Skip to Main Content

Established as a charity in 2019, Handstand Arts, builds on the legacy of Circus City.

Since its inception Circus City has reached 15,000+ beneficiaries, across 272 performances, activities & events.

We have worked with 154 artists made up of emerging local talent (35%), national (40%) and international companies (25%) bringing unique experiences to the people of Bristol and beyond.

Each year we provide work for an average of 30 freelance creatives ranging from Producers and Production to Marketing and Artist Liaison roles. We provide entry level roles for those looking to build their careers in the arts and annually benefit from an est. 180 hrs of volunteer support.

Our Programme

We support and showcase world and UK premieres e.g. ‘Tess’ (Ockham’s Razor’s innovative adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s well-known novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles). Tess received widespread critical acclaim and transferred to Saddlers’ Wells: “Full of joy, wonder and delight, a highly original interpretation.” Review, The Guardian ★★★★.

We present exceptional European shows for UK audiences; e.g. ‘Noise Juice’ (Finland) and ‘Sawdust Symphony’ (Netherlands), Materia (Germany) and Only Bones (USA) in 2023.

Sector Support

Handstand Arts provides essential resources for professionals in the circus and performance sector. We offer commissions, scratch platforms, peer support, as well as guidance through networking opportunities, mentoring, and producer surgeries. Our CC 2021 programme included responsive sessions on safeguarding and workers’ rights in circus and a two-day workshop on co-creation led by Commonwealth Theatre. CC 2023 included a national sector support meet-up, ‘Circus Change-Up’; a youth circus conference called ‘Circus Works’; and an audio description workshop for artists – ‘Tell Me What You Are Doing’, led by Quiplash. We also programme professional skills workshops.

96% of artists surveyed after our festival fed-back that their experience was very good or beyond their expectation. Many artists identified the importance of seeing each other’s work as essential for developing their own as well as to feel connected and supported within the sector.

We inspire local artists and workforce providing free and low cost talks, Q&As, workshops, master classes as well as performance opportunities working with local arts organisations, dance and youth groups and education and training centres.

Artist Development

We invest in emerging artists by presenting work in progress (e.g. Ruby Burges & Charles Brockbank’s Double Bill Tongue & Cheek, Olga – Period Drama) and by collaborating on sharing platforms such as Volt with Circomedia (the only one of its kind in the SW). We create commissioning opportunities and collaborate with partners to support the creation of new work.

Celebrating Diversity on Stage

Our work celebrates and champions disabled-led, queer and neurodivergent work ensuring our work is relatable and raises visibility of marginalised voices and stories. This includes presenting work from ‘Scottee and Friends’, Livia Kojo Alour (Black Sheep) and Laura Murphy (A Spectacle Of Herself and Contra) whose work celebrates and explores different perspectives and challenges dominant portrayals of power, beauty and what is normal on stage. In 2023, 26% of our programme was disabled-led with 44% of artists identify as Neurodivers


We take performance out of traditional venues i.e. PUBLIC (2023) featuring a graduate company of 10 young acrobats, dancers, climbers, and parkour artists. Joined by 6 local young people 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 shopping centre architecture as their playground for an audience of 600.

Who We Reach

Our work has been successful in attracting increasingly diverse audiences following increased capacity and planning to make our work more accessible. Monitoring across 2023 showed, of our audiences, 44% were under 35 years old, 12% D/deaf and Disabled, 27% Neurodiverse, 12% from the Global Majority community, and 30% LGBTQ+.

How You Can Support Us

We are a small Charity with a big impact. Our core costs are minimal and the majority of our income, whether earned or charitable, is spent directly on artistic outcomes. We rely on the generous support of organisations, companies and individuals who support us through one off or regular contributions to match fund our activities.

We are in the process of reviewing how people can donate online towards the charity however if you wish to support our ongoing work we suggest that you consider purchasing one of our T-Shirts as part of our current fundraiser.

If you wish to discus becoming a Patron, Sponsor or Major Donor please get in touch with our Executive Director: rhiannon (@)

  • What makes Circus City unique is that they strive towards building connections with the local artists and communities that are deep rooted and genuine but throughout the years they have developed very strong relationships with the wider European circus industry. This provides excellent opportunities for locally sourced and nourished work to be promoted at a wider industry level

    Artist Feedback, Respond Commissions 2021
  • I’d recommend it to anyone. Theatre that overcomes language and borders. Wherever and whoever you are, you will find awe, joy, and curiosity here

    Audience Feedback, Sawdust Symphony 2023
  • Circus City immersed me in a world where ideas … took flight and went in directions I could have never guessed. I’ve realised how important it is to protect ideas because you never know how amazing these might become

    Volunteer Feedback 2023
  • The support of Circus City is really important for the development of our show Tess […] It’s a really big technical show. The support of the festival has meant that we have the time and the space to play and perfect and finish it

    Ockhams Razor 2023)
  • As a queer non-binary person I deeply related to a lot of what you communicated & appreciated the normalising and relatable nature in which you presented it

    Audience Feedback, 2023
  • Circus City is a great one-of-a-kind festival hosting amazing unique work, such a privilege to be able to visit

    Audience Feedback 2023
  • I felt the focus on accessibility was something that I haven’t experienced at such a high level in other festivals I have participated in; I also loved the communication between artist and organisers; at every step of the festival I felt very well taken care of!

    Artist Feedback 2023