In July 2013 I was invited to go to South Africa as part of the Swallows Foundation Remix Project at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown to teach Social Circus alongside Let's Circus and Bright Night International. The project worked with over 30 'change makers' from across South Africa and our element was to introduce them to circus skills and work towards the National Arts Festival Parade.
Six bags, nine pairs of stilts and twelve costumes; four circus professionals from Scotland and the North East of England, with roots in Northern Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Kenya; thirty six ‘change-makers’ from all over South Africa and the UK; a hall with a very slippery floor and just one week. Now to make the Remix Circus Parade!
Thursday, day one in Grahamstown and we start to get an idea of what we have to do. It’s the first time Steve & Helen from Let’s Circus, JL from Bright Night International and me, a freelance physical theatre and circus practitioner have managed to all be in a room together prior to the project (although we know each other through youth and social circus in the UK).
We quickly build up a list of requirements:
Lots of Poi – fabric and tennis balls
Shoes for the Stilts
Mats to train acrobalance and acrobatics
Tools and screws to put together the stilts
More costumes and props
More contacts in the community here, we’ve heard about a stilt group who are local
We meet the parade organisers, Gareth and Shiloh, who prove passionate and an invaluable fountain of knowledge; Hillary, a local seamstress can help us sew the poi, PEP is the place to buy cheap tackies (trainers), a school or gym may be able to provide mats, we’ve pinpointed where to find the cheap, local shops to buy bits n pieces, and we have the name of the guy who began the local stilt group a couple of years ago.
Friday, day two. By midday we’ve left fabric and designs with Hillary, we’ve a stack of screws, tennis balls and giant wooden spoons…just in case!! We rush back to our accommodation to meet and welcome the participants. A phone call and we’re not sure if we’re going to be able to have any mats. We arrive at the Recreation Centre where we’ll be working and the floor has been polished within an inch of its life and is a veritable slippery death trap!
Helen and I leave the boys to assemble the stilts as we head to town to seek a solution. Six 2l bottles of South African Iron Brew mopped onto the floor should make it sticky. Eighteen pairs of poi are ready, just 5 hours after we left Hillary’s… what a legend! We meet Richard Antropist, a local theatre maker who started the stilt group ‘Phezulu’ a few years ago. Not only is he delighted about sharing skills and learning new techniques of acro-stilts with JL, he’s offered to lend us his full circus and juggling kit, including juggling balls, fire poi and staff. Another Grahamstown legend in our books! PEP provides the stock of shoes we need for stilts and when we get back to the centre and the mats have arrived!
Helen mops the floor with the liquid sugar. We speculate whether it’ll be covered in ants by morning. JL, Steve and I assemble the stilts. Local kids wonder in and rifle through the costume bag and slide around the hall.
By 8.30pm we’re done, ready for a full day of circus the next day!
Robyn - new to the whole blog thing