Attending CIRCa and Fresh Circus #5 this year was both exciting and fortuitous for us. In 2018, editor Kim Campbell attended Fresh Circus #4 (hosted by Festival Up) in Brussels, Belgium along with fellow INCAM members. This year, both Kim and co-founder Andrea Honis decided to attend CIRCa just before heading over to Madrid (as CircusTalk was invited to present a workshop and be on the FIRCO jury.) Here are a few of Kim’s observations about the much-lauded CIRCa in Auch, France.
If you’ve been involved with circus for a minute, you know that France is the gold standard when it comes to models of how a circus ecology can thrive, grow, and function. I’ve heard various numbers mentioned over the years. There are over 200 circus companies. There are 400 plus circus artists. There are hundreds of shows. I have not seen a study to verify these numbers, but from what I’ve seen in France, I would guess that those numbers are conservative.
The French government stepped in around 1978 to offer a helping hand and ever since, circus schools, circus artists and companies have been sprouting up and networking to create a web of shows, festivals and residencies. This is an oversimplification of course, but it is very interesting to experience first-hand how all of the French and European organizations collaborate to present so much circus, to include every organization on their radar, and to facilitate the meetings and deals needed to make the next year turn effortlessly (or seemingly so.)
Special kudos go to Circostrada and Artcena, the two organizations that facilitate Fresh Circus (and Fresh Street) every year, pairing the events with local circus festivals. Its quite astounding to see what Stephane Segreto-Aguilar and his team can dream up and put into place with the help of their partner festival, a year of planning and the funds needed to pull it off.
Not only did we have the opportunity to see around 25 shows (we saw our fair share, two or three shows a day–but sadly not all!), we also had the chance to attend artists talks, workshops and plenary sessions–which were always expertly paired with cocktail parties to ease the strain of so much concentration. We even got to enjoy a delicious Gascony meal with new colleagues and to devour much foie gras over the entire visit. There were also after-cirque dance parties for the folks who were able to function on less sleep and who didn’t have a 30-minute hike up a hill to their idyllic farmland Airbnb in the wee hours.
We personally enjoyed giving a brief presentation about CircusTalk for the Circus Explorations series around Auch, and meeting up with colleagues and friends we often only get to see on the road (see the photo gallery below for some hints). We even caught a few student shows, which Fresh Circus is wise to host–including the FFEC and FEDEC shows.
On a personal note, it was great to spend a few days with our roomie, Katharine Kavanagh of Circus Diaries. The long walks around town and back to homebase up the hillside between workshops and shows were an excellent time for circus writers to talk shop and deconstruct details together.
As a final event, I attend the first annual CARP birthday party (state of the CARP meeting), joyfully hosted by its creators (Anna-Karyna Barlati, Cyril Thomas, Johanna Makela and Magali Libong) who went all out on the decorations, as one would for any one-year-old progeny. Those circademics know how to celebrate their hard work!
We had to leave before CIRCa ended to go to FIRCO, and it wasn’t an easy farewell. Being plugged into a place where you can breathe, eat and sleep circus (not to mention shop circus books) is a rare state of being that becomes its own reward even as it informs you of the vibrancy of your favorite art form.
Photo credit: Kim Campbell