Circus News

FEDEC Celebrates 20 Years of Circus Arts Training, Education, and Development

In April 2018, the European Federation of Professional Circus Schools (FEDEC), headquartered in Brussels, is celebrating 20 years of connecting circus arts directors, educators, and students through its network of approximately 57 member organizations. Their celebrations are timed perfectly to coordinate with the new ESAC building and the ongoing year long celebration of circus deemed Focus Circus in Brussels.
Prior to the founding of FEDEC in 1998, European circus arts professionals and organizations existed independently and had very few ways to connect and share information easily. Recognizing the benefit of a central organization, FEDEC was informally created by three schools: Circus Space, Cnac, and ESAC, with the goal providing “…Open discussions and a horizontal flow of information, knowledge, and expertise.” The fledgling group began by inviting three professional circus schools to join and, in 2000, welcomed Carampa and Die Etage as new members. Circus Talk interviewed Isabel Joly, FEDEC’s General Coordinator, on the organization’s past and its future.

The FEDEC relies on stakeholders on the ground, who are pioneers and innovators in their fields.


What is the biggest change FEDEC has had upon the circus arts?

The circus arts sector is becoming more and more professional. The FEDEC, through its targeted working areas (directors, teachers, students), is changing the circus arts industry by helping members to improve the quality of circus education, creation, and innovation via:


  • Facilitating the mutual learning, exchange of experiences, and the transfer of best practices through training programmes, seminars, brainstorming sessions, and studies
  • Stimulating the European mobility of students, teachers, directors, technicians, and administrators
  • Encouraging applied research in fields connected with circus arts education
Assisting organization members with securing local, regional, or national recognition. Why should an education institution consider joining FEDEC?

Above all else, you are joining a worldwide network of peers and activists advocating circus arts education and training and contributing to a driving force for building and improving the sector and achieving its recognition. The FEDEC relies on stakeholders on the ground, who are pioneers and innovators in their fields.

It provides a wealth of expertise and opportunities for exchange between key players, including almost all the schools and training programmes in circus arts currently existing, federations of vocational and leisure/youth schools, national and European networks advocating for circus arts and their specific features, information centres, unions, production, distribution and promotion structures, and so on.

Specifically, full or associate FEDEC members can:


  • Meet vocational circus schools and organisations from all over the world
  • Participate in international projects and exchange experiences to improve circus arts education around the world
  • Develop bilateral and international educational exchanges through participative creations, continuing training, teaching, e-learning, or applied research innovative tools
  • Access peer advice and expertise in terms of structuring projects, education programmes, teaching methods, artistic research, quality assurance, safety, and constructing and fitting out buildings
  • Develop synergies with the professional sector, including other troupes, companies, residency locations, national unions and federations, and leisure schools
  • Participate in promoting the work of young artists in training or of those who have completed these training programmes and help them enter the job market by increasing collaborations with the professional sector
  • Participate in the advocacy and recognition of the specific features of circus arts education, the recognition of circus as a major art, the definitions of its professions, and the training programmes leading to them
  • Have your say within the sector and at a national, European, and global level through projects and consultations designed to observe sector developments and make recommendations
  • Receive support from the FEDEC’s managing board and a dynamic, motivated coordinating team which works with the network every day to make its activities a success


How does FEDEC recruit new members?

Fortunately, professional circus schools need very little convincing to become members of the FEDEC, and our members are the best ambassadors. The organization relies on word-of mouth as we are the only federation at the international level working in this area. Usually, when a school is officially accredited as a professional circus school, it applies to join the FEDEC. All national federations are also members.

To spread the word, the FEDEC participates in events such as CIRCa Festival, which will be held in Auch, France from October 19 – 28, 2018; Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in Paris every year, as well as Fresh Circus. During the Brussels Festival UP/Fresh Circus event, held March 13 – 15, 2018, Ms. Joly moderated a roundtable discussion on “Artist Trajectories: How Does One Become a Circus Artist.” She was encouraged by seeing the various career paths taken by circus artists.

Additionally, the FEDEC is always enthusiastic about presenting the organization’s work and to speak with circus students about international opportunities.


One of the key focus areas for FEDEC is the conduct of circus industry-related studies, including the publication of a paper entitled,The Circus Artist Today — Analysis of the Key Competencies(MIROIR01). What has changed in the 10 years since?

Since MIROIR01, we did publish a second edition in 2009 MIROIR02 with refreshed information about circus artists’ competences. At that time, the FEDEC worked with our associated sociologist Zita Herman, who carried out a survey among young circus professionals. We currently are working on the third edition of the study, with a much higher representation of circus schools graduates. The study should be published around the end of 2018 or beginning 2019. The evolution of circus occupations will be highlighted in the third edition MIROIR03 study, which is expected to be released late 2018 or early 2019.

In the meantime, the FEDEC participated in a working group of the European Commission which :ESCOEuropean Skills/competences, qualifications, and occupations where FEDEC was the only stakeholder to give inputs on circus arts occupations.


In conclusion, what events has the FEDEC scheduled to celebrate the 20-year milestone?

The FEDEC is celebrating its 20th anniversary in Brussels where we have our headquarters. Our office is near to the famousESAC. It is the perfect time to celebrate our anniversary, in the context of our Annual Conference, with the opening of ESAC new building!

The two-day annual conference will be held on April 19 – 20, 2018, with our General Assembly and different working groups meetings. On April 20, beginning at 12:30 p.m., we will have a special program with a festive lunch with former, current, and prospective FEDEC members and VIP guests, such as MEPs and other EU officials. The FEDEC is supported by the European Commission, and its flagship programme Erasmus+, and has been for a long time now. We are proud to be the only network linking arts and education funded under the Erasmus+ programme in the Education and Training strand: it gives a fantastic support to our work, a validation of our members’ investment, and a good visibility to our federation! Our anniversary will be the opportunity to look back on the work done by our members and to discuss plans for our ambitious future!

Related content: Year Long  Celebration of Circus in Brussels and A Picture of Circus in Brussels, Part One.

Main Image Source: FEDEC website
Tracie Bedell
Tracie E. Bedell is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Illinois.

Tracie Bedell

Tracie E. Bedell is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Illinois.

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