Although it has not been formally announced, word is spreading throughout the Australian circus industry that in 2014 the Melbourne Festival is planning a major focus on contemporary circus.

It is expected that the first week of the festival, from October 10th 2014, will feature a major international and national program of circus and physical theatre. It’s believed negotiations are underway to take over every available space in the Arts Centre’s Theatres Building under the famous spire. This would include the State Theatre, Playhouse, Fairfax Theatre, the forecourt and other rooms and public spaces, giving the festival the opportunity to create an entire world of circus throughout the building for the first time.

It will also be the first time that a major Australian festival has placed circus front and centre of its program as an important artform to watch.

Festival Creative Director Josephine Ridge has appointed Andrew Bleby as Creative Producer of the program, which is expected to include various styles of work from around the world as well as new and existing Australian work. The week will also include public and industry workshops, seminars and other events aimed at stimulating the Australian circus industry. Andrew Bleby is a veteran producer of many festivals including the Melbourne Commonwealth Games Cultural Festival (which had a huge circus program), the FINA Festival, Moomba and Tasmania’s Mona Foma, and was founding director of the Next Wave Festival in the 1980s. He has also produced several shows for NICA and was commissioned by ACAPTA to author a report to Arts Victoria about the feasibility of a national circus festival based in Melbourne.

Many are hoping that this initiative may lead to an ongoing circus festival in Melbourne, whether it is nurtured by the Melbourne Festival or becomes independent.

Programming for the festival is expected to be finalised over the next six to nine months. Bleby has indicated that he is happy to discuss ideas and proposals with Australian artists as soon as possible. Contact him on andrew@andrewbleby.com