Letter Vol. IV – 8

In response to my Editor’s Fanfare from the previous issue when I discussed the importance of a national circus school in creating and maintaining a vibrant circus culture, Jane Mullett sent me the following email which she has allowed me to publish.

Jane was instrumental in the founding of the Australian Nation Institute of Circus Arts. You can learn more about her effort in bringing that to pass and about her own circus background in my book The Contemporary Circus in the chapter on training and maintaining circus talent. Its fascinating and instructive tale.  Judging by her current job description she has left the circus for other work

Hi Ernest,

NICA [the Natonal Institute of Circus Arts] is undoubtedly a force for contemporary circus in Australia, but it does not work alone, there are other companies that are funded to some degree by the government.

The Flying Fruit Fly Circus (FFFC) http://fruitflycircus.com.au/ produces graduates that are capable of moving directly into the circus industry.

CIRCA http://circa.org.au/ has a number of professional shows running at the same time and also has an attached training centre.

Circus Oz has an amateur training program and now a Spiegeltent which they use for their own small shows http://www.circusoz.com/the-spiegeltent/shows-at-the-melba.html. It is also available to hire, for example here’s a link to “The Classics” which is an annual show run by veteran Circus Oz members: http://www.circusoz.com/the-spiegeltent/shows-at-the-melba/list/38-the-classics/64/the-classics.html

I’ve also seen some great shows there, created by small circus ensembles.

Cirkidz in Adelaide South Australia is a youth group with members who have gone onto have professional career: http://www.cirkidz.org.au/ Quite a few Cirkidz finish their training at NICA. Spaghetti Circus is a strong community youth circus in Mullumbimby, Northern NSW: http://www.spaghetticircus.com/ Flipside Circus in Queensland is another strong youth company http://www.flipsidecircus.org.au/ There are two long-standing women’s circus groups; The Women’s Circus http://www.womenscircus.org.au/ and Vulcana http://vulcana.org.au

Circus Monoxide in Wollongong, NSW, also runs community classes: http://circusmonoxide.com.au/

And this list is not exhaustive; there are many other groups all over the country. The Australian Circus and Physical Theatre Association (AXAPTA) has a more inclusive list http://acapta.org.au/


I think it is more than government funding that accounts for the vibrancy of the sector. It is also the close link between professional companies and training centres, or vice versa training centres that produce professional-level shows: NICA puts on shows in-house each year as does Cirkidz, Spaghetti circus and most of the youth circus groups. The Fruitiest tour a professional show most years.


Incidentally, the oldest circus festival in Australia, and very influential, is the Tasmanian Circus Festival http://www.tasmaniancircusfestival.com.au/

The Tas Festival and the WA Festival ‘book-mark’ the country one close to the east coast and one on the west coast.


In terms of performance companies, Circa and Circus Oz are the largest; there are a number of smaller companies that have been around for a decade or more – based on my memory – including Legs on the Wall http://www.legsonthewall.com.au/, acrobat http://acrobat.net.au/BLAH.html, Dislocate http://www.dislocate.com.au/web/DISLOCATE.html and another set that have been around for under a decade including the TomTom Crew, Candy Butchers and ThisSideUp and possibly a more that I don’t know about; and of course there are many duo and solo performers working the corporate sector, on cruise ships, in the various curated Speigeltent shows, and in big commercial shows both in Australian and around the world.


However, all the training activity has not lead to the creation of any more significant large-sized sustainable companies here and there is also little interaction between the traditional circus and the contemporary circus – which is a shame. Of course, the training schools feed the existing circus companies, but this I think is an area that is ripe for discussion and investigation around the world where contemporary circus is flourishing. Is it the same in France and Canada, which also has a government-supported circus sector I wonder?




Jane Mullett, PhD

Research Fellow

Environmental Engineering, School of Civil, Environmental & Chemical Engineering Climate Change Adaptation Program, Global Cities Research Institute