Sunday, 17 May 2015

Chapter 77: The Circus Mum and Bedtime Stories

The fact that it was Mother's Day last Sunday in many parts of the world would have gone unremarked in our household but for one simple fact. Tidying my son's room that evening I came across an envelope addressed to me, and inside a card he had made, but forgotten to give to me, back in March. He was fast asleep by this stage, and there watching my sleeping boy I read his thoughts. I gazed with bewilderment and awe at this child who likens me to a magical ring, taking him on adventures, and a bed, warm and comforting. Happy dreamer, I think. Which is good to know because in this crazy whirligig of London life it sometimes it feels like I'm fighting a losing battle for my children to have the space just to be, not needing to prove. And not a day goes by without me wondering about the balance, justifying carving out my own circus space and weighing up the demands it places on family life. The circus training is the least of it - that's just the same as making time for the gym. It's the writing, the self-imposed deadlines and the reaching out on social media that is the real juggling act. There are Sunday mornings, like today, when I sit at the kitchen table tapping away, oblivious to the cheerios and milk sploshing onto the table. Emails to friends slip through the ethernet unregistered, letters unanswered. If you want to keep up with me read my blog, join me at circus events, or find me on the school run - you won't see me for dust otherwise.  

So watching part of Upswing's Bedtime Stories at Canvas (See Post 75 - click here), really struck a chord. It is a beautiful piece of circus for the family, a coming of age story really, about keeping connected and sharing time together. The location in The Albany, Deptford, a space in the round, was perfect. Mattresses and pillows for the audience to cosy up on encircle the action, creating an informal space to enter a magical realism together where a child's imagination takes flight. Stars rained down on diaphanous curtains, silks were graced by the young girl, peels of childhood delight rippling through, with an imaginary friend straddling worlds. Then came her mother, distracted, overwhelmed, losing it under reams of papers and admin. My stomach lurched. See the beautiful trailer below for a glimpse of the alchemy of technology, dance, circus and acting that immerse you in a spell-binding world that I can't wait to share with the children. It's on at at Stratford Circus over half-term, where they will also be running parent and child workshops, and returning to the Albany in Autumn. 

Learning the ropes at  Flying Fantastic

The experience of Bedtime Stories brings home to me how circus has enriched our family life and influenced how we spend our time together.  It has introduced me to family shows like these that might otherwise not have come onto my radar. It has introduced me to exemplary Circus Strongwomen - taking their kids to circus, learning circus, teaching circus, running circus companies, circus schools, big tops, performing circus, choreographing circus, writing circus, producing circus, directing circus, leading the way.  It has introduced my children to the world of juggling (my son, the diabolo demon), aerial skills (my elder daughter, in seventh heaven in classes now at Flying Fantastic) and tightrope (my three year-old - we've found one at the local playground on the way home after dropping her siblings at school). We hula-hoop in the garden together, juggle on the beach, perform handstand against climbing frames and acrobatics on monkey bars - child's play on some levels, and now I can do it with them. 

 a Circus Mum hanging around
And it's a funny thing, but today happens to be the anniversary of my launch onto Twitter and into the bloggersphere. The blog started life as an open letter to friends and thanks for performances I have enjoyed. Last summer at Jacksons Lane, wondering where it was going, I said to a new friend, Thomas, that I would give it a year. No, no, he said. Make it two. I thought he was mad, but he spoke with authority. Now on the cusp of 80 posts, pushing 17,000 hits from all  over the world (the Ukraine is my number three following after the UK and US, neck and neck) and followers on Twitter from all walks of life, that to me speaks volumes about the growing interest in circus in the UK, a circus that is exploding in all directions, and now more than ever it is important to speak out and spread the word. Feedback is always welcome - I find, as with feedback on motherhood, it generally has the most unlikely and providential timing. As for the rest, I just have to believe it's going in the right direction and I'll take it, as Barnum might say, one brick at a time …

Note: if the above video doesn't work on your mobile click here for YouTube link

Bedtime Stories is at Stratford Circus from Thursday 28th - Saturday 30th May, and will be returning to The Albany, Deptford in the Autumn. 


  1. I came onto your blog while focusing just slightly submits. Nice strategy for next, I will be bookmarking at once seize your complete rises
    benefits of reading to children

  2. Thanks Mayazoe. So many benefits of reading to children for aural and written comprehension skills. If you are UK based, the show Bedtime Stories is on tour, and will be at Bristol Circus City 24/25 October, and the Albany, Deptford, 29/30 October. Good luck with your own writing!


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