Antonella Casella, Circus Oz | Tuesday 7 June  2016


On the cover of Oz Juggle, top to bottom, Ian Reece, Jeff Turpin, Suzy Leigh


As we reach the middle of the year it’s time to take a moment for a brief tribute to Queensland circus and children’s activities legend, Ian Reece, who passed away May 14, aged 81.

A pioneer of community circus, Ian began incorporating circus in his multi-arts activities in Brisbane in the mid-seventies, and continued to take his inspirational work throughout Queensland until the mid-2000s.


Stained Glass window in the Red Shed. Photo by: Pommepal

After spending his early years as a railway worker, and completing national service, Ian was inspired by the bohemian Brisbane of the late sixties, and in particular, gallery owner Ray Hughes, to work in visual arts. He began gathering a collective of inspiring artists around him, all of whom brought different skills to his workshop programs, from circus skills to kite making to trumpet playing. The company he founded, Hands On Art (formerly Children’s Activities Group), continues to inspire to this day.

In the late eighties, Ian himself moved to Yungaburra. From his beautiful rainforest home, he continued to take his activities around Queensland. In his later years, he ran the Red Shed, an outlet for local artists. Though he needed the aid of a motorised wheelchair to get around, and was living with Parkinson’s disease, he continued to be inspirational to those around him.



Circus Artist, Suzy Leigh, hat juggling with Ian at his 80th Birthday. Photo by Mark Crocker


In 2015, his 80th birthday party was a huge celebration, and even included a ‘practise funeral procession and concert’, attended by many of the artists who had worked with him throughout his life, and featuring concert music by Linsey Pollack. Ian was much loved and celebrated during his life, and will be missed by many.