Testimony – Victoria McM.’s project in Belgium



Victoria McManus from The Circus Project under their umbrella organisation National Centre of Circus Arts (United Kingdom) tells us about her mobility project with Cirkus In Beweging (Leuven, Belgium):
My name is Vicki McManus, I am Artistic Director and Lead trainer at The Circus Project (under the umbrella of the National Centre of Circus Arts) in Brighton, East Sussex. The Circus Project is a registered Charity delivering weekly circus arts classes to children and adults.
Two years ago I started my position at The Circus Project having spent 15 years working as a free-lance aerialist/actress. I had a lot to learn, quickly, taking on teaching 70 students a week. It was a steep learning curve but in that time I feel I have achieved a lot personally and professionally. What I feel has been missing is a dialogue and sharing of experiences with other teachers in youth circus.

I applied to the Scream project with the interest in meeting other teachers and managers to learn from their organization, teaching practice and methods, make connections and share/discuss concerns, issues that we have as a growing organization.

Before leaving for Belgium I was in touch with Rika who sent me a programme for the 12 days of my stay. It was very informative with daily options of classes and meetings to attend and activities to do. A schedule of their classes through out the city, a map, suggestions of good places to eat and all we might wish to know about Cirkus in Beweging. This was very reassuring information to have before embarking on my journey, now I knew what to expect from my trip.

This presented me with the opportunity to make professional contacts.

When I arrived there was lots of activities planned for the weekend as it was the opening of the Rode Hond Childrens Festival in Leuven. We went to see a traditional circus ‘Cirque Barones’ which Cirkus in Beweging will be doing a collaboration of contemporary and traditional circus performances with in December. We attended the juggling convention in Brussels at L’Ecole de cirque de Bruxelles to see the Gala with a selection of highly skilled acts. Also saw a circus show organized by Cirkus in Beweging at the local theatre for the Rode Hond. I was delighted to have seen the ‘Wise Fools’ from Finland performing their amazing triples trapeze act (as this is an act I do too). This presented me with the opportunity to make professional contacts. It was a very entertaining start to my visit.

There were four other international circus practitioners, students, managers, teachers visiting the school during the same 2 weeks. This was well orchestrated as it meant we always had good company to share and discuss what we were experiencing. As a group we had great chemistry spending a lot of time talking and laughing about our experiences and mutual concerns and obstacles within our organisations. This I found very beneficial to talk with international partners experiencing similar issues.

During the week there were many classes to watch, participate and help with. It was useful to observe and take notes on variations of games techniques and teaching methods. Participating and assisting in the classes was fun and challenging too.

Leuven is a beautiful city to visit! I stayed at an airbnb very close to the circus school (only a 5min walk) which supplied a bike too. So it was very easy to get around. During the week there was a national holiday so all the visitors took a day trip to Ghent to test out the beers (which there are many), waffels dripping with fine chocolate and friendly people of Belgium.

I was really inspired by the ‘Ciromotoriek‘ family circus classes that are extremly popular in Leuven.

It was beautiful to watch families coming together to connect physically and mentally through circus activities. I was surprised by what the teachers managed to get the families to achieve in a first session and what the families were willing to try.

I would highly recommend anyone working within a youth circus organization to get involved with the Erasmus+ project. Having these international exchanges highlights how important and rewarding it is for us to be connected and support each other in the development and progression of youth circus.

Thanks to this Erasmus+ project I now return to my students and organisation inspired, driven and self-assured with my efforts. We will now create new possibilities and opportunities for our community to get involved and engage with circus as a family.