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Circus City Bristol

Bristol Life Awards Finalist

We are excited to announce that we have been selected as a Finalist for this year’s Bristol Life Awards for Best Event for Circus City.

2023 saw Handstand Arts present the 5th edition of Circus City – The Outsider Edition; and introduce a new Artistic Director, Nicole A’Court-Stuart. The Outsider Edition brought everything from research-driven performance-making (Darragh McCloughlin’s Stickman, Tom Cassani’s A Show of Hands & Iterations); striking queer and neurodiverse and black led solo shows (Laura Murphy’s A Spectacle of Herself, Livia Kojo Alour’s Black Sheep), to pink punk gig-circus (Muovipussi’s Noise Juice), mind-bending physical storytelling and spectacle (Sawdust Symphony, Andrea Salustri’s Materia, Marina Cherry’s Only Bones) and retellings of classical literature (Ockham’s Razor’s Tess).

    It included shows for young people and families with fire, music and mayhem (Tit For Tat’s BOOKS!, Whispering Woods The Shape of Belonging and Oh No George!) and presentations of brand new work in the making (Volt, Ruby & Charles):

    “Circus city is the only dedicated circus festival in the UK which seems truly dedicated to bringing NEW and exciting contemporary circus to the uk. Lots of other festivals in the UK all programme the same stuff over and over again”  Artist Feedback – CC2023

    July 2023 also saw us present our first large-scale event outside of our festival presenting PUBLIC in Broadmead Shopping Centre featuring a graduate company of 10 young acrobats, dancers, climbers, and parkour artists. Supported by a cohort of local youth dance and circus performers they challenged the marginalised position of young people in public spaces and brought the spirit of Bristol as a city of circus to the forefront by using the city’s architecture as their playground for an audience of 500 people.

    For 2023 we set out with a mission to present our largest festival yet. Across the programme we engaged 3631 people (67% increase on our 2021 programme and 20% increase on pre-Covid audiences in 2019). We presented 67 artists from 17 companies – 30% of which were local and 29% international. We created paid work for 78 freelancers and opportunities for 27 volunteers to experience the arts.

    We also set a precedent to make this our most accessible festival to date having secured funds to explore new creative access provision and work with UK and international performers to make live performance more inclusive. The impact of this is demonstratable in our audience make up which included 44% under 35 years old; 12% D/deaf and disabled; 27% neurodiverse; and 30% LGBTQ.

    “[E]ach event was so accessible, we had BSL translators by the side of the showings, full trigger warnings prior and the pieces were so inclusive. I work mostly in the Dutch circus scene, and it really isn’t the same at all.”. Artist Feedback CC23

    Finally – we set out to make a high-quality festival that Bristol could be proud of, where audiences and participants could be inspired and find moments of awe and joy. Of more than 250 people survey, 94% of our audiences rated their experience as good or excellent.  

    “Circus City is a great one of a kind festival hosting amazing unique work, such a privilege to be able to visit” Audience Feedback – CC2023

    Bristol Life Award winners will be announced on Wednesday 27th March. Find out more here: 2024 Finalists – Bristol Life Awards