"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving"
- Albert Einstein.
"You know, Lucy, life is just too damn short!" exclaimed my 92 year old father on Christmas Day. He enjoys rude health and wasn't being maudlin, but rather spoke in thrall to one of the best lunches we've ever had. Thanks to Jamie Oliver, our goose was well and truly cooked - and shredded! - with a scattering of pomegranate seeds over the gravy to tart up the bird. Here's the thing though, life does go quickly. At break-neck speed even. As Dad used to explain to a temperamental teenager, life is like a roller-coaster; there's no point taking the highs, or the lows, too seriously, as you can bet your bottom dollar a reversal of fortune is waiting just around the corner. And we can choose to ignore, or embrace, the inner clock that's ticking, sprung with a mortal coil. That awareness, for me, is the momentum that propels me out of bed every morning. Well, it's not rocket science, is it Einstein?!
But, just for a moment, I would like to pause and take stock of this blog, 56 posts on, that's been going for six or seven months, because it is early January after all. A time for reflection, when we take stock of our mettle and forge new resolutions.
Looking back over 2014
The Story So Far
My circus year began in February actually, with our first ever family outing to see the Cirque de Soleil's sublimely beautiful Quidam at the Royal Albert Hall for a birthday treat. Then in March, I encouraged a dozen girlfriends to come along to a circus experience afternoon at the National Centre for Circus Arts, aka Circus Space, in Hoxton. It was just meant to be a bit of fun, with some cocktails and all that jazz, at the Nightjar round the corner afterwards. But, on the back of that, myself and my good friend Anne found ourselves signing up for classes the following term - Anne in acrobalance (which included handstands and tumbling) and me in beginners' aerial (rope, flying and static trapeze). So excited, but aware that not everyone in my own little world would share that interest, I looked for a space to vent my new found passion, and thought a blog charting the (mis)adventures of a mother of three at circus school would be a good place to begin. Only I quickly found that there are only so many ways to describe the thrill of climbing up and down a rope without tying yourself in knots, while there was an inexhaustible supply of circus happening all around. I began to see #circuseverywhere and here was the space to talk about it.
As I found my voice, coincidences started happening. A chance conversation with photographer who had a friend in a show at Jacksons Lane (see website: www.jacksonslane.org.uk), kick-started my love affair with a theatre that supports and showcases the cutting edge of contemporary circus, and is, crucially for me, accessible on the Northern Line. Then there was the ice guide who doubles as a children's story-teller and wants to bring circus in on the act. The stranger on South Bank tuning in to the word "circus" whose father trained as a catcher in a Big Top and introduced me to the wealth of circus imagery on Pinterest. The visitor over from the US sitting next to me at The Globe who enthused about Zippo's Circus, being an old friend of Zippo's father-in-law - "some may say their son-in-law is a real clown, his actually is". And the number of friends who tell me "Oh circus, well of course, you know Nell Gifford of Giffords Circus, magical …" Everyone has their story to tell. And I'm loving listening to them.
And then there's Twitter. A great way to connect. I have to confess that launching this blog from a Twitter platform in May has been as terrifying as stepping off a trapeze platform. And like trapeze, once I'd done it a good few times I wondered what the fuss was all about. Twitter has been absolutely integral to establishing this connection with circus lovers, circus performers, musicians, writers, poets, dreamers and pragmatists. People can connect if they want to and disappear if it's not their bag, so I never feel like I'm imposing. It's heaven really, and my world has exploded exponentially with a fair few adventures along the way:
Circus Highlights of 2014
Click on the names in bold to go direct to the corresponding post
Discovering Gandini Juggling performing at this year's circus-themed Camp Bestival made the whole family smile, as did The Party at Jacksons Lane, while the musical Barnum, again! was a familiar friend. The fiery Midnight's Circus by Aircraft Circus sparked my husband's interest and brought him over to the dark side, thanks guys, while The Great Spavaldos was an astonishing, virtual, but oh so real, circus experience.
And then there were three shows that I went to in a group of friends that got the party started after: the cocktales served up by Boylexe slipped down a treat, Crashmat Collective's dinner where the waiters were performers was a feast for all the senses, and the cabaret La Soirée is still on until 11th January, so I won't say anything more beyond "Go See!" if you can.
Meanwhile Finnish aerialist Ilona Jantti was like a wood sprite glimpsed in the glade in Highgate, and the family's gift to me of a pendant whose design is rooted in Finnish folklore is both coincidence and a talisman for the New Year, an ever-present reminder that life really can be a walk in the park when you take time out to reflect.
Looking ahead to 2015
What would you like to achieve this year?
So when we were sitting round the kitchen table with friends on New Year's Day and the question arose: what one thing would you like to achieve in the coming year that you are not doing already?
My answer is this: I would like to perform a rehearsed routine by the end of the year. In front of an audience. Without apologising.
With that in mind, I'll be back at Circus Space next week. This term, I'm sticking with Level 2 Static Trapeze, and taking on Level 1 Equilibristics, which comprises lessons on tight wire, unicycle, globe walking and rolla bolla (the plank over the cylinder). I'd also like to drop in on local Flying Fantastic with a friend, after their fabulous Scratch Night (click here), but lessons book up quickly and we've already missed the boat for January. You can't win them all!
Circus coming up in January 2015
click on name in bold for link to more information
So tomorrow we are watching Proteus' Theatre's Rapunzel on tour, conveniently down the road from my parents, and on the penultimate night of the school holidays we are back in London watching Russian clowns in Slava's Snowshow. At the end of the month NoFit State's "Noodles", also on tour, is coming to Jacksons' Lane in London via Worthing.
The London International Mime Festival (LIMF) is kicking off this month 8-31 January see www.mimelondon.com, and the world of ballet and juggling meet (but don't collide!) in Gandini's 4x4 Ephemeral Architecture next week (13-15 January). I am also very much looking forward to reading Thomas J Wilson's book on Gandini Juggling when it comes out this year, a real labour of love.
The places I regularly check for the latest on circus news and spectaculars are:
Circus Space: www.nationalcircus.org.uk
This Is Cabaret: www.thisiscabaret.com
Circus Diaries: www.thecircusdiaries.com
Jacksons Lane: www.jacksonslane.org.uk
A New Year's Wish-List
Finally, they say if you throw out your wishes to the universe, it always finds a way to answer. So, here go a few of my unresolved desires:
The Aeronaut, in Acton: A group outing on a Friday or Saturday night, those being the circus nights, followed by DJs. Not only has it been personally recommended by someone I rate (Julia!), all the snippets of action they broadcast look so much fun. And did I mention I have a birthday coming up?! www.aeronaut.pub
Barely Methodical Troupe's "Bromance": Winner of the Total Theatre and Jacksons Lane Award for Circus at Edinburgh this summer and opening the LIMF this week (8-10 Jan), but I can't make it, dammit! Click here for tickets.
Madame Jojo's: Forced to close - see article. RIP. Will someone please give her the kiss of life?!
At the end of the day, life is a roller-coasting circus and whether we soar or take a tumble, here's to juggling, clowning around, and managing the balancing act as best we can in 2015. Happy New Year Folks!