Circus 250

Circus 250 celebrates the birth of Circus right here in the UK 250 years ago.

It all happened on an abandoned patch of land near London’s Waterloo, showman, entrepreneur and equestrian rider Philip Astley drew out a circle in the ground and filled it with astounding physical acts. This spectacle was the world’s very first circus. It was 1768, a time of revolutions, and poet William Blake could have been one of Astley’s first customers. But the real revolution Astley created was a whole new art form. His 42 foot ring, the dazzling combination of jugglers, acrobats, clowns, strong men, bareback riders… Every circus, anywhere, began at this moment in 1768.

250 years later, circus is a worldwide phenomenon. There’s barely an art form that isn’t touched by it – from Sir Peter Blake’s circus collages to cutting edge performance art. Every schoolchild can tell you what a circus is. Many of us would secretly like to run away and join one.

The anniversary of this most pervasive, popular, born-in-Britain art form will be marked in 2018 by a UK-wide celebration. Museums, filmmakers, designers, theatres, orchestras, schools, libraries and circuses will all join in – circus is everywhere and for everyone.

Circus250 is about enabling pioneering work, forging new partnerships, building new audiences and embedding circus at the heart of our culture – in the ground-breaking spirit of Astley.

Below are a list of events being held in Bristol as part of #circus250 which will be updated throughout the year.

As part of Circus250 and 32 years after the first professional circus school opened in the UK, in Bristol, we are announcing the launch of the Richard Award for Circus Arts – the first circus award in the UK.
The award has been conceived to commemorate and pay tribute to Richard Ward, the founder of Fool Time, Centre for Circus Skills and Performing Arts and the pioneer of professional circus training in the UK. Fool Time opened on 1 April 1986 in a converted church hall in St Pauls, Bristol and was operational from 1986 to 1993, later re-forming and re-launching as Circomedia in 1994.
The award will invite applicants who have trained in the circus arts at any of Bristol’s training centres. Seven acts will be shortlisted from the applicants, all of whom will perform to a public audience at Circomedia on 10 November 2018 – the final event in Bristol’s Circus 250 Calender.
The award has been developed by Audrey Michel, co-Founder and co-Director of Fool Time 1986-1993,Helen Crocker, co-Founder and co-Director of Circomedia 1994-2010 and Janine McCretton, former Fool Time student and performer.
Audrey said: “we are really excited to launch the award and to celebrate Bristol’s immense circus heritage in both training and performance. Both Fool Time and Circomedia attract students from all over the world and the Circus City has a reputation for physical performance creativity, training
excellence and innovation. None of this would have been possible without the trail-blazing efforts of Richard Ward. Sadly Richard is no longer with us to see how his legacy has become part of defining Bristol’s rich culture so this award will not only recognise his achievement but commemorate the man who changed so much for so many.”
Hundreds of professional and community circus clubs, centres and schools can now be found all over the UK supported by significant Arts Council investment. Contemporary circus has developed as an art form and is an integral part of UK culture. Applicants for the Award apply via the Richard Award website

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