A circus centre for a vibrant circus city

Did you know that Brisbane is a world leading circus city?

Brisbane is home to extraordinary circus artists and companies who perform right across the world. Brisbane circus artists can be found on stage with Cirque du Soleil, across the European festival circuit, and Las Vegas.

While Montreal claims to be the ‘world capital of circus,’ Australia is the next ‘circus superpower’ according to Canadian writer Rebecca Galloway, and Brisbane is leading from the front.

Brisbane’s vibrant circus ecology includes companies like Flipside Circus, Circa, Company 2, Casus, Briefs, and Vulcana – in addition to a huge range of smaller companies and individual circus artists.

Circus artists, live, train, create, rehearse, and perform in Brisbane and their work is in increasingly demand around the world.

It is estimated our circus artists and companies international touring brings in more than $5.7 million in export income each year, and that’s not counting local performances, Queensland, and Australian touring. Brisbane’s Circa alone has toured to 37+ countries in the last 10 years. Smaller companies like Company 2 are also punching above their weight internationally – in 2017 they toured 6 countries, employed 29 artists, and staged 241 performances for over 85,000 people. Briefs and Casus have racked up similar travel miles and audience numbers.

Flipside Circus – with support from Brisbane City Council and the Australian Government – is building a new world class contemporary circus training and presentation space to support our world class acrobats.

The award-winning Flipside is a key part of Brisbane’s thriving circus ecology – it is Queensland’s largest youth arts organisation and Brisbane’s flagship circus youth circus and training company.

34,348 Brisbane children and young people took part in Flipside Circus’ programs last year with another 10,000 participating in Flipside’s regional and remote Queensland residencies and programs. At the same time Flipside supported nearly 1,000 professional artists.

Dr Katie Lavers, a Sydney-based writer, director, producer, and researcher, discusses the high standard of circus produced locally: “The range and calibre of circus coming out of Brisbane is astonishing… It would be hard to over-inflate the cultural significance of the city as a vital and important circus hub.”

The new Brisbane Circus Centre is unique in Australia. It will be created from modular, pre-fabricated materials, shipping containers, and canvas. The structure combines form and function, design and utility, in a way that is distinctly circus. The space is designed to embrace Brisbane’s lifestyle and climate, blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors and referencing the great touring traditions of circus to create a truly contemporary circus space Brisbane can be proud of.

The Centre will also be unique in the way it brings young artists and professional artists, community, local residents, visitors, audiences, and the public together in one space to encourage participation in all aspects of circus.

“One of our goals in the design for this space is to invite Brisbane in to see how circus is made, to see how our circus artists train, and to encourage locals to get involved by taking a circus class or coming along to see a show,” said Robert Kronk, creative producer and CEO of Flipside Circus.

“We want to support and grow the Brisbane circus community – both artists and participants – and circus culture. Brisbane has a long circus history; it feels like we are coming of age at the moment and this project helps build our momentum. Brisbane audiences are getting right behind our circus companies and at the same time our artists are growing in confidence and pushing the contemporary circus form further developing Brisbane’s style of contemporary circus.”

Chelsea McGuffin, founder and director of Company 2 noted that “Specialist space is really important for independent companies. Without a space like Flipside’s for our artists to train, rehearse, and call home it would be impossible for us to make the work we do and send it all over the world.”

Co-founder of the world-renowned Briefs, senior trainer at Flipside Circus, and a founding ensemble member of Circa, Davy Sampford said, “One of the reasons Brisbane has consistently produced such good circus companies like Casus, Company 2, and Briefs is that there has been space in Brisbane for artists to work, it’s crucial – we just can’t do what we do without a space. This new centre means we can protect that legacy and make sure great artists and shows to keep coming out of Brisbane.”

While the Brisbane Circus Centre will support Queensland’s established and emerging circus artists it also provides a great opportunity for children and adults to get involved in circus.

Flipside Circus’ Chair, Hamish Clift said, “Circus is an amazing art form – bringing together the best aspects of sport and art, it encourages young people to take risks (in a safe way!), work hard, trust each other, challenge themselves to learn new skills, show off, and have a huge amount of fun in a non-competitive space.”

The benefits of learning circus skills are well documented including positive impacts on mental, emotional, and physical health, and can be used to teach life skills, such as resilience, teamwork, trust and positive risk-taking.  Circus training offers children innovative means to engage with exercise while boosting their confidence and sense of self-worth.

According to McGrath and Stevens Social Return on Investment “for every one dollar invested, $7 of social return due to participation in a circus-arts program”. Which means decreased costs by families and health system because of a “reduced risk of children developing illness associated with poor self-esteem or lack of confidence, such as depression and anxiety.”

Flipside Circus is uniquely placed to support Brisbane’s vibrant circus sector. According to Flipside Circus Chair Hamish Clift, “Brisbane’s circus sector is incredibly busy – Flipside alone reached over 43,000 participants in 2019, toured to 16 regional Queensland communities, hosted over 1,000 artists, and our performances have been seen by over 1 million people. A permanent specialist home for circus to rehearse and train will support our purpose to empower communities through circus.”

Read more on ArtsHub here.