Dea Birkett’s love of circus goes way back. But it was when she received a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to run away and join the circus that her life changed forever. She has been running away ever since. In some ways, it is clear why the art form attracts her so much–her curiosity and her itch to travel have led her to some amazing places. She has worked as a creative director of films, documentaries and plays. As a published author who has written seven books, several about travel, and a columnist for the Guardian as well as a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, she is perhaps the ideal spokesperson for circus past, present and future. So it’s no wonder that she was the person who had the hutzpah to organize Circus250, a year-long, multi-facedted collection of events in the UK that celebrates the 250th anniversary of circus. But Circus250 has a broader mission than just educating the general population on the roots of circus. They also hope to bridge the traditional/contemporary divide by making the historical aspects not just more accessible to contemporary practitioners, but also by creating opportunities for them to converse and perform throughout the year. One of the key messages listed on the website is “Circus today takes many wonderful forms, but shares a common root.” Another is “Circus250 enables and supports a step change in circus practice, bringing radical new expressions and experiments across the arts.” But those aren’t the only key messages they espouse and each of them deserve a good read. Circus Talk was lucky to have a word with Birkett about the project:
How/why did you decide to start Circus 250? In April 2016, I was sitting in a trailer on a pitch chatting to some artistes. It was a traditional circus in UK, and like all British traditional circuses, 1768 is a hugely important date. Everyone in the trailer started talking about how it was going to be 250 years since the very first circus in 2018. A coup...
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