Circus News

St. John’s International CircusFest 2021 — What You Need to Know

In its 4th year already, St. John’s International CircusFest is prepared for a second round of pandemic hustle in festival planning. This year the festival returns to having a significant live factor with four days chock full of in-person activities — like four live shows, artists talks, a keynote speaker, workshops and some panels that explore the professional aspects of circus. All of this had to be organized within the constraints of limited travel and visas during a pandemic when restrictions change frequently. While special care has been taken to account for the pandemic and social distancing needs, the same amount of care has gone into making sure that the circus community is represented and its needs are reflected in the shows, workshops and activities planned.

We were able to speak to festival organizer Brad Gover about their plans for the upcoming events. Last year’s festival was largely digital, and this year St. John’s is pioneering the hybrid festival form. On how these changes are impacting the festival, Brad said, “Last year we learned a lot about how to facilitate an online, digital festival, and although we considered it to be a big success, circus just isn’t the same unless it’s a group experience in real life. We missed the laughter and applause, along with the gasps of excitement and wonder. This year, we’re pleased to announce that we’re back in the various theatres and auditoriums in St. John’s, and we’re incredibly excited for visiting companies like The 7 Fingers, En Piste, and Flip Fabrique to be joining us at the edge of the world!”

Growing a festival takes years of constructing experiences and building an audience around a mission, and St. John’s has done just that. Brad described the pillars of building the festival as, “…to bring the best of circus to our little corner of the world, as well as to engage our local emerging circus community and present their performances in the context of a world class stage, and make St. John’s as a destination for Circus artists and enthusiasts to come and visit us in Newfoundland, that is literally at the edge of North America!”

A group of artists face the camera in a pyramid, the top artist is balancing six hula hoops

The local Newfoundland audience can expect some extra excitement this year. According to Brad, “We’re hoping to expand the local circus audience to experience some of the best performances in the industry, such as The 7 Fingers and Flip Fabrique, who are both bringing their brand new shows to Newfoundland for the first time. We aim to inspire our local emerging Circus talent and to increase more awareness in the circus performance arts sector.”

This year’s festival is supported by a host of different collaborators. Partners will include “…various Canadian circus organizations, such as En Piste, the National Circus School, Cirque Alfonse, CirkaSkina, as well as international groups like CircusTalk. We’re also partnering with local companies and arts organizations, such as Destination St. John’s, InclusionNL, and Memorial University’s Emera Innovation Centre.”

The festival builds upon last year’s online show success. St. John’s 2021 events will expand and integrate their digital panels and workshops, using technology from Memorial University’s Emera Innovation Exchange. While local talent is predominantly featured in SJICF, those who are not able to travel to Newfoundland can still reach the festival virtually.

Finally, when it comes to shows, there are some festival favorites to look out for. When asked what show he is most excited about, Brad responded, “I think we’re most excited to see our ‘Edge of the World Cabaret’ return as a live performance, with so many different performers from across the country and around the world. It’ll be so much fun for our friends and colleagues to be back on stage and wowing audiences again!”

This year’s 4th annual St. John’s International CircusFest is September 23rd – 27th with Gala Performances, Keynote Speakers, Interactive Industry Panels and Workshops as well as visiting delegates and circus companies from the rest of Canada and around the world. Box Office, Registration and other Festival Details are now available on the St. John’s website.

Two hand balancers perform handstands on each other in front of a black background with glitter in the air

Professional Details

This year’s festival is kicking off with a breakfast talk with Paul Gudgin, a deep dive into the creative process, a performance from En Piste, and an opening soiree for all participants. Festival attendees can look forward to other events throughout the week, such as a social circus panel with Cirkaskina & Cirque Hors Piste, a makeup design workshop with Cirque du Soleil’s Maryse Gosselin, and a performance from Flip Fabrique. 

Other events to look out for include the En Piste Pan Canadian Coffee Chat and keynote speech Lessons for the Stage and Life, given by Nassib El-Husseini.

Our very own Stacy Clark will be participating in the festival this year. Stacy will be moderating What’s Next? Circus in a Post-Pandemic World Panel, and participating in Artist Talks: 3 Deep Dives into The Creation Process.

This information has been provided courtesy of St. John's International CircusFest.