Sunday, 3 May 2015

Chapter 75: Canvas 2015 - An Introduction

Canvas 2015 kicks off at Jacksons Lane
If you are on any form of social media with me, I’m sure you will have registered my excitement about Canvas 2015. But what, where, why exactly?

Canvas is a visionary showcase of the best and brightest in contemporary circus - we’re talking about encountering around 80 shows in three days, with the opportunity to see three full length productions and cabaret at the end, a number of excerpts from tour-ready shows and presentations of works in progress. Such an undertaking has only happened once before in 2013, then under the banner of Circus Now, the name change since underscoring the philosophy of bringing a broad umbrella of work into a central circus space.

Canvas took place in a variety of venues that comprise the City Circ network supporting the development of circus arts: Jacksons Lane, The Roundhouse, the Arts Depot , the National Centre for Circus Arts and The Albany (click on the names to access their sites). Essentially Canvas is a marketplace for buyers and sellers, but thanks to the organisation of Flora Herberich, supported by François Bourdil and team, Canvas had the familar, relaxed feel of a festival - a space to share, connect, spark and engage.

Why on earth was I there? I had been aware Canvas was happening for a while, but with the marketing directed at potential investors - that is to say producers and programmers - with the best will in the world it was not a place for amateur bloggers, up there with gossip columnists in general perception (I assumed). 

So when Flora, who I’ve met at various events over the past six months, emailed me to see if I would be interested in coming along, I was both very touched and thrilled at the opportunity. I also questioned how I could, to use old accountancy buzz-speak, add value and justify my presence there. After all, this blog started out as a letter to a friend and an experiment to document the journey of a mature(?!) student starting out at circus school and to see how far I could get, as much in writing as along a rope. Then I brought shows into the equation, but still in the context of my own personal (Miss)adventure. So this blog, more than a series of circus snapshots, is rather a column of selfies with words. Shudder. For all that, though, I am in a position to see a fair amount of circus, meet people and bear witness to the exciting times in which we are living. The contemporary circus culture has been gaining momentum over the past couple of decades, for sure, but it really feels that there has been a dramatic explosion in the past couple of years.

While this may often slip under the radar of the broadsheets and general press, on-line there are bona fide specialist reviewers who have been charting this development for a number of years and are developing a specific lexicon for reviewing circus. The ones at Canvas were Kate Kavanagh, who writes The Circus Diaries: A Critical Exploration of the Circus World, John Ellingsworth who set up and runs Sideshow the go-to online circus periodical, and Tessa Overbeek from the Dutch website circuspunt. If you are in the world of circus you will already know them well, but if not check them out.

Meanwhile this is my starter for ten. Over the next week I will be offering up my thoughts and feedback on this incredible opportunity to put a finger on the circus pulse, see cutting edge work and ideas in development, chat to fascinating people and the unexpected turns that followed. 

See Canvas website, designed and run by John Ellingsworth. 
On Twitter, check out the latest from Kate Kavanagh @bustingfree and #Canvas2015. 

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