Delve 17: National Circus Festival of Ireland
Cork Community Arts Link - General Manager
10-12th November 2017
I applied for ISACS Delve initiative at The National Circus Festival in Tralee as a means of gaining knowledge and experience in the circus, spectacle and street arts industry. My background is primarily in the visual arts and since taking up the position of General Manager at Cork Community Art Link - an organisation whose primary outcomes centre around street art and spectacle - I felt it would be the perfect opportunity for professional development.
The programme began with meeting the ISACS team: Lucy Medlycott, Charlotte Haffner and Tamara Gangnus. It was an excellent opportunity to hear about their diverse experience and a develop a deeper understanding of the support and advocacy ISACS provides. I also met my fellow Delver, the brilliant and inspiring Hannah Rogerson of TeaTime Company who along with the ISACS ladies was great company over the course of the weekend.
We then went to see Svalbard Company’s All Genius All Idiot, an extraordinary performance that expanded my understanding of contemporary circus. Melding dance, circus arts and music Svalbard Company have devised an expansive, non-narrative, visceral, erotic exploration of the body, identity and desire. This was followed by the 5x5 Circus Sideshow at the Festival Club (the Grand Hotel) which proved to be a supportive, fun platform for circus artists to perform new work in a casual, celebratory atmosphere.
The two back to back forums on Saturday the 11th were both enlightening and productive. The ISACS-led Share Forum: Circus Past, Present and Future was a very valuable lesson in the issues impacting on contemporary circus artists and organisations. A highlight was Dea Birkett, who initiated Circus 250, speaking about the year-long project celebrating and exploring circus’ 250 year history in the UK and Ireland, explaining how showman Philip Astley codified the 42 foot ring in 1768 the impact of his vision on the circus industry. The Irish Youth Circus Focus that followed explored the challenges of and sought out opportunities for organisations working with youth circus, such as the isolation felt by rural practitioners, difficulty in securing insurance and ways and means of connecting and resource sharing between organisations. It was interesting but unsurprising to note that the challenges faced by community and street arts organisations in Ireland are shared by circus groups and I took the opportunity to discuss and seek feedback on the strategies adopted by Cork Community Art Link to secure resources, seek out opportunities and engage artists and volunteers.
Saturday evening began with Circus Siamsa. Magician Brian Daly was fantastic as compere for the evening - funny, self-deprecating and engaging artfully with the diverse audience and acts. Another highlight was Roxana Küwen’s gorgeous acrobatic/foot juggling performance as was Alex Allison and Davi Hora from Maleta Company - I really enjoyed the overarching theme of skillfulness combined with playfulness in all of the performances. The final event for the evening was the Renegade at the Festival Club, a riotous “stand up” platform that featured everything from acrobatics to glass walking to beatboxing.
I found the Delve Programme hugely beneficial and cannot recommend it highly enough. It was a fantastic opportunity not only to meet incredibly talented, supportive individuals and organisations but also deeply inspiring on a creative level and I’m already reaching out for new collaborations both personally and at work. I feel very privileged to be invited into the ISACS family!
Catherine Bourne (Cork Community Art Link)