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NICA Exchange

At the start of 2002, the Belfast Community Circus School started one of its most longest-running and successful projects. The school planned a performance of the Youth Circus playing in the Waterfront Hall as part of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s in November 2002 and took five Youth Circus participants to the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne, Australia, to train for two weeks in July 2002. These five teenagers were instrumental in assisting the Belfast Circus tutor team in teaching the new skills they had gained at NICA. Two world class Australian circus trainers from Lunar Circus also helped teach an intense two month training programme for some 90 members of the Central Youth Circus run by Belfast Community Circus. This training programme built towards the production of Ireland’s most ambitious circus theatre work to date, Circus of Wonders – featuring a cast of forty members of the Youth Circus and eight professional performers.

Circus of Wonders was made possible through the generous support of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Lottery Funds and the invaluable support of the Northern Bank.

In June 2003 six Youth Circus participants and three of our circus tutors returned to NICA to improve their skill level and teaching abilities. Ian Hall, youth circus director at the time, stated: “The teenagers who get this opportunity not only gain valuable skills but they bring them back to share with the rest of the circus which benefits the community at large.”

And the Belfast Circus School did benefit from the skills gained at NICA. Stephen Burton, trainer and director at Australia’s National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne, met our Youth Circus participants in June 2003 and was so impressed he agreed to direct Urban Circus, a production which included a cast of thirty young people from Belfast Community Circus School’s youth circus, alongside 4 local professional circus performers and which was part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival at the NTL studio at the Waterfront Hall in May 2004. This show was made possible by funding from British Council, Northern Bank (part of The National Australia Bank Group) and The Arts Council Lotteries Fund.