Every other year, ARTCENA (The French National Centre for Circus, Street Arts and Theatre) and Circostrada host FRESH CIRCUS, followed by a year of hosting FRESH STREET (its twin for street arts) in a new location in Europe. In its 5th iteration this year, FRESH CIRCUS is the International Seminar for the Development of Circus Arts and it’s taking place at CIRCA’scontemporary circus festival in Auch, France from October 22nd-24th, 2019. The CIRCa Festival(Festival du Cirque Actuel) itself is in its 32nd edition and ready to welcome the influx of FRESH CIRCUS participating professionals who will be on hand to attend shows, workshops and networking events. But what is the impetus behind FRESH CIRCUS and what type of activities do they offer to augment the CIRCA Festival this year? We spoke to ARTCENA’s international communication officer, Laura Gérard, to find out. Gérard holds a BA in Translation. After a first MA in European Studies completed in Germany, she decided to specialize in intercultural communication and project management and graduated with a Masters from the University Paris III Sorbonne-Nouvelle. She has been working at Circostrada since 2017.
Kim Campbell: In what ways does FRESH CIRCUS benefit an emerging company, a programmer or a cultural administrator differently? Is it created to reach all these folks equally?
Laura Gérard: FRESH CIRCUS benefits each of its audiences differently because it makes a unique and not-to-be-missed event that is its inclusive and has an international approach. The programme of the seminar is built in such a way that it offers content that matches the interest of the greatest number of people.
For emerging companies, the main stake lies in building a network, meeting key professionals, getting new ideas, inspiration, gaining visibility, and exchanging with national and international peers. FRESH CIRCUS is an ideal platform for them to make themselves known and to foster professional opportunities by engaging in a dialogue with all these stakeholders.
We can look at it on a case-by-case basis — like how does FRESH CIRCUS benefit emerging companies specifically – but in fact, the bigger picture is more interesting: the seminar is the opportunity for all delegates to network, learn, exchange, share, and to discover new trends, knowledge, practices and forms of creation, regardless of their individual profiles. What FRESH CIRCUS brings is also an open gate to a forum focused on a specific circus theme. Through the issues tackled throughout the seminar’s activities, participants have the chance to hear and learn from others’ experiences and realities across the globe. It’s an event where all circus stakeholders can discuss and share while being on equal footing.
The event is open to all and, as such, it is meant to reach the largest audience possible, be it a company, a programmer, a cultural administrator, a journalist, a student, a researcher, or a public policy maker… FRESH seminars were created to provide a collective, unifying moment for the circus field, a space for dialogue and critical reflections, exchange of best practices, ideas, creativity, etc.. It is first and foremost a meeting, an encounter between professionals from the field and circus lovers.
Of course, the interests, stakes and expectations vary from one participant to the next: everyone has a different reason for coming, and it depends on each participant what he or she will take from FRESH CIRCUS#5 after these three days, but what matters is to create connections between these different individuals. In that regard, informal times are key during such events. In the case of the upcoming edition, a so-called “Dîner Gascon” was organised on top of other networking activities just to mix FRESH CIRCUS participants, based on the typology of their profiles. The concept is vaguely similar to that of the “salad bowl”: gathering artists, programmers, students, festival volunteers, teachers, cultural administrator around one table so that they can talk and share.
KC: What countries typically participate in FRESH CIRCUS?
LG: There are around 35 nationalities represented at each FRESH CIRCUS edition. However, if we look closely at the figures, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Sweden, UK and Germany stand out in terms of number of delegates in attendance. The seminar is directed towards an international audience and is successful in attracting a wide range of countries, but due to the history of circus arts, their arguably advanced recognition in France, along with the context in which the network was founded, the trend still points towards French people being overwhelmingly represented. However, at each edition, we are proud to welcome special guest speakers coming from across the globe, who bring valuable input to the seminar and allow us to gain a better understanding of the circus arts scene outside of Europe. Over the past two editions of FRESH CIRCUS, we invited professionals from South Africa, Japan, Canada, Ethiopia, South Korea, Argentina, Peru, Vietnam or Brazil, to name just a few, and having them share their testimonies, experience, practice and expertise with us is a big deal for the field and for the network. It is through these encounters that we get to expand our knowledge, develop new partnerships and achieve a better grasp and overview of circus arts in all their diversity.
KC: How many organizations, circus schools and companies participate each year?
LG: There are around 350 and 400 delegates attending each FRESH CIRCUS edition, which takes place every two years. I would say companies account for one third of the participants, organisations as well and the last third is a mix of circus schools, students, journalists, public policy makers and circus lovers.
KC: What FRESH CIRCUS activity are you most excited about this year and why?
LG: That’s a tricky one! I guess maybe the session entitled “FOCUS: local areas under the microscope”, which is in fact the result of the call for projects “Circus and Territories” – in echo to the theme “Circus is everywhere”- launched in February 2019 by CIRCa, Circostrada and ARTCENA. It was an ambitious project from the beginning, as we received over 100 applications coming from all around the globe and only 20 were selected in the end. The final selection includes a range of French, European and international projects, which are going to be presented during FRESH CIRCUS (in 10 rooms – with two projects per room) in front of some 50 professionals in presence of the project initiators and one of their partners.
They all show and reflect a different approach to circus, to territories and to the connections that can be made between these, which is why I look very much forward to attending the presentations and listening to all these inspiring and original initiatives. It’s going to be frustrating choosing only two though!
All photos provided courtesy of Artcena