The May bank holiday weekend was a busy one here at Cloughjordan Circus Club as we embarked on a trip with 17 teens, all members of our Youth Circus Group, to take part in Festival of Fools. This trip has been a valuable part of our programme since 2016.
Festival of Fools is a fantastic programme of international and home grown circus and street arts presented over a packed weekend at numerous outdoor locations in Belfast’s City Centre. It’s an opportunity to see some of the best there is in street circus performances from around the world and the great thing is that festival founders, Circusful (formerly Belfast Community Circus School) make sure that they always include and feature members of their youth and community programmes alongside the professional programme. We are honoured, given how far away we are, to have been included on many occasions and, though daunting, the five hour road trip is definitely always worth it!
It’s this element, the taking part as well as attending and seeing the festival, that makes the trip so valuable in my eyes as Artistic Director of a Youth Circus. Our young people prepare acts in the weeks ahead in anticipation of the festival, some may have attended before, for others this trip will be a first exposure to circus in this context. They perform alongside their peers from other youth circus groups and really enjoy seeing other young people perform; they feel a part of the festival, they watch amazing professional acts perform on the same platform in the same festival that they have performed. They meet the performers and are proud to be included and feel a part of this bigger international circus family.
The festival gives our young people a chance to see circus presented in many different artistic styles, they see skills taken in different directions and in a new light. In the evenings we discuss what we’ve enjoyed, they analyse the performance styles, we talk about what makes for a good performance, presentation versus skill, the creativity in the development and individual styles of various skills and performances. I see all this exposure and learning reflected in their own performances and in how they return to Cloughjordan with new enthusiasm to develop their own skills or to devise a new act. The bonding and relationships within the group are also strengthened by this shared experience.
This year we were delighted to attend the festival as part of a bigger initiative with Irish Youth Circus sector. The trip was a part of Circus Explored programme which is supported by the Creative Ireland Programme in the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, as well as under the government’s Shared Island Initiative in the Department of the Taoiseach.
The initiative is presented by ISACS Ireland in partnership with Circus Factory Cork, Cloughjordan Circus Club, Dublin Circus Project, Galway Community Circus, Circusful in Belfast, and In Your Space Circus in Derry.