Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview Festivals Interview

Molly Nicholson: CircusFest 2018

By | Published on Thursday 5 April 2018

You might have noticed that we’ve tipped a couple of shows from this year’s CircusFest line up in the last week or so, and if so, perhaps you’ve already decided you’ll go and see at least one of them…

But of course, the shows we’ve mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. I wanted to find out more about the whole Festival, and how it’s put together, so I spoke to producer Molly Nicholson.

CM: How long has CircusFest been happening for, and how long have you been involved in it?
MN: CircusFest was founded in 2009, presenting shows in our spaces as well as venues around London, although the first time circus came to the Roundhouse was 1969! I have been involved in CircusFest since 2013, working across the 2014, 2016 and 2018 festivals.

CM: What process do you through in producing it? What exactly does your job entail?
MN: My job is very varied; at the heart of it I programme the festival. I travel throughout the year to see circus across the world as well as meet with circus artists based in the UK to hear about the work they are making.

When it comes to the festival, together with my brilliant colleagues at Roundhouse, I am here to make sure it all runs smoothly, to make sure the companies are happy and well looked after and make sure audiences are getting the best experience.

My job moves between working through budgets and schedules, working with the teams here on technical management, the marketing campaign or the general administration, to being in the rehearsal room watching new shows, giving feedback and attending talks and meetings about the wider circus sector.

CM: Who chooses which shows are on as part of the festival, and how are they chosen? What are the criteria?
MN: This year I programmed the festival alongside my job share Daniel Pitt. There are no fixed criteria beyond finding the most fitting and relevant new circus shows we can.

We look for work that is high quality in circus skills, theatricality and intention. We also look for work that has a bit of attitude: the Roundhouse, as well as many other things, is historically a punk music venue – and that punk attitude carries across everything that we do. We, alongside other brilliant companies that work in the circus sector, are committed to pushing the circus sector forwards, when it comes to programming that means taking risks. So often the festival will be made up of UK and even world premieres.

CM: Can you give us an idea of the scale of it…? How many events are there during the season?
MN: In total this festival has 18 events happening at 6 different venues. That’s a total of 70 performances! There are 67 performers and that’s not including all the artists we have as part of the films, VR experiences & talks being presented.

CM: A huge variety of different styles fall into the genre of circus, don’t they? What different kinds of performance can audiences expect?
MN: Circus is a wonderful art form because it’s so varied – it’s a home for so many different skills and backgrounds. In this festival, as well as skills like trapeze, aerial hoop & tight-rope, you could see a counter-weighted piano, hair-hanging (which is at it sounds) and a slack line made out of kitchen roll.

CM: Are there any specific themes running through the programme for 2018?
MN: We have a few themes running through the festival this year. 2018 marks the 250th anniversary of the invention of the modern circus. We were excited to use this as a starting point to look forward to the next 250 years – what does our circus future hold. With that in mind we aimed to programme the most diverse, socially aware circus shows into this festival – a punk attitude has definitely been a theme this year!

CM: What are the highlights of this year’s event?
MN: There are lots of highlights in this year’s festival. The two main space shows will both be spectacular. ‘Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine’ (RUHM) by Pirates of the Carabina is one, and it’s the world premiere so very special to be presenting. Pirates of the Carabina are pioneers of creating new kit, you’ll definitely see a lot of things you wouldn’t have thought possible.

The second show, ‘The Bekkrell Effect’ by Groupe Bekkrell, was my highlight when seeing shows throughout 2017. It’s an energetic combination of punk attitude, risk, power & poetry which perfectly brings together our love for circus with the history of the Roundhouse as a punk music venue.

CM: What are you personally especially looking forward to?
MN: I’m really looking forward to The Palestinian Circus School at Jacksons Lane. The Palestinian Circus School work tirelessly to create thoughtful and brave work tackling urgent issues relating to freedom and movement. At a time when travel restrictions can be challenging for many artists when touring internationally, we’re proud to be able to work with the Palestinian Circus School to platform their work.

The Roundhouse and the Palestinian Circus School have been collaborating together for the past year creating exchange opportunities for Palestinian and UK circus artists. We’re very happy to be able to present the company in England for the first time to allow more audiences to access and engage in their work

CM: What show would you recommend to someone who thinks they “don’t like circus”?
MN: There are 2 shows I would recommend. ‘Breaking Point’ would be the first; the performer has the audience make his slack rope out of twisted kitchen roll and then tests its breaking point whist balancing on it – DYI risky circus that you as an audience member play a role in.

I would also really recommend ‘Fram & Dunt’ by Collectif and Then. It is a wonderful show about the relationship between Fran, the circus artist, and her Dad. It’s so uplifting and I challenge anyone not to enjoy it.

CM: What hopes do you have for CircusFest in the future?
MN: My main hope for CircusFest is that is can continue to push on the boundaries of circus, supporting artists to make brilliant work.


CircusFest 2018 takes place at a number of venues from 3 Apr-6 May, see this page here for listings.