It’s been yet another extraordinary year at NoFit State Circus, packed full of premieres, circus villages, international showcases, artist development and powerful community projects, celebrating the 250th anniversary of modern circus in the UK.
Back in February, on a frosty day in Newcastle-under-Lyme, NoFit State’s new tented show LEXICON was born and presented to an eager crowd, commissioned by the New Vic Theatre of Newcastle-under-Lyme, and funded by Arts Council England and the Arts Council of Wales. After four years of research and development, it was an awe-inspiring moment to see this new production welcoming a fresh audience into the round to experience a wild celebration of the past, present and future of circus.
Newcastle-under-Lyme was the birthplace of modern British circus, as the home of its inventor Philip Astley. Making it all the more poignant as the location where NoFit State staked into the ground to set up their Rycroft Circus Village, spanning three big tops, five companies, four works in progress and three sector focused events from February to April.
Under the canvas of the big tops, four associate artists in residence were welcomed into the village; Bassline Circus, Zaq Andel, Blake's Circus and Milton Lopes who developed and shared their progress. The CircusWorks annual youth circus festival brought 130 young circus artists to train alongside the professional companies. On the fencing to the site the ‘Themes and Stories’ exhibition was revealed, curated and featuring long time NoFit State photographer Mark Robson. The site then brought together leading circus thinkers and practitioners in the spirit of Circus:250 to take part in ‘The State of Play: An Old School Circus Convention’ followed by ‘The State of the Art: A Radical Circus Conference’. The Rycroft Circus Village was a part of the New Vic Theatre’s Circus Past Present and Future project, funded by the Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence Fund.
From here LEXICON went to sell out at the Brighton Festival, perform at the prestigious Cardiff Bay Volvo Ocean Race Stopover, Rennes’ Les Tombées de la Nuit, and the Avignon OFF Festival in France before making its Australian premiere at the acclaimed Melbourne International Arts Festival. Performing a total of 96 shows to 32,789 people in its first year of touring.
In Avignon NoFit State set up another ambitious Circus Village, this time as a part of the SpotlightUK Circus initiative in partnership with Crying Out Loud. Taking five of the best British circus companies to showcase their work to a French audience, supported by the Arts Council England International Showcasing Fund. NoFit State’s LEXICON performed alongside Pirates of the Carabina’s Flown, Ockham’s Razor’s Tipping Point, Nikki & JD’s Knot and Tumble Circus’ Unsuitable. Over 6 weeks in Avignon the 5 showcasing companies performed a total of 98 times, all of which would not have been possible without the 64 amazing volunteers from across the UK and Europe who helped on site.
BLOCK, NoFit State’s outdoor street show and co-production with Motionhouse Dance celebrated its third and most remarkable year of touring to date. Performing 107 shows to over 84,000 people. The tour kicked off in April with BLOCK’s Australian premiere at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. It then toured extensively around European festivals in Germany, France, Scotland, England, Austria and Hungary. Finally closing its tour with NoFit State’s South Korean premiere at the Seoul Street Arts Festival in October. Truly a tour to remember.
Back home in Cardiff NoFit State have been very busy too. Starting a two year programme of free circus workshops for children in the local communities of Adamsdown, Grangetown, Butetown and Splott funded by Children in Need. The NoFit State Community Youth Circus have gone from strength to strength. Developing and premiering their new show Circus Mundi in October, their most professional production to date at the Herefordshire Family Festival, commissioned by The Courtyard Hereford. Look out for their new street show in 2019.
In September NoFit State launched the very exciting Transitions project, a year long programme of targeted professional development support for the Welsh circus sector funded by the Arts Council of Wales. Providing opportunities, training and mentoring at critical points of professional transition for circus artists, teachers and emergent companies to gain the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to realise their creative ambitions. Stay tuned for more updates and to see this programme grow in the coming year.