John LeMare, Australian Circus Festival, 

The festival took place over three days in two venues. During the first two days, in the studio of Performance Art, Western Sydney (PAWS), there were rehearsals and then performances by artists from the very young through to adult professionals. Some people had come from overseas, including Canada, to compete. Other performers came from the many community groups and circus schools that flourish across Australia. The standard was most impressive.


Jessica Peters, image credit: Mark Turner

On Monday 18th, the festival moved to Wolli Creek , much closer to central Sydney where Stardust Circus was showing. The West family generously gave the festival the use of all their facilities. Rehearsals continued under the Big Top and this was very exciting for the non-professional performers who might be aspiring to a profession career in professional circus. This hard work culminated in two shows featuring pre-professional teens and adults and some professional performers. The Stardust ringmaster, Adam Presland, introduced each act.

Animals were part of this festival. There was a lunchtime discussion in the foyer of the Big Top where circus people discussed the use of animals in circus. It was really good to see representatives from circus dynasties right across Australia working cooperatively to suggest ways of combating the lies of animal terrorists.

Before the evening performance, Mat Ezekiel Smith (from Stardust) gave a moving demonstration under the Big Top, showing how he trains the lions them through kindness, patience and reward. Wonona West followed this up in similar vein with her monkeys.

Later, in the main show, Colt Bullen (9), Australia’s youngest animal trainer, showed the wonderful relationship he has with his pony during his delightful act.

After the spectacular evening performance, which had the audience cheering wildly, awards were announced. Among the very serious, well-earned awards, there was room for a little Aussie humour with one award given for the ‘Best Abs and Pecs’.

This festival, the brainchild of Jasmine Straga and aided by many willing volunteers, was a resounding success. Plans and preparations are already underway for the third Australian festival, this being in 2017.

Award details:

Best comedy act  :Nino the clown

The immortals: Phyllis Ashton

Amazing abs and biceps: Tim Matousek, Webers Circus

Elegance:  Leigh Manning

Leading contemporary circus: Circus Oz

Classical Circus of 2016: Silvers Circus

Critique award: Pixie Robertson

Outstanding circus trainer: Matthew Ezekial-Smith, Stardust Circus

Outstanding contemporary circus school: N I C A

Outstanding contemporary & corporate circus school: Performance Art Western Sydney – PAWS

Australian philanthropy award: Michelle Stevens, Kindred Circus

International philanthropy award:Sosina Wogayehu – Gamo Circus of Ethiopia

Sabu Award for outstanding effort fighting for Classical Circus with animals: Katy Driver


IMAGE CREDIT: Mark Turner Images