The Australian Youth Circus Sector, in association with ACAPTA, has launched  “Youth Circus in Australia: A manifesto for the development of the Australian Youth Circus Sector 2014 – 2020

“ACAPTA has been actively engaged in supporting and promoting the development of the Australian Youth Circus sector for the past 6 years with the introduction of the National Youth Circus Symposium (NYCS).

The strength and vision of the sector is clearly articulated in the manifesto and we encourage you to read this groundbreaking document because we are extremely proud of our young circus artists and their extraordinary achievements. ACAPTA celebrates all the companies and individuals who continue to dedicate their skills and talent to ensuring that youth circus happens, every day in communities right across Australia.” ACAPTA Director, Gail Kelly

The Manifesto is the result of targeted conversations at the 2013 and 2014 National Youth Circus Symposiums produced by ACAPTA and hosted by Warehouse Circus [2013] and Cirkidz [2014].

Download the Full Colour PDF.

ORDER your copy before 5pm 15th August 2014.

FOREWORD:

Every year thousands of young people across Australia participate in circus skills classes and performances provided by the rapidly growing number of youth circus organisations Australia-wide. The very idea of the circus has always conjured up images of extraordinary physical skill, exuberance, confidence, and fun. Whether at weekly classes, holiday programs, intensive workshops, or outreach programs in schools and community settings, young people aged from 2 to 28 are learning and performing skills in tumbling, trapeze, tight rope, clowning, aerial manoeuvres, juggling, balancing, hula hoop, or one of the many other skills adapted by the contemporary circus. These days, Australia can claim to be a world leader in the field of circus arts for young people. It’s not that it doesn’t happen overseas, it does. In North America, the UK, and in Europe numbers of youth circus participants are also on the rise, attracting the attention of policy makers with an eye for the social capital that youth circus generates. It’s just that Australia has been doing it quietly, but very well, for nearly forty years. Now, it’s time for Australian Youth Circus to be celebrated and applauded for its quality, integrity, and resilience, and for the positive change it brings to the lives of many young people and their families.

For some young people, training in the circus arts initiates a pathway for a future career in the professional circus, in physical theatre, or in the wider performing arts industry. For those young people who are not destined for a career in the creative industries, the social and physical benefits of youth circus generate valuable skills for life long learning and values of engaged citizenship. Families and young participants across the country attest to its capacity to develop fit, flexible, and artistically skilled young people with heightened collaborative and creative problem solving skills. As one parent told me: “youth circus has made my children fit, strong, and full of confidence!”

Australian youth circus sprang with considerable energy from the many community arts programs and performance groups funded by innovative government arts initiatives during the 1970s. The earliest established group, The Flying Fruit Fly Circus in Albury-Wodonga, has been running since 1979 and is now an iconic national institution with a circus high school and a pre-professional program for promising teenage circus artists. Other longstanding and resilient organisations exist in every state and territory, in remote, regional, and metropolitan areas. In addition to core programs, some of these organisations have developed innovative circus arts programs for special interest groups such as indigenous youth, young people with a disability, migrant, and at-risk youth.

Circus is a hybrid art. Both sporty and creative, it produces imaginative and aesthetic outcomes as much as it develops highly skilled physical proficiencies. With music and dance it shares the development of rhythm and precise physical skills; with sport it shares the development of strength, speed, physical development, and team building whilst avoiding the competitive spirit so essential to sporting endeavour; with drama it shares the development of self-confidence, performance skills, and lateral thinking, but is without the spoken word or character demands intrinsic to a written text. But for all the qualities that the circus arts share with other domains of physical and creative activity, Youth Circus is a unique field with substantial artistic and social benefits that ought to be supported by our country’s policy makers.

Forty years after its early stirrings in the community arts movement, contemporary youth circus in Australia maintains the innovation and values that informed the movements for social change from which it sprang. Central to Australian youth circus activity is the strong belief that participation in the circus arts can foster good health, creativity, and a strengthened sense of self-esteem and social connectedness. As a researcher in the performing arts with a strong interest in the circus, I am very proud to be associated with the many dedicated, skilled, and innovative people who keep Australian youth circus alive and energized.

Dr Gillian Arrighi
Senior Lecturer, Creative and Performing Arts
School of Creative Arts
University of Newcastle, Australia