Every January since 2007 we have worked at the Western Australian Circus Festival. Cam is the Bar Manager and I’m the Catering Manager. This year I decided to set myself a challenge to upload a daily video showing ‘Life at the Circus’.
I knew I’d be super busy so I went for ‘one take, no edits’. This made it even more hectic in some ways, but I love how the result is an authentic glimpse into the daily life of the circus.
Day 1 – A bird’s eye view of the site
We take a look at the whole site from the top of the ‘rocket ship’.
Day 2 – Volunteers from all over the world are preparing for the festival
Theo from Estonia is moving tables and chairs to the Sensation tent. Ximena from Canada is sweeping the carpet in the bar. Gonzalo from Argentina is tightening the shade sail over the children’s workshop area. It’s a multicultural work site!
Day 3 – Where do all the performers sleep?
We take a sneak peek inside a couple of the tents where the performers will sleep once they arrive. And we meet a couple more of the volunteers helping out behind the scenes.
Day 4 – Stefano from Italy does a super cool card trick
Stefano from Italy was one of the guys that did the fancy bow at the end of yesterday’s video. He told me he knew how to do magic, so I got him to show me a magic trick. I was so astonished!
Day 5 – The Big Top ‘Sensation Tent’ has a serious problem
Big Lewis from Blazing Swan, who’s here “for a bit of inter-festival skill trading”, takes us inside the Sensation Tent, which has suffered some structural damage. John from Ireland, who introduces himself as being from Broken Hill with a pretty convincing Australian accent, is on the tools putting it back together.
Day 6 – The Flying Trapeze Rig has gone up
We meet Kyle at the flying trapeze rig. They have been busy today putting up the net so he throws a casual back sault to test it out for our viewing pleasure.
Day 7 – WAIT…. WHAT? Did they just ……???
We’re in the kitchen, where something very strange is going on with the whitegoods.
Day 8 – Circus classes have started today – there are 80 to choose from!
Circus classes have started today. There are 80 different classes running throughout the day! Casey gives us a tour of the site so we see a little bit of what’s on offer.
Day 9 – Haggis from England’s Glastonbury Festival is here teaching juggling
Juggling legend Haggis McLeod runs the Theatre and Circus Field at the Glastonbury Festival in England. We’re honoured to have him at the Lunar Circus Summer School, where he’s teaching juggling.
Day 10 – Captain Fatso’s Famous Handstand Class
We look into the tent where Captain Fatso’s Famous Handstand Class is happening. It’s the end of the day, everyone has worked hard in circus classes – but there’s one more thing to do – handstands and core strength training. After that it will be time for relaxing and dinner.
Day 11 – the legendary Anni Davey directing one of tonight’s cabaret acts
The legendary Anni Davey, circus performer, director and teacher, is at the festival coordinating the cabarets. There’s a kids cabaret tonight and we catch up with Anni as she does a final run through of the ‘Tons of Trapeze’ act with an enthusiastic bunch of young performers.
Day 12 – We’re feeding well over 100 people – let’s check out today’s lunch
I’m the Catering Manager at the festival. We supply meals to all the performers, volunteers and crew as well as to some of the students. At the moment we’re catering for about 115 people, as well as selling food to the public. Today I give you a look at what’s for lunch.
Day 13 – It’s a day off, people are relaxing and the kids are playing dress ups
It’s a day off and most people have gone to the beach, the bakery or sightseeing. There are a few people left behind. Jai is playing music. The kids are playing dress ups. People are sitting around chatting. And baby Oli is being cute as usual.
Day 14 – The very talented Fabian from France performs at Bootleg Brewery
A dozen or so talented performers put on a free show at Bootleg Brewery today. Have a look at the fabulous Fabian from France, who did an act on straps.
Day 15 – A super cool skipping trick!
The youngsters said, “Cath, we have an idea for the daily video!” Then they all lined up and did a super cool skipping trick. It took us a few goes to get this video and it wasn’t quite perfect, but it was by far the best take and classes were about to start so they all had to run away. How great is it?
Day 16 – Nemo is our lighting guy. He’s 15. This is his 3rd year on the job.
Nemo already owns a lighting company and a whole lot of equipment. He works for festivals and events all over the place. Today he and James are sorting out the lighting in the Sensation Tent. Things aren’t going as smoothly as they’d hope so he’s using a bank of controllers to get all the lights working. James is up in the truss installing new cabling and there are 4 circus classes going on underneath.
Day 17 – Hip Hop Class, Robot style!
Mounâ from Tunisia is teaching a hip hop class, and today they’re dancing robot style.
Day 18 – Baby Ernie flies through the air for GWN News
Cute baby Ernie has featured in a few of the videos already. Today he flew through the air for GWN News, who were here capturing some footage for tonight’s news at 6pm. Unfortunately my camera lost focus at the exact moment Ernie was in the air, darn it.
Please note you should not try this at home. Although it looks like two random guys mucking around, both men involved in the ‘Ernie throw and catch’ stunt are highly trained professionals with decades of experience as acrobats and clowns. They know exactly what they’re doing, and how to do it safely, but it’s their job to make it look easy, slap-dash, dangerous, foolish, or all of the above.
Circus babies like Ernie grow up performing from an extraordinarily young age. They have a highly advanced awareness of their bodies and how to play to an audience, and are usually on stage within the first few months of their life. By the time they’re school age they’re already performing a solo act, even if it’s ‘100 cartwheels’ while Mum and Dad perform a quick costume change.
Day 19 – 973 pizzas, 110 classes every day… the numbers are getting interesting
It’s only a week until the festival begins and the numbers are starting to get pretty interesting. As the catering manager I’ve prepared a projection of every meal to be served across the site during the next 9 days, which allows me to order accurately. This data driven approach is quite different to our early years of running the festival when we were flying by the seat of our pants.
Nura is organising well over 100 classes a day into various locations. Nadia has done some stats on teaching hours. And the volunteer coordinators are figuring out how to fill a whole lot of shifts over the festival weekend.
Day 20 – Juggling on a merry-go-round – what could possibly go wrong?
It’s a day off for some, and a day of hard work for the site crew who are building stuff while nobody is around.
Haggis, Easa, Georgia and Ella are doing some research and development for an act they’ll possibly perform next week. It involves juggling on a moving merry-go-round – what could possibly go wrong?
Day 21 – Djuki Mala from Arnhem Land are dancing under the peppermint trees
The third week of circus classes start today, and we have a lot more people onsite.
The lads from Djuki Mala are rehearsing for their one and only performance at the festival on Friday night. They’re from North East Arnhem land so it’s pretty great seeing them dancing under the peppermint trees on the edge of Tent City here at the festival.
Day 22 – Teeterboard looks like the best fun ever!
Tom Flanagan and Casey Wood (totally related) are bouncing on the teeterboard and it looks like the best fun ever.
Rowan is teaching Roue Cyr, Emily is standing on Sam, kids are jumping off a mini tramp and a couple of guys are practicing juggling. It’s a hive of circus training activity!
Day 23 – Meet our favourite hippy, Kamali, who makes sculptures out of rubbish
Kamali has been a part of our festival for a long time. He makes cool things and fixes stuff and lives in a groovy truck. Today he shows us some of the things he’s been making – tables and chairs for a chill out space, and a sound sculpture made out of old unicycles and other bits and pieces.
Day 24 – At night, we party…
Every night we run a cabaret featuring a wide range of performers who are scheduled during the festival weekend. It’s a great way to get a glimpse of what will be on offer, so it’s popular with the hundreds of people onsite as well as locals.
I haven’t been able to show much of what goes on at night because I’m hotspotting to my phone to upload this series of videos. It’s one of the fun things about running an event in a remote rural area in Australia. Even a 2 minute video can take a couple of hours to upload so I need to get it started during the day.
Therefore, I filmed this one on the night of Day 23.
A couple of the Djuki Mala lads were performing, and Mounâ was the compere.
Day 25 – Cam’s the Bar Manager, he gives us a sneaky look behind the scenes
The International Man of Action (Cam) has been the Bar Manager since the very first festival in 2007. Tonight he gives us a sneaky look behind the scenes of the bar.
Day 26 – It’s Festival time! Comedian Martin Mor shows us around
It’s the first day of the Western Australian Circus Festival. The Pitts Family Circus were the opening act at midday. The ‘oldies’, ie circus performers over the age of 50, presented a show called The Classics. As people are streaming out of the Lollipop Big Top after that show, Martin Mor, an Irish comedian, introduces the video and takes us on a tour of the festival site. It’s pretty great. He’s pretty great. For those of you that know and love this festival and are not here this year, this one will really get your feels into overdrive.
Day 27 – Liam Power is a magician. He’s extremely good. Have a little look.
It’s the second day of the Western Australian Circus Festival. Luis from Germany, a volunteer working on the bar, sneaks us in behind the bar where we get a great view of magician Liam Power wowing the audience.
He’s very good. Nobody knows how he’s making stuff happen!
Day 28 – We’re at the Circus Olympics watching the Back Sault competition
It’s the final day of the Western Australian Circus Festival. We’re watching the Circus Olympics, which includes:
Longest Hand to Hand Balance
Endurance 5 ball juggling
Combat hula hooping
Combat club juggling
Longest time balancing a juggling club on nose
Bum Jump Competition
I filmed the first 20 back saults. The young fellow on the far end went on to win with 39 back saults, mostly because the 2nd last person in the contest pulled out at 38. The winner reckoned he had another 30 in him. In other years we’ve had a lot of entries in this event, and they got all the way to 100 back saults. It’s better not to do that many though, because it can cause injury.
The coin juggle is a bit of fun. Everyone juggles 3 coins from their own wallet. Once they drop they’re out, and their coins go into the hat. The winner takes all the coins.
The combat events involve contestants deliberately sabotaging others until there’s just one left standing.
Day 29 – The Big Tops are coming down and there’s a big bushfire nearby
The circus festival is over. The tents need to be pulled down so they can head off to the Fringe Festival in Perth. A big fire has broken out in Augusta, which is nearby, and it’s making the job of getting the tents down a lot more urgent than normal.
Day 30 – It’s all over!
Today we’re leaving the circus. So are a lot of other people, including the festival director Fatt Matt, who introduces today’s video.
They’ve loaded up the bus and the truck and they’re taking the Big Tops up to Perth for the Fringe Festival. We’ve loaded up our car and we’re heading off for the next phase of our lives.
Another January is over, another circus adventure is complete.
I hope you enjoyed these snippets of circus life. I can hardly believe I managed to complete the 30 day challenge. Considering I was hotspotting to my phone to upload the second half of the series, getting the videos online usually took several hours. In the case of Day 29 it took about 8 hours. Go me. Go you for watching it. Hooray for everything!