Next week sees the starts of Cirqadia – Liverpool’s first major Circus festival and a possible pilot for future circus-related events. Liverpool has a rich history when it comes to circus performance with one of the first commercial circuses ever set up located in Liverpool in the 1870s. In fact, some may not know that Liverpool’s Olympia venue was originally built as a circus and still has the underground cages for animals and the facilities for one of the first ever flooded circus rings.
Cirqadia and the producers at Freefall present a spectacular weekend of events, celebrating the talent of UK based circus performers and providing a platform for new work from performers across the region. These events also give young people new to circus the opportunity to learn from the professionals.
The context and inspiration for this festival is rooted in something very powerful. 2019 sees the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that kicked off the LGBTQ+ rights movement in 1969. This was a motivating factor for the organisers as they explored what themes the festival would address and work around. As queer circus practitioners themselves the founders of Freefall – Nick Hunt and Barry Lenkov – have made the strong presence of Queer performers within circus the focus of their first circus arts festival in the city.
This ethos also informed their ideas on where to locate the festival and it was no surprise that they chose one of the Baltic Triangle’s first venues, District. District has built up a reputation for hosting some of the most innovative events in the city. Their space has also become home to Liverpool’s alternative queer scene – events like Beers for Queers and Eat Me & Preach are now regular events and are seen as cornerstones of the Baltic Triangle’s nightlife scene.
Nick Hunt: “Having lived and worked in the Baltic Triangle we really wanted to do something in the area as we feel very connected to it. I’ve known Jayne Casey for years and done a lot of events with her.
“District is known for having developed an alternative queer scene with Beers for Queers and Eat Me which are some of the best events in the city. This history contributed to our motivation of doing a circus festival here. When it came to this year and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, we wanted to base it around that and make it a queer thing – this is why District became (to us) the perfect venue.”.
Barry Lenkov: “For me a lot of the people involved in the Circus were from the LGBTQ+ community and I looked around and a lot of the roles were traditional heterosexual roles – I asked whether we could open it up a bit and explore other roles and identities? Circus was liberating for me and I enjoyed the fact that there were no questions about sexuality or my identity – it was entirely focused on performance and the relationships you forge through that collaboration.
“Circus relates a lot to the gay experience – a lot of gay people do leave their community looking for their tribe – this is the same for circus performers. I feel I can go to any circus community in the country and I’ve found my tribe – similar to my experiences as a gay man”
Over the weekend audiences will be able to experience two new works from leading British circus artists – Sadiq Ali, Hauk Pattison and Laura Murphy. The main event on the Saturday night will feature a double bill of Sadiq and Hauk performing “The Chosen Haram” which is a newly commissioned work for the festival, and Laura performing “Contra” which is currently touring in Europe and was a highlight of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival.
Six new works from emerging artists will also be premiering on the Friday night in a special showcase event – hosted by international circus and burlesque star Velma Von Bon Bon – that will allow the performers to try out ground breaking and experimental performances with a focus on gender, sexuality and diversity in contemporary circus.
Workshops and a symposium of talks and discussions centred on contemporary circus arts will also take place over the weekend and a new outreach programme will give young LGBTQ+ people the opportunity to try aerial performance along with other circus skills before developing their own short pieces to show before a live audience in the week following the festival.
Barry Lenkov: “We are really looking forward to showcasing Circus in the city. District is a perfect location for our venue as I didn’t want the show to be in a sanitised environment such as a theatre. District is a space in between a theatre and a nightclub and getting that space really was part of the excitement and the challenge.”
For anyone interested in circus performance – whether fans of the art form or just those curious about what it involves – be sure to get your tickets to Cirqadia festival. This will be a series of events unlike anything seen before in the city and it’s doubly exciting for the Baltic Triangle to be home to such an innovative and spectacular event.
Cirqadia starts Friday 8th November and runs all weekend up to and including Sunday 10th November. More details and tickets can be found HERE.