Richard Watts  |  Artshub  |  Friday 25 July, 2014

The manifesto’s key principles and strategies have grown out of a two-year, sector-wide discussion.

Targeted conversations at the last two National Youth Circus Symposia, hosted by Canberra’s Warehouse Circus in 2013 and Adelaide’s Cirkidz in 2014, in conjunction with the Australian Circus and Physical Theatre Association (ACAPTA), have resulted in the publication of a new manifesto for the youth circus sector.

The manifesto identifies six key principles for the development of the youth circus sector in Australia:

  • To grow participation in youth circus across Australia through greater accessibility.
  • To lead innovation and investment in youth arts practice.
  • To support high-quality and diverse skill development opportunities.
  • To develop career pathways and life-long learning opportunities within the circus industry.
  • To collaborate through a national network to uphold an excellent standard of service delivery.
  • To increase the awareness of the benefits of youth circus for young people and for circus as a leading art-form in Australia.

The document also lays out four key strategies for the sector’s growth, including developing national platforms for skills development, collaboration, partnership-building and the pursuit of best youth arts practice.

ACAPTA Director Gail Kelly said the manifesto’s publication was an important moment for the Australian circus sector.

ACAPTA has been actively engaged in supporting and promoting the development of the Australian youth circus sector for past six years with the introduction of the National Youth Circus Symposium,’ she said.

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

Dr Gillian Arrighi, Senior Lecturer, Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Newcastle, said Australia was 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 [the] 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 40 years. Now it’s time for Australian youth circus to be celebrated and applauded for its quality, integrity and resilience, and for the positive changes it brings to the lives of many young people and their families,’ Arrighi said.

Publication of the manifesto has been widely welcomed by representatives of the youth circus sector.

Executive Director of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, Richard Hull, said: ‘The Flying Fruit Fly Circus was Australia’s first youth circus and over the subsequent 35 years this sector has blossomed, giving more and more young people the opportunity to experience the benefits of circus arts, which is such a collaborative form building trust, creativity, fitness and self-confidence. It has something to offer young people of all backgrounds and skill levels, whether pursuing a career or enjoying recreational classes. This document unites a collection of seemingly rather disparate organisations under a common purpose with a single voice, which is so important for the sector’s future growth.’

Aleshia Flanagan, General Manager at Canberra’s Warehouse Circus, said: ‘Youth circus organisations across Australia are becoming more and more collaborative and connected. Although we exist in many different shapes and forms, we have come to realise that many of us share the same vision for the development of the sector. This Manifesto is the expression of our unified voice. It provides the collective strategies by which we can make the sector strong and resilient into the future and it takes the first step in gaining long overdue recognition for the contribution already made by youth circuses across the country to communities and culture.’

Joshua Hoare, Artistic Director of Adelaide’s Cirkidz, described the manifesto as ‘a road map to giving every young person in this country an opportunity to experience the incredible gift of circus. It’s important the wider public becomes aware of the invaluable tool circus is in building stronger communities. As Australian contemporary circus is already taking the world by storm and we all need to ensure that our reputation for producing highly skilled and creative artists continues, growing stronger with every graduate of Aussie youth circus.

Publication of the manifesto would help magnify the voice of the youth circus sector, according to Deb Wilks, CEO of Brisbane’s Flipside Circus.  ‘As a sector, the youth circus sector, our voice is quite small. Over the last few years we have really worked at connecting better so our voice becomes louder, and the thousands and thousands of young people who do circus classes and go on to become circus performers feel that they’re represented,‘ she said.

Obviously we’re all different companies across the country and we all have different interests and different focuses, but the Youth Circus Manifesto now unites us.

Simon Clarke, CEO of Melbourne’s Westside Circus, said the manifesto was a great demonstration of the maturity and aspiration of the Australia youth circus sector. ‘The spirit and shared values it articulates, which are also what makes circus the unique and universal art form it is, were clearly on display in its development. It is a clear statement that we know who we are, what we do, why we do it and what we are trying to effect. Westside Circus is proud to have contributed to the ideas and ethos of such a milestone document,‘ he said.

In total, Australia boasts 60 youth circus companies or companies with a strong commitment to working with young circus arts practitioners. The highest concentration of companies is in NSW, where 22 such organisations are based, including Circo Blurto, Half High Circus and Spaghetti Circus.

The Youth Circus in Australia manifesto can be viewed online at ACAPTA’s website and is also available to download as a PDF.

Image supplied by Warehouse Circus. Photo by Katy Barr