Join Now




Professional Development


News & Events



Contact Us

Search Our Site

Join Now
ISACS Member - Spraoi
ISACS Member - Spraoi St Patrick's Parade 2017 | Photographer Graham Cullen
8 minutes reading time (1650 words)

Roll up for Circus250: Art of the Show at the National Gallery of Ireland!

Circus250 and the Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network (ISACS) are delighted to have worked in association with the National Gallery of Ireland on this exciting exhibition Circus250: Art of the Show from the 9th of June to the 14th of October 2018 in Dublin. This exhibition forms part of the UK and Ireland Circus250 celebrations, which commemorate the 250th anniversary of the first circus, established by Philip Astley in London in 1768. Five years later, Dublin became the first city outside England to which Astley travelled with his circus. The exhibition will show works of art and archive material that focus on the circus and the performing arts. To celebrate Circus250 in style, the National Gallery will also host a programme of exciting events around the Circus.

Extraordinary exhibits from well-known artists such as Jack B. Yeats, Mainie Jellett, Mary Swanzy, Harry Kernoff
and Martin Gale RHA, performances, films, talks, workshops, music, animation; there will be something for everyone to be wowed!

Read on to discover where Joanne Drum, curator of the exhibition found inspiration and what to expect in Dublin as we share with you the full programme! See you all in Dublin!

What to expect at Circus250: Art of the Show at the National Gallery of Ireland

Glorious Feats!
Graceful Acts on Horseback!
Awe-inspiring aerialists!

Immerse yourself in the world of the Circus with this exhibition and programme of exciting events. This exhibition forms part of the UK and Ireland-wide celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the original circus, established by Philip Astley in London in 1768. Dublin was the first city outside England to which he travelled, performing and giving riding lessons from 1773.

The exhibition showcases the work of well-known artists such as Jack B. Yeats, Mainie Jellett, Mary Swanzy, Harry Kernoff and Martin Gale RHA.

This exhibition and accompanying public programme bring some of the fun of the big top and the history of this inspiring spectacle to the Gallery. An exciting programme of performances, film screenings, workshops, talks and tours has been planned, including a residency by illustrator Steve Simpson.

Download the Circus250 exhibition brochure

Don't miss the special events and performances!


The Summer Solstice on Thursday 21st June will allow for family fun with gigantic lawn games on the Merrion
Square forecourt, a special outdoor performance by the acrobatic comedy duo Lords of Strut at 6 pm and interactive demonstrations by Dublin Circus Project, followed by DJ and circus-inspired nail art to get you all circus glam on!

Jonathan Burns, contortionist and flexible comedian will bring his unique brand of humour to the gallery as he performs on Saturday 7 July at 12 pm.

Expect other circus surprises along the way!


On July 4th, Dr Richard McMinn will guide us through a history of the Circus in Ireland. Mat Ricardo, The Gentleman Juggler, is the first man in history to put the tablecloth back on a set table! He will discuss and demonstrate his work in How to find an Audience in the lecture theatre on Thursday 5 July at 6.30pm. On Tuesday 10 July, the monthly Tuesday Talk and Tea event in July will be given by exhibition Curator Joanne DrumLeading expert on the work of Jack B. Yeats, which features prominently in this exhibition, Dr Hilary Pyle, will speak on 11 July. On 13 July, the gallery will welcome Johnie K., a clown with a long history of performing in circuses and with the renowned Clowns without Borders, who bring smiles and laughter to communities in crisis. Johnie K. will put on his clown face during his talk on The Art of Clowning. One of the gallery three pop-up talks will focus on works in the Circus250: Art of the Show exhibition, with Fala Buggy examining Mainie Jellett’s three works, Under the Big Top on 20 July. Graphic designer and illustrator in residence Steve Simpson will host an in conversation discussion with exhibition curator Joanne Drum, on Tuesday 24 July. Emma Hackett taking a closer look at Percy Francis Gethin’s Travelling Circus, County Clare at a popup talk on 27 July.


The National Gallery of Ireland brings the circus to life on screen this summer with the screening of fantasy drama, Big Fish, directed by Tim Burton and starring Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor on Sunday 15 July, Walt Disney’s Dumbo for families with younger children on Sunday 22 July, The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman to have you singing your heart out Thursday 26 July! Fossett’s, Ireland’s National Circus, are celebrating their 130th anniversary this year. They are the subject of Circus Born, a documentary which will be screened on Sunday 29 July.


Develop your inner artist at the National Gallery of Ireland! There are workshops and courses for all ages!

As part of Cruinniú na nÓg, the national day of creativity for children and young people on 23 June, the Gallery
is partnering with Aosóg Child and Family Project to bring a day of circus-themed making and doing to this Dublin
7 neighbourhood.

On Sunday 1 July, join Louise McGrath for a Clown Eggs Drop-in Family Workshop with Louise McGrath. From Thursday 12 July to Friday 13 July Artist Julie Brazil will lead an intensive two-day Drawing course, which will focus on using drawing and sketching to observe life and to improve inspired by Jack B. Yeats' work: Sketchbooks in Practice: Inspiration through observational sketches and notes. On Sunday 15 July bring your little ones to the Drop-in Family Workshop to explore Colourful Circus Characters and Creatures inspired by the exhibition with Eimear Murphy. On Saturday 21 July, artist in residence Steve Simpson will host an Illustration Workshop for students of graphic design, visual communications. On Friday 27 July, 8+ years old will take part in an Illustration Workshop with Steve Simpson while he will host the Illustration Workshop for graphic design professionals on Saturday 28 July. On Sunday 29 July, Families can drop in for a Big Top Grand Design workshop with Kate Dick.

Friday 10 August, Steve Simpson returns to the Gallery to treat the small ones with another 8 + Illustration Workshop.

On Monday 17 September, sensory baby workshops will begin with a visit to the exhibition followed by a practical session exploring sound, colour and pattern with Frances Coghlan.

Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

More info: www.nationalgallery.ie

In addition, Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network (ISACS) has invited Joanne Drum, to share her experience at two Circus250 London events, as part of the 'New Voices' initiative.

The Clown’s Gallery-Museum London

You may already know that there is a Clowns’ Gallery-Museum, in London. As curator of the forthcoming exhibition, Circus250: Art of the Show exhibition at the National Gallery of Ireland, I was delighted to learn of its existence, and felt it my duty to visit, and to learn more about the fascinating history of clowns. The museum is housed in the vestry of a deconsecrated church in Dalston, North London. The museum’s curator, Mattie Faint, professionally known as Mattie the Clown, was a welcoming and gracious host, and guided me through the collection. The three rooms contain an eclectic mix of personal clown memorabilia (costumes, shoes, etc), as well as paintings, posters, clowning props, and all manner of clown ornaments. In the church itself is a commissioned stained glass window dedicated not to a Christian religious figure, but to the ‘Father of Clowning’, Joseph Grimaldi, the reason why all clowns refer to themselves as ‘Joeys’

One of the highlights of the collection is the clown egg collection. Clowns have an informal method of copyrighting their make-up, and have their face painted on an egg. The tradition was started by Stan Bult, founder of Clowns international, in 1946. Bult’s eggs were hand-blown eggs, and as such were very delicate. Nevertheless, a selection survives. The rest of the collection is more robust, painted on ceramic eggs. Most of them include hats or tufts of hair to complete the look. Half of the collection of some 250 eggs is on display in London and the other half in Wookey Hole, a tourist village destination in Somerset. A beautiful publication, The Clown Egg Register, by Luke Stephenson and Helen Champion is available here. 

These eggs will inspire a family Sunday drop-in workshop in the NGI in July 2018. This workshop will form part of a series of performances and events that are planned for June and July at the National Gallery of Ireland. See you all there!  


Study day, From Waterloo to the World: 250 years of Circus, V&A

On 28 April, I attended the Study Day, From Waterloo to the World, at the V&A. This formed part of the V&A Performance Festival, which ran from 20-29 April. The itself day was a mixture of performances, presentations, and group discussions. 

It opened with a very interesting presentation from Cathy Haill, V&A Curator of Popular Entertainment, on Philip Astley and his Legacy. She was followed by ‘Philip Astley’ himself, Chris Barltrop, actor and ringmaster in the guise of Astley, with an extract from his one-man play. After an interlude of juggling and hand-balancing performances, Haill and Barltrop had a conversation about bringing this legend to life. Another performance, this time of hula-hoop, followed, with another, the cyr wheel, immediately after lunch.

A panel discussion on Producing Circus focused on contemporary circus directors, and included Martin Burton, founder and director of Zippos Circus; Carol Gandey, Director of Gandey World Class productions; Nell Gifford, Founder of Giffords Circus; and Jack Kay, Producer and Director of the Hippodrome Circus, Great Yarmouth. This session was chaired by Dea Birkett, Director of Circus250.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Chair in Early Film and Popular Entertainment, University of Sheffield, then had a conversation with Becky Truman, Founder of Skinning the Cat – Circus of the Sky, about the requirements and challenges of circus costume, past and present.

Looking to the future was a discussion with Kate White, CEO, National Centre for Circus Arts, Lil Rice and Tom Ball, graduates of the NCCA, chaired by Eira Gibson, Director of Participation and Outreach, NCCA. Their discussion focused on the future of circus, with a positive outlook.

The final session was a conversation with Nell Gifford and Cal McCrystal, Theatre Director and Actor with the V&A’s Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Performance. They discussed the documentary, The Painted Wagon, which features Gifford’s Circus. The day concluded with a screening of extracts from the film.

DELVE18: Meet the Cork Midsummer Festival DELVErs!
Picture call out for FRESH STREET#3 main design!

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
Ladies and gentlemen, we use cookies! Cookies help us to give you the best experience on our website, make it more tasty and improve our recipes! For the full ingredients read our website's privacy statement. If you have a cookie allergy, find out how to change your cookie diet via www.aboutcookies.org. I understand