Circus is the third art form that we are profiling in this blog series, examining how young people in arts groups have made the transition from being a member to becoming a leader. Here Ulla Hokkanen, Circus Director at Galway Community Circus and ex-member and leader Blue Hanley, discuss their love for their art form, why they do what they do and plans for the future.
Galway Community Circus was founded in 2002 by Karin Wimmer, Lisa O’Farrell and Mariosa Hume, as the first Youth Circus in the Republic of Ireland. Our ethos is a commitment to inspiring and empowering people through circus arts. We use circus art as an educational tool for personal, social and community development.
Circus education is based on principles of creativity, inclusion, respect, trust and enjoyment. We run a youth circus for children aged from 5 -20 years; representing 9 different nationalities with a ratio of 65:35, divided between girls and boys. We provide regular weekly training for our youth circus members in groups of 12-20 members per group. Our classes are led by two experienced tutors, proficient in the circus arts. The members are taught a variety of circus skills, such as trapeze, acrobatics, unicycling and juggling, as well as playing games and doing drama exercises.
Children learn the basics first, then, move on to more advanced tricks, as the year progresses. By the time they have reached the Tweenie and Senior levels, our members are more than likely to focus on one specific skill, whilst also continuing to progress in other circus skills as well.
It is hard to pick one moment that I am most proud of. Watching how our Youth Program has grown from just a handful of children, to now almost two hundred has been amazing. Also, it’s great to hear people’s positive reactions to our annual shows and the work that we are doing. But I suppose, what makes me most proud of this organisation, is the happiness and experiences that the kids get out of it. I have witnessed children from all walks of life gain confidence and develop skills that they were apprehensive about previously.
We hope to increase our Outreach Programmes in order to reach more people who may not have the means or the opportunities to try circus or maybe to give those who believe they are not able to do so, an opportunity to try. We are always expanding our research in the area of circus education in order to improve the quality of our youth and social circus training. We are delighted to see an increased interest in youth circus not only in Galway but across Ireland with many new youth circuses setting up. It is our dream to see a youth circus in every town and village on this beautiful Island.
Galway Community Circus
Ulla Hokkanen is 32 and lives in Galway. She is Circus Director at Galway Community Circus and currently holds the position of Chairperson of the Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network. She has a BA (Hons) in Social Science and is originally from Finland where her love of youth circus started twenty years ago.