After 2 consecutive years of training a variety of young people with disabilities, homeless youths and disadvantage young people to do circus skills with us, we’ve now had the opportunity to showcase the diversity of skills that they’ve been learning.
Within our group there are a few strongly committed people who want to be part of our show and are training hard to be able to perform from next year onwards, these people have had the chance to learn to do solo acts on silks and cocoon, as well as acro-balance, juggling, acrobatics and stilt walking which was all displayed in Trafalgar Square.
For some of these very nervous young people, it was their first opportunity to hang in the air with no safety other than their skill (or a crash-mat for one) and show that in spite of their difficulties they were able to confront their fears and insecurities and thrive as performers giving them a new insight into what they can achieve when continuing to work with us, apart of having their first pay cheque as performing circus artists, although some had had several payments already and international gigs too.
The Festival this year brought a lot of good acts from several companies, so the level was very high, it also made the technical equipment changes very challenging, but at the end of the day it was a great success; at every one of our performances the audiences gathered to see us, we had a lot of applause and positive feedback. It has motivated all of the participants to want to learn further and get creative with their skills.
We are now starting the recruitment for our Autumn/Winter program in which these old timers will continue training in the afternoons every Saturday, whilst the newly recruited youths will be with us training from 10am till 12,30 trying to get similar levels of skills, depending on how dedicated they become to be part of the group.
To eventually get the chance to all train together and create a show that we’ve aiming to showcase in June 2011 in Waltham Forest; in this show we will combine our skills with the creativity of Dr. Ju Gosling who will create the look and video projections, as well as having the sound track for the new show created by Drake Music and we’re trying to collaborate with disabled choreographers as to make the project a fully disability led but inclusive performance, that we might eventually get to tour as a street show in the UK and elsewhere.
Our group is now committed to this work, so besides the big creation, we will also create small scale show for smaller gigs, so that we can allow everyone to gain as many opportunities of employment as possible, as well as all the fun that means performing and touring in events as a group of performers together and showcase the humanity, sensitiveness and skill that our pupils have achieved.
We thought we’d be able to start our new program called “Astral” in February 2010. This then became March, but which eventually started in April. Due to funding restrictions the members of this new group would be of a much lower age range and would be trained and mentored by the original “Stellar” group members.
We have so far had three sessions in the old venue at Woolwich. On 1 May 2010 we had our last session there. We have prepared two venues with aerial rigging. One in Waltham forest (The Pastures Youth Centre) and another one in our borough of Haringey where we hold a 2 hour a week session as well.
We’ve received some good grants from Children in Need, Comic Relief and Haringey 2012. We are back trading and will slowly repay our debts with the incomes from workshops over the summer. We’re also creating a new show with both groups, which will be decorated and visually enhanced by the work of Disabled artist Ju Gosling.
We have several small contracts in Festivals in London, but Liberty doesn’t yet seem interested in our work. Thanks to this blog we’ve had attention from a TV production company that may make a documentary about what we do, (Thanks to our Editor Collin Hambrook) and so we’re back in business.
We will have a recruitment process over the next three weeks to see which of the young people are up for taking on the full year training program. We’ve also plans underway to continue until December...and so the adventures continue, so keep on reading!
It has been a very difficult winter, but they always say the third year of a company is the hardest, and this has been it!
We’re now also on Facebook with regular updates of pictures and video’s of our training, and the students are keeping a blog about their feeling about the work, which you can find on our website: www.cirquenova.com
I look forwards to writing a sequel to this soon. Cheers guys and keep in touch
In November 2009 we finished our first project of training young Disabled people, combining them with a second group of homeless youths. The interaction between the two groups was a great success.
We called the project ‘Stellar’ and afterwards produced a show that involved both the Colombian teachers and the students – some of whom ended up performing 70 feet in the air, suspended from a crane!
We were only able to showcase the project once at a Youth Centre in Leytonstone where we had been doing some paid work for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme with the young people there. This Centre is really under used and is quite beautiful.
As a result of using their grounds, the management of the Centre agreed that if we recruited a majority of users for our next project from within their Borough, we’d be able to use the Centre for free each Saturday.
In order to produce the show we relied on receiving a grant from the DLA which had been more or less been confirmed. This would pay for the showcase, so that our newly trained young people could perform as paid artists with our company, and also for a video of the show that we could sell afterwards.
Regrettably the grant was not paid to us as Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London decided to discard the whole program. As you can imagine, this left us with a large debt. However, with the hope that we could still receive funding we continued training our “Stellar” group until November.
In October we had problems with one of our Colombian teachers who left to join the Camden Roundhouse Circus Company. I underwent a seven and a half hour spinal operation to change several discs and other damage to the spine that was affecting my arms and feet. In November I started to feel even more unwell and was diagnosed as having skin cancer. As you can imagine, all of this was quite stressful for me.
In spite of all this my fellow director and I continued fundraising. We continued learning new skills, going to courses on the law for volunteering and employment, and learning about the Social Enterprise programme. This was useful as it kept my mind from dwelling on the aspects of my illness.
Unfortunately the problems with our Colombian teachers continued as we continued to recruit young people for 2010, and preparing the ground for the new project. Also what with the global financial crisis it seemed all very much doom and gloom!
The first showcase of Cirque Nova's Stellar - 19 September, 3pm at Pastures Youth Centre, Davis Lane, Leytonstone - Waltham Forest, London E11 3DR.
It is the first showcase of our group Stellar who have been training over 9 months to get to a good level of skills. They will be showcasing their work for an audience. 12 disabled people and 3 members of Centrepoint (homeless) combined with their teachers and other professional circus and dance artists, in a high altitude creation.
The event is free of charge but as we're a non-for-profit organisation all donations are welcome and we'd like adults to leave a minimum of £10 if possible.
Please pass the word, the more the merrier.
Cirque Nova Ltd.
a Non-For-Profit Organisation
Just a reminder that Cirque Nova Limited is holding a open Rehearsal of our show STELLAR as part of the Cultural Olympiad on Saturday 25 July from 11am - 5pm.
This rehearsal is to showcase the training that 12 people with disabilities and 3
young service users of CenterPoint have done over the last 7 months, and now have achieved enough level as to create this show combined with their teachers and other professional circus artists from Circus Space in London and from Circolombia In Cali Colombia, that we hope to feature over the summer 2010 in Festivals Nationwide.
You can also find out more about our projects on our newly updated website at www.cirquenova.com
This show will feature 4 aerialists doing harness, silks and bungee aerial work and acrobats, jugglers and stilt walkers representing the 5 cultures represented by the 5 rings of the Olympic Logo.
We will be recruiting people with disabilities to take part at our project for 2010 called Astral. For those wanting to have a try at circus skills and see if you
can take part in the Astral project, there will be no cost. But you do need to
book via email.
The Open Rehearsal will be held at the Hangar Arts Trust on Unit 7A, Mellish House, Woolwich, London SE18 5NR. The cost will be £5 per person; you can book by emailing us on firstname.lastname@example.org
We are still looking for support in kind, or financial to maintain these projects. If you know of anyone that can help do get in touch. We aim to reach a variety of groups with our work, from people with disabilities, to homeless and ex-offenders to showcase that circus touches and can reach all.
It has been nearly six months since we started training and gosh so much has happened. I was meant to keep a regular blog but that has somehow not happened, so am going to explain what we have been doing.
We started the Stellar training project at the end of January 2009. Our aim was to train a group of disabled people in a range of circus skills. We started our training at the Circus Space in central London. The venue was very nice, and the training was very accessible to everyone. The group came from all over London, the South East and from as far afield as Bristol. We worked for three months in the same venue, and got some great results.
One of our teachers Russell Jones who is a paediatrician and a pilates teacher, as well as a part time aerialist, used his knowledge of the human body to give all of the volunteers a personal training program to strengthen core muscle and improve their stamina - as well as learning to climb silks (large pieces of cloth that are used in performance).
Another teacher Francisco, got the group to learn a variety of juggling skills, from balls to poi’s, rings and Chinese silks. One of his greatest strengths has been his charm. The girls seem very attracted to his sessions. Fair enough if it works to get people coming I am all for it! I taught the group to tumble hanging from harnesses, making them swing in the air. They had to learn how to control their bodies upside down. This is difficult for some and requires a lot of mental strength, but most managed to do so successfully.
Thanks to our Facebook group we got several contacts that proved to be fruitful. In one weekend we were invited to perform for both the Beautiful Octopus Club and at a Circus Festival in Oslo. We got to the Beautiful Octopus Club in the afternoon to put our equipment up, and realised that we were short of rigging gear, which meant having to adapt our work. We had a late rehearsal that afternoon just before audiences started coming in. The gig went well and Penny Clapcott performed gloriously with Francisco, in an aerial and diablo love story performance. We had to wait till the club shut down before we could take our equipment down and head for the airport. We slept on the seats for three hours, before checking in for our flight to Oslo. We arrived at the venue; put Penny’s silks up again and did two rehearsals. No need to say that we were knackered, but the day wasn’t over yet. After the general rehearsal, the director insisted on inviting us for dinner to chat about our common projects. He worked his charm on both Penny and I!
Next day we had an early rise to go for a walk and visit the town centre. The temperature was minus 15 degrees centigrade and there was 3 feet of snow everywhere. So pushing the wheel chair was no easy feat! Still we had fun whilst being filmed by a crew that are reporting on our work. We then set off to the theatre and prepared for the show at 3pm. Penny’s act went down a storm and she had her first experience of working in a real circus environment, with fellow aerialists, jugglers, hula hoop artists, etc. It was great fun. We flew back to the UK immediately after the show to sleep for 15 hours!
The Circus Space where we were training was rented to us at a low rate, but with the condition that when there was a full price paying client, we had to move out. So by mid-March we realised that our income was dwindling and we had no real venue to work in. We managed to pull several strings, get some more funding, and a space in Woolwich. So we started the program again in April, after a break.
Everybody was enchanted by the new venue which was maybe less accessible, but higher for aerial work. It also gave us more equipment to work with, and had less restrictions - and so to date the group have loved it. We also finished a 12 week program that we had started with a production company that booked us to train homeless youths from Centrepoint. This was specifically for a series of 3 minute wonders documentaries for Channel 4 that will be shown on TV in June. These youths loved our work. And as we are an inclusive company and felt that these young people were dedicated, we offered them spaces on the ‘Stellar’ project.
We have also found some new teachers. Tina is teaching the group how to work with the silks to create cocoon like shapes. Francesca is teaching juggling and movement, whilst I am teaching how to work with bungees whilst tumbling and making summersaults in the air.
Francisco was teaching acrobatics but has had to leave the country due to work permit issues. So we are working on getting him a new permit to return. He has become a power of strength within the group and has a calm and sensitive way of teaching and reaching everyone.
We now have several challenges coming up. The Festival that we were originally performing at has gone bust, and so we have no venue to showcase our work. Liberty seems to have booked a different company for the circus skills this year...so we have to create our own event, and are hoping to raise enough money to do so on the last week end of August.
Also money is running short, and we have to cut down on teachers. We are now renting a globe as we don’t have the funds to buy our own one that is needed for the show (and that actually needs to be bigger than the one we train on). We are having costumes made and are going to start choreographing the work next weekend. So we have moved from the learning skills to the training and creation stage of the project.
We have a gig in which four of our volunteers will parade for the Tottenham festival on 20 June and we hope that other gigs will come up! We are now doing the bureaucratic work to become a charity so that raising funds will be easier. We take each step at a time, depending on small amounts of income to pay for the needed work. But what is most amazing to me is the commitment that the whole group have in coming as often as they can. They travel for miles to get to us taking up to 3 hours in the early mornings of what would normally be the weekend, to join us and learn, train and work hard. We all get on really well. They love the work and they give us great feedback.
The mother of one of the volunteers with Asperger’s wrote to me to thank me for the changes she sees in her son, who used to fear travelling to London from Kent and now every Saturday gets in the train and takes tubes and buses to reach us by himself. Another volunteers’ father mentioned he had noticed that she moved better and stood better upright. So the physical and mental changes are enormous. The group have set up a blog to exchange their stories with the world about their experience of training with us.
We are looking into the new program for 2010, hoping to make that project work more smoothly than this one, whilst the volunteers of this program continue training next year alongside 15 new recruits. We hope to make a video of the show in August, which will allow us to contact local authorities and festivals nationally and internationally. Some of our volunteers have really become total addicts to all things circus, and can’t wait to perform.
This story is going to continue, so look us up on Facebook and/or 3 minute wonders on Channel 4, look up our website that in June should go out as a totally accessible website with a new look, and if you want to join contact us via email on the website...
Get in touch if you are interested in joining us for the next series of training? You can either email me via email@example.com or contact us via http://www.cirquenova.com or http://www.myspace.com/cirque_nova
All the best JMA
Jean-Marie Akkermann of Cirque Nova has gone to Kenya. He is spending 5 days in Nairobi working with Dance4Life to set up a program of training for HIV+ children from an orphanage so that they can perform their own stories with newly acquired circus skills.
Excerpts from Jean-Marie's travel blog are published below. You can read the full entry on Travel Blog
...So on Monday, I had my last meetings with the people of D4L, had a couple of drinks with GianLuca, and on tuesday we set off early in the morning after a good Breakfast to Mombasa.
The bus was OK, not great, but it would do the job, we thought it be fast, but it actaully took us 8 hours with a 20 minute stop only for food to get down here, no aicon and I got a big mama sitting next to me, pocking me friendily at every village to let me know what tribe lives there, and to show me when something unusual showed up! Photograph of author and giraffe
We were travelleing on the high road from Nairobi to Mombasa, got to see giraffe, zebra, and some antelopes, as well as meerkats and baboons, but not enough of this all to make the journey worthwhile it was bloody hard going with no aircon nor fans and as we got closer to the coast the heat became heavier, humidity is huge, we were drenched in our t'shirts doing nothins, and the land scape was often and much of it monotonous Savanah, just low lying bushes, some times hills and many poor villages, incredibly in the most remote aeras where all one could see was a few straw shacks, at school exit time we still could see all these kids dressed in proper school uniforms and wondering where did they go to? As the school seemed really in the middle of nowhere...
We saw a few watering holes where women where filling cans and dragging them home to cook or wash, I imagine as we see on tv reports, and some children bathing in the water! so it made it worth seeing that that way of life really is not just in some areas out in the far away bush! nope it is actually the normal way of life of most people here, cattle raising local people of Kenya!
Once in Mombasa, we set off to find a hotel, all the very cheap ones too dodgy and the middle level ones mostly full or too expensive! we finally got somewhere for 1800 Kenyan shillings, which is about 15 quid, as the pounds has gone down and the exchange rate is now 120 to the 1 sterling! Nort so good for my small budget! but I'll survive!
One sorted, we had a beer and I called Kasena again ( I had tried calling on arrival but also before leaving nairobi, but the telehones here are a nightmare! unless one has a mobile phone which I havent got here!)
So we arranged for him to meet us today in the morning. We set off with another couple of Kenyans tring to9 make a buck out of us to find a restaurant, but it all seemed very expensive where being led to, we, or rather I as gianluca doesnt speak much English, made the kenyan guides aware that we're very well able to make our way alone, so we paid them a beer and told them to leave us be!
We set off to look for some sea food, but what we found was dissapointing, but we found several places to get beers at a variety of prices too, which was suprising as this place is really very Muslim - many veiled girls, and mosques and asian people.
What surprises us both is that we just don't see ANY tourists at all! if we see eight white people a day it is a lot! but that makes it even better to be honest! I am loving it here and yet again no troubles at all, although a guy got chased away from our restaurant as he tried to approach us! it seemed a bit aggressive!
This morning we were up and ready rather early, as the meeting with Kasena was at 9am, as he arrived we made our way by public transport again to his HIV/AIDs center and sat down to watch some young people rehearsing a play. I made a presentation to 25 young people of a variety of backgrounds, religion and sex and sexualities about my HIV status, about how difficult it was to come out as HIV+, and telling them about my project, before I started I looked for a few ropes, that I covered in an old t-shirt cloth, and hung it from the roof of the stage where the young people were rehearsing.
As I made my presentation I got onto the ropes and explained what kind of work we would be teaching them, how it would give them employment for the future, a new art-form to discover and a way to bring HIV awareness in deep kenya, traveling as a small local circus show! There was also a presentation from a girl from an American NGO. She is staying here till September 2009 to teach a variety of dances, from Ballet to contemporary and street dance. She made the link between circus and dance, the kids showed off their dance skills and asked the USA girl to dance a bit too. I had tears in my eyes, and feel really excited about all this, I have seen the faces of these 17- 22 year olds brightening up as I am present them with a new choice for life and they made me feel emotional and happy to try to do this for them! I just hope we can now get the money together for them.
They are clever kids, and asked very serious questions about insurance, security, and a gamut of issues that they worry about for the future! Also questions about my HIV status, my drug regime, etc. so it was really a good afternoon! I am not putting the pictures on now, as I want to enjoy some sunshine and beach now. I am stinking of sweat after doing my aerial tricks and teaching them some moves on the improvised ropes, and need a good bit of sunshine now! Photograph of elephants
Tomorrow we will probably rent a car to go to a nature reserve to see the big 5! also maninly an elephant reserve with a beach as well, and then the day after we will be heading more north to go scuba diving! So from tomorrow on the real holiday begins! Today my last duty as director of Cirque Nova has been done.
Mombasa seems less a big city although more chaotic and more traffic! the humidity is incredibly heavy! There is more poverty and crime! Drug use rates seem to be high due to many italins coming here on holiday and expecting to find a market in heroine, which there is and which has increased the HIV infections through needle use! so the HIV problems are different in diverse areas. Many gay Italian men seem to come to coastal areas for male prostitution! Malindi seems to be a big italian area, they call it little Italy in Kenya and apparently the locals speak more Italina than English!
First the good news! no diahorrhea! then more good news, had a good day... So what can I say...first and foremost! I HAVE NEVER in my travels felt so little harrassed, threatened in any way, or have had anyone try to get more money from me, as from anyone else, some places have prices for locals end prices for tourist! Fair enough but on matatus, pubs, restaurants, not a single person has tried to rip me off! I feel safe! I feel welcome! the people smile and say Jambo every where! I was fearing the worst! I have had the best and easiest ride of any of my travels yet!
... so all in all I've had three meetings with Dance4Life and USAID over two days and it sounds as there is much chance that this project might be worked on to try and bring it to realisation! Circus is a totaly unknown art-form in Kenya, so it'll be a double challenge!
Any way, on Saturday, as I was free all day, I decided to go and explore, so I set of by matatu to Carnivore, which is a very famous restaurant 10k out of nairobi where you pay a fee and eat as much meat as you want. It used to be bush meats, but that is now outlawed, so the wildest thing on the menu was crocodile and ostridge! but all the other meats where nicely BBQ'ed and succulent, with many sauces, desert, salads, jacket potatoes, and juices included in the price! Is expensive for kenya prices about 10 pound sterling, it was worth it, very ambientfull.
I met a couple of guys who are working for the mexican embassy developing an international computer program for passport control. They will be travelling for 6 months around the world to set it up, and as they were looking for someone to take their pic at the restaurant I offered and we ended up talking, Spanish obviously... they had all their expenses and transport paid for and their next destination was same as mine 'Bomas' which is a circus like building, where kenyan traditional dances get displayed, and also the typical Kenyan acrobats! The mexicans offered me a lift, giving the driver the excuse that I was another embassy staff member. And so I got a free ride in private van with them.
Bomas was actually rather good and a perfect space for us to showcase our work if ever Cirque Nova gets developed here in Kenya. So I spoke to the manager, and exchanged cards. He wants me to write to him about the project to see where it goes. But...to my surprise, I found out in my meeting with the Nairobi Dance4life person that the event at which I will be performing with Penny on the 29th November, will be a live internet show on D4L, where all the countries of this organisation will be linked by internet and TV to showcase the shows of each country and the one in Kenya will be actually performed at Bomas, so they are already in contact with this organisation, and envisage our opening night for VIP's to happen in the very building, if and when our show with HIV+ Kenyan kids are finally ready to be showcased!.... What is good about it, is that the actual kids who will take part in the kenya project will actually see my performance live on giant screen in Nairobi, and we will get to see their dance show! as well as all the other country events!!! Sounds cool to me!
It had rained very strongly during the show at Bomas and the roads were really wet! The weather is much cooler than I expected. The level of humidity is not as high either, in the evenings/nights it tends to clowd over and get really chilly at night! one needs a long sleeve tshirt in the morning. apart from that, day times are sunny and warm but I see no sign of mosquitoes, and apparently the malaria rates here are alsmost non-existant!
The city is getting to me now, am a bit bored, I have also started chatting to this gorgeous Italian man, Gianlucca, who arrived here with no cash, and got himself to the hotel just with what he had in his pocket, to find that his bank card maestro is not accepted here in Kenya, and as he arrived same day as myself, he got stuck with no money, no food, nothing for 3 days as it was a bank holiday! his luck was that the staff of the hotel kind of adopted him and paid his hotel bill for him, his food, his water and even beers!
There was no one to meet me from the airport, which I expected. I got into town by public bus. It was OK, took about an hour, but thought it would take longer. I was politely told where to get off, after passing the poorest areas one can imagine. I got off walked 5 minutes to find my hotel, which had a room at about a tenner a night. It is clean and the lonely planet says it is safe.
Wo - the security lad on night shift was very friendly. I was touched by his concern. He asked if I could bring my project to his village. He says most NGO's concentrate on the slums of Nairobi and Mombasa, but they forget about the small towns, which is why there is such a huge migration of people with HIV to the big cities! Photograph of city
It is a holiday today so many shops are closed, the streets were rather empty and it was chilly and cloudy on arrival. Now it's about 30 degrees centigrade and very hot and sunny. There are lots of people on the streets as I am discovering, all my goods hidden in different pockets. But I feel much safer than I thought I would.
So I set off to see the city. I got to the area around River road, where the backpackers stay and in where the guidebook says to be really carefull with bags. I must say it was incredibly busy and by now getting really warm! I got all the way down to Halllie Selasi road, where the station is and all the matatus (local vans that carry people around which pick up from anywhere for a set price!) going to the neighbourhoods, with the drivers hitting their horns and the guys trying to incite people!
...I am looking for a Nyama Choma restaurant, as they are where the locals eat their bbq'ed meat. I asked a guard, (as all shops are heavily guarded) and just opposite, with a tiny sign he told me just go up stairs, so I did, third floor and a young lady with a very ill looking hand and his healthy looking baby selling fruit juices, and then besides it, what looked like what should have been the toilet if the building had been finished. Instead there are empty squares, besides which stands a tent, with chairs and a grill with beef and goat meat. People are eating and I get a stage stare! as if to ask 'what the hell is he doing here?'
I was asked, 'do you want to eat here? Tourists never come to eat here.You know what we eat. so I said yes 'Nyama Choma' I just sat down smiled and said if it is good for you, it is good for me! The waitress laughed. I washed my hands from a large container with a tap at the bottom where I saw the locals do the same, and by the time I sat close to the grill and got a plate with a large amount of thick paste - 'ugali' is its name and it tastes of nothing, but then they give you thinly sliced tomatoes, which I shouldn't eat as they get washed with tap water, and could give me diahorrhea. It is accompanied by a green cabbage-like vegetable that is boiled and tastes quiet nice! When I finished I paid 100 shillings for a vast amount of food, which is really a pittance! I went over to the fruit lady and she asked me about my meal, I said I had loved it which I genuinly had. She served me a fruit salad that she was cutting right there and if you saw the water bucket in which the dishes got washed you would have run a mile! I didnt... as she asked me in, a skinny man (I suspect very ill with AIDS) was waiting with his 4 year old girl. So I bought them one each, and got one myself, watermelon, papaya, banana, avocado, and passion fruit sooo yummy! They were 30 shillings each! When I set off the woman said, come any time we like tourist like you here. You are not afraid of Africans! Thank you...so I left with a huge smile and feeling really full.
I went back to my room and fell asleep at around 8pm, it was very noisy, I had not seen a single mosquito, but still I got under the net, it was heavily hot! my alarm went at midnight which is the equivalent to 10pm english time, when I take my HIV pills, my feet were sore, I was really tired, but slept well in spite of the noise!
any way, Jambo is hello in Swahili and Kwa Heri is good bye. hugs to all Jean-Marie