things more important to your happiness than frequent doses of play." Joe Robinson (2011)


Audience Development 


Reflecting on the first four years of the Collaborative Arts Partnership Programme (CAPP), this book offers a series of provocations on the role of collaborative and socially engaged arts.


Other publications




This strategic plan sets out Galway Community Circus’s aims and objectives for the years 2018–2020, so that their members, participants, audiences, partners, funders and supporters can join them on the next phase of their journey. 

Vision: A centre of excellence for youth and social circus in Ireland. Mission: To unlock personal and creative potential and deliver social inclusion for young people through circus arts.




Audience Finder is a national audience data collection and development tool delivered by The Audience Agency, enabling cultural organisations to understand, compare and apply audience insight. With support of ISAN organisations across England are starting their third year of audience survey data collection.



Created by Theatre Bristol, Seachange Arts, Le Forneau, Close Act and Lucy Medlycott at Bui Bolg as a result of the Leonardo Open Out Arts Partnership


This evaluation has been commissioned by the Festival of Fools and is made possible thanks to funding from Belfast City Council, Community Relations Council and EU Peace III. The aim of the evaluation is to give an independent view of the contribution made by the 9th Festival of Fools to Belfast, Northern Ireland and the arts generally.





ISACS member Aoife Raleigh talks about her performance as Heavy Duty Dame at Circus250 UK launch at London National History Museum and her strong woman act routine with Hannah Murray Lopez on Talk Radio Europe.


Writer and former circus artiste, Dea Birkett, goes behind the scenes with the performers. She meets lion tamer Alexander Lacey and Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson as they prepare for their final performance and begin to negotiate a new life away from the circus. She visits the famous Ringling circus train, home to most of the cast and their families, and speaks to performers including Queen of the Air, Dolly Jacobs, about how life at Ringling has impacted on her life. Along the way, Dea explains how a bitter debate over the future of “The Greatest Show on Earth” has pitted two very different visions of America against each other.


Tony McCarthy exhibition curator of the McCarthy’s Circus Bar Exhibition and grandson to the late John McCarthy, circus enthusiast and historian, and Dr. Mícheál Ó hAodha visiting lecturer in the history department at University of Limerick are in studio with Joe.


A 3-part radio documentary, looking at the history of modern circus, life behind the curtains of the Big Top and circus schools in Ireland. Ireland And The Circus is a 3-part radio documentary presented by Mark Baker. Each 28-minute episode looks at a different aspect of circus in Ireland.

Part One looks at the birth of modern circus in 1768 and how Ireland played a contributory role. In Part Two, Baker speaks with members of two of Ireland’s contemporary circuses, Fossett’s and Circus Gerbola, to discover what life is like on the road, also looking at the role of children in circus and their schooling situation. Finally, Part Three looks at Irish contemporary circus, with regards to the many circus schools and institutions popping up around the country. The documentary also looks at the social implications of circus as a branch of community arts.


Leonie McDonagh (aka Leonie Pony) is back for another a PODCAST TAKEOVER.  This time she is chatting to Belfast-based hijinx-co-ordinators Tumble CircusLeonie catches some of the Tumble Circus crew at a rare moment of quiet before they put up their Big Top for the Winter CircusSeason at Writer’s Square, Belfast. She is joined by Ali Strange, Anqelique ‘Reckless’ Ross,  Kenevil, and Henrik (the muscles not from Brussels).  They share the back-story of Tumble Circus setting up its roots in Belfast.  Leonie asks about gender equality in the circus, but ends up finding out a little too much about Ali’s hoop.


This short form radio series is an Athena Media Production for Newstalk 106 108fm funded through the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Sound and Vision Scheme. Radio producers Lisa Essuman and Robert Hope are traversing the country looking for local initiatives that are fuelling positive change from the ground up. This episode was recorded in Galway City, where for the past decade a community initiative has been using the art of the circus to bring joy and fun to young peoples lives








Street Arts




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
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