Our project coordinator recently spoke to Ellie Kate Edwards about her background in Circus and her plans for a new Circus School and festival events in Penarth.
Hi Ellie you have a background in training with Circomedia and No Fit State Circus. Is it possible to give our readers some background information on yourself?
Yes, I am from a little village In Caerphilly. I spent most of my childhood around horses and adventuring in the mountains. I loved dance and music. I was inspired by circus when I saw NoFit State’s ‘Immortal’ in Barry. It was the start of my obsession with circus. At the time I was studying social work and left the course to follow my passion. I started training in the South of Spain with a beautiful travelling community. They had an aerial rig in the most idyllic setting. I would train all day long getting blinded by the sun . I used to love looking at the sky line of the mountains while I was upside down. It was there that I decided to follow circus as a career and returned to study in Bristol.
Photographic Credit Paul Ripley
Thanks, was there a moment when you thought, “this is the career for me?”
Absolutely, it’s an incredibly demanding and competitive career. I sometimes I think it must be very nice to have a fixed contract, paid holidays and some security in your work. Having said that I love circus and I would feel totally at a loss without it. I have put countless hours into my passion and when you put so much love and work into something it becomes part of you. I wouldn’t want to change that.
Are there any individuals or organisations that helped support you once you realised a career in circus was for you?
I have had a huge support from Nofit State all the way through my career. From helping with audition pieces, a traineeship and guidance with new circus ventures. There has always been someone from NoFit State with the right bit of support at exactly the right moment.
Awareness of circus as an art form is growing, organisations like No Fit State are leading the way in circus across the world. In your opinion what is need to help the art form develop?
Circus is at a very exciting time in its development, It will be very interesting to see which directions it will take. When we train in circus schools we are allowed a period of time where we can be very creative and inquisitive with circus as a new art form, we can develop our skills as individuals find the material which is unique to each circus performer within their discipline and so prevent ever trapeze artist from performing the same routine.
Once we leave circus schools we very quickly learn that the opportunity for this creative exploration is limited and to make a career in circus we very quickly have to produce the work which is in demand. If we could access funding we could return to this with time to collaborations with other circus performers and artists from different art forms. We could again explore the opportunities to make circus political and find the possibilities for progression. There are a lot of possibilities and avenues to be explored still but circus performers and directors need to time and resources to research. I have recently started to put on circus events in my local area. I am finding that there are many venues who want to have circus shows in there venue as it reaches a large and diverse audience. The problem is it costs a lot of money to bring circus shows to venues and so it can only happen if the venue, company or a combination are prepared to take big financial risks. Opportunities to find match funding or funding to help venues set us as a circus venue could help this to happen.
Photographic Credit Ineptgravity Photography.
You frequently support workshop activity with members of the public, do you think this type of activity is important and why?
Circus has always been a temporary moment of magic which would bring communities together to share the experience. Although the tent would get packed away and the circus would leave it would leave behind a mark and memories on a landscape. I think that re engaging with this shared creative energy which brings communities together can only be a positive thing. I love how accessible circus is. There is something for everyone. It is a joy full activity to learn with constant challenges but also many small victories along the way. To begin with it is subtly physical and great for our physical and mental wellbeing. It teaches children to support and look after each other and allows adults to connect and get stronger and fitter but through a creative medium.
What are the opportunities for those interested in circus in Wales?
You are lucky to live in Wales! The opportunities are vast. No Fit state run a full program of classes for adults and young people in Cardiff the community there is vibrant supportive and addictive. You can also check out the opportunities for circus in other areas of Wales. There are many established community circuses offering training in different areas around Wales.
Photographic Credit Thomas Madhavan.
Elaine Bennett Co-founder of Penarth Circus and myself are so passionate about circus we would like to bring it to our doors steps. So we have started Circus Penarth. Over the summer we will be putting on workshops at many events and also we will be bringing some spectacular performances to Penarth Pier and other Vale of Glamorgan venues. We are hoping to start classes in Penarth over the winter.
That sounds great! If you were in charge of funding the arts in Wales what would be your priorities?
I would priorities bringing arts to vulnerable communities who could benefit from creativity. I think art can be used as a tool for empowerment and progress so why not channel it to communities who need this. Having gained so much from the support of NoFit State Circus I would love to see the community in Cardiff continue to develop so they can keep giving this support to other people. I would definitely prioritise keeping this community in Cardiff and finding them a permanent community space. I would make the opportunities for funding more transparent and accessible to artists who are starting out and I would put a lot of energy in to keeping artists working as artists.
When you aren’t performing what do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to climb mountains, paddle in the sea and watch my little boy grow up very quickly. I love playing the piano accordion and currently I enjoy spending lots of my free time on Penarth Pier.
You are involved in some summer events at Penarth Pier can we know more?
Yes. We are organising and event called Y Môr – Bygones of Penarth, It will be performed in and around Penarth Pavilion on the 30th of July. The event will involve local creative communities who will be supported by a professional cast and directed by Olga Ina Morati. We hope to bring the pier and pavilion to life in an immersive promenade performance recreating memories from Penarth pier through different points in history.
Over the summer we will also be performing and facilitating workshops at different Penarth events and festivals. Every Saturday in August we will be organising different circus and theatre acts as well as street shows to perform on the pier. We will keep you updated with our performances and visiting acts on our Penarth Circus Facebook page.
How do we get involved in your circus projects?
We are looking for community members who are interested in sharing their memories of Penarth Pier for Y Mor – Bygones of Penarth and also any creative individuals or groups who would like to get involved in the evenings events. If you are interested please contact us on; firstname.lastname@example.org or through our Facebook page.
Sounds great, many thanks for your time