Sunday, 20 September 2015

Chapter 104: The Circus Not-So Strongwoman

“I am struck by how sharing our weaknesses and difficulties is more nourishing to others than our qualities and successes.”

Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche.

I’ve been struggling recently. Wrestling with the purpose and demands of this blog. It started life as a record of my foray into the circus arena, learning aerial skills at the National Circus to create some adult space outside family life, and have a bit of fun in the process. Along the way I watched more and more circus, a brave new world opened up, and I began to write about that as well.

This all takes time. Time away from the family, or time when I am with the family, but not really present - bashing away at the laptop while the kids make their own breakfast, managing the type of home that friends flock to because “quite frankly, Lucy, it makes me feel so much better about my own house-keeping”. I am totally dependent on my husband's goodwill for childcare. Right now, the rest of the family are playing Uno in the one corner of the kitchen table not covered by a giant jigsaw, half done, like most of the projects in our house right now, so it's time now to set some boundaries, before all my energy and resources get sucked into a black hole, of no use to anyone. 

Here's where I am right now then: a middle-aged, middle-class South London stay-at-home Mum of three young children aged 9, 7 and 3. In a circus setting, under the right lighting, I have been mistaken for something a little more hip and younger - not a day over 34 apparently - and I feed on that bloody energy like some sort of social vampire, to regenerate and carry on. I have a knack for being in the right place, at the right time, thanks to the right people. I pay attention to what is going on around me and find #circuseverywhere. 

Ai Witness: Anish Kapoor & Ai Wei Wei
Anne and I on the left via @ArtistsForNepal on Twitter
Take last week, for instance, when my original Circus Space partner-in-crime, and friend, Anne, invited me on a solidarity walk with Ai Wei Wei and  Anish Kapoor, each processing with a single blanket remembering the 60 million refugees the world over who barely have that. We set out from the Royal Academy  towards the art studio in Stratford alongside these "two artists ... deeply relevant and completely irrelevant... fragile, uncertain, unknowing.. this walk is a simple gesture... galvanising creative energy in simple gestures." Those are the snippets of words I grabbed through the legs of a press photographer anyway. I walked for two hours, meeting half of Goldsmiths and other artists along the way, exchanging ideas, talking among other things, about Circus Kathmandu with Artists for Nepal, and touching on the burgeoning circus movement and the development of an alternative performance language that can both entertain and engage. I left them at Spitafields to head up to a rendez-vous at Jacksons Lane, and as luck would have it, ended up in a sharing of Gandini Juggling's latest work in process "Meta" for the 40th anniversary gala in November. There I saw an enthralling and arresting discourse between action and text in their work, a meditation on the very nature of what constitutes performance, with that tongue-in-cheek element at which Gandini excels.

It was an inspiring day on so many levels, but there is always payback. Of course it is much easier, and far more fun, to hang out with artists than hang out the washing. But the chores are still there waiting when I get home, and, burning the candle at both ends, my light is going out. This year has been a steep learning curve, and so as the blog gains momentum my next task is to learn to set limits, to set aside time-slots for writing and social media, and to learn when to switch off. 



  1. Well said. I think this is always the dilemma for the artist that is also parent, spouse, partner etc. I used to blog/write on holiday, only it didn't just start and end when the children were in the pool with Robert. It continued when they were out of the pool and asking me to cuddle them, or to play with them, or finding myself getting irritated when it was time to do something with the family, because, dammit, I'm busy writing. And writing is important to me, but so is my family - and the holiday time is the one opportunity we get to all be together - tools down - to take time to be with each other and just be. Ironically it is also the time that my mind is at rest and some great thinking and writing occurs to me. I try and treat my days as a working day - when the children are at school, that's when I do the things that I need to do like writing and painting, and obviously there are household things that need doing too. And when the children get home that is our time together. Sometimes I fail - sometimes I'm busy with something and they get home and it's the whole 'I'm just in the process of finish this, just watch a bit of TV.' I worry that my children are growing up fast and they won't keep needing me or asking to be with me for ever, especially if they are used to being told 'In a minute, or I'm just finishing something - go and play.,' It plays on my mind a great deal. It's difficult to be something to everyone, including yourself. But perhaps, as you have written here, it might be a simple case of organisation of one's time so that it is better spent and you get to be with your family. Good luck with it all - keep us posted x

  2. Thanks Lucille, so much that resonates here and with you on all counts. I find the pace of London living relentless, and totally alien to my memories of a gentle life on the fringes of a market town. The speed of technology, emails that shout for a response, and social media with insistent notifications, can be lethally distracting, and draining. It wasn't like this even a decade ago, but then neither were the opportunities to reach out and connect. Compartmentalisation and finding a way to keep the balance on that tightrope is very much a work in progress, good luck as well and will keep you posted! x


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