Leeds Children’s Circus celebrates its 30th anniversary
Audiences have been rolling up to see Leeds Children’s Circus for exactly 30 years.
The Harehills-based charity, which teaches youngsters and adults big top skills, began life as a youth project back in 1989.
The group, which became a charity in 1994, shows aspiring performers everything from spinning plates to how to walk a tightrope.
Its core aim is to inspire confidence in children from the inner city and to help them to reach their creative potential.
The group caters for children from all backgrounds, including some with disabilities.
For many years its chairwoman was Paula Kershaw who now enjoys an ambassadorial role.
Its current director is Richard Day, 38, who has been involved in Leeds Children’s Circus (LCC) since his mid 20s.
Mr Day, who signed up for a bit of work experience but enjoyed it so much that he ended up staying, said: “It’s the vibe of the place, when you see a kid do something for the first time like juggling three balls or start a spinning plate on their own. It gives them a sense of accomplishment.
“It’s often a good place to go if you are not particularly competitive or don’t like sports. You still get that sense of achievement on something you can do on your own terms. You are not relying on anyone else, you do it for yourself.”
Despite its name LCC caters for a wide age range, including adults wanting to learn aerial skills. LCC also takes the show on the road in the summer by running workshops in the community.
Director Mr Day added: “We are a community project. Our main focus is our club night in Tuesday evenings. We run multiple classes. We have circo-moto which is aimed at very young children: pre-school and toddlers. We then go onto between the ages of six and 16, we have two classes: six to ten and ten and over, in which we meet for an hour and a half and we do a range of circus skills with the kids.”
This involves rotating on various pieces of kit the group has. Mr Day said: “We have a portable tightwire. It is about 15 feet long and two foot off the ground.”
While activities are geared towards giving a performance, having fun is also an important element.
Mr Day said: “It’s just an absolute riot. You can tell they are having a good time when you get a good class and a good vibe. We had an hour-session with some hula hoops last week. We were throwing hula hoops on the floor and making them spin to come back to you. There was a real positive energy. You can tell it’s been a good session because at the end of it everyone is pumped up and they are smiling and chatting among themselves.”
LCC is currently on the lookout for new performers and volunteers. Mr Day said: “No matter what your perceived ability is, there is always something you can do. A lot of kids can be shy and nervous when they come through the door for the first time. But when they come up to you and show you something they can do, you can see the pride in them. I really do think we help instil confidence and pride in what they can achieve and make them realise that they can do things. That is by far and away how we help people the most.”
“We have been going for 30 years and we want new blood to make sure we do another 30.”
Leeds Children’s Circus (LCC) has been teaching big top skills since 1989.
LCC’s mission statement is to “encourage young people from inner city areas to realise their creative potential and develop self confidence through a programme of teaching circus and performance skills. We work in the community, for the community and like to embrace diversity to create an inclusive space.”
It is based at Harehills Lane Baptist Church and is run by staff and volunteers who care and are passionate about circus and helping the community.
The group aims to offer a safe and supportive environment for everyone in Leeds to learn the art of circus skills.
LCC runs regular classes, workshops, performances and Circus Arts projects.
In term-time it operates Tuesdays to Thursdays. On Tuesdays it hosts a parent and child movement class called ‘circo-moto’ from 4pm to 5pm. A youth club for the under 10s runs from 5.30pm to 7pm, the over 10s youth club follows on from 7pm to 8.30pm.
On Wednesdays from 5.30pm to 9pm it runs circus skills classes for juniors and adults. And on Thursday, from 6.30pm to 9pm, it runs additional training.
LCC’s achievements over the years include appearing on ‘Blue Peter’; Attending the Queen’s Jubilee event at Harewood House; And performing at local, national and international events in Belgium, Mexico and Australia.