Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
Not all clowning around at Galway Community CircusAugust 23, 2012 - 3:45pm
Over the years, Galway has become a leading city in many areas, but being the Irish capital of training children in tight-rope walking, juggling and unicycling will probably come as a new one to many people.
Since 2002, the Galway Community Circus (GCC) has been training young people in the city and surrounding areas in the ways of the circus. While the news that Galway’s range of educational institutions includes one devoted entirely to circus training may come as a surprise to many city residents, it cannot be disputed that the GCC has managed to firmly establish itself as a respected arts body over the past decade.
Handling enquiries at the circus’s base in St Joseph’s Community Centre in Shantalla is Gwen Le Guillou, who doubles as a teacher of stilt-walking and juggling at the circus. As she outlines the annual activities of the circus, it becomes obvious that the group doesn’t clown around with its workload on the Galway arts circuit.
“Over the past two years, our membership has more than doubled to over 200 and we’ve even started a parents and toddlers group now,” says Gwen. “What are we involved with in Galway year round? Well, there’s our annual show at the Black Box, the St Patrick’s Day Parade – we were a parade inside a parade – culture night in September, a cabaret show, a public performance in the city for World Circus Day, and oh yes, our circus in the park event every June,” she answers breathlessly.
Registered as a charitable organisation, the circus is the only one of its kind in the country offering structured training to prospective young circus performers. Gwen explains that children are drawn to the circus for a variety of reasons. “We have so many different kids from different backgrounds and such a mix of interests that it makes things very exciting. It isn’t like any other sports that the children might be taking part in, we have so many different activities. At some stage they decide what they really enjoy doing.” Many of the members have been training with the circus consistently for five or six years.
There are five different groups in training at St Joseph’s, from the ‘flea circus’, consisting of two to four year olds, to the senior circus, which is made up of 16 to 20 year olds. The community circus is run with the help of annual Arts Council funding and also receives assistance from both Galway councils.
The classes on offer at the circus differ severely from the fare that many of the younger members will have during their day in their regular schools. Maths and Irish are replaced by unicycling and tumbling, and students are more likely to receive homework in practicing their juggling techniques than in spellings. More recently, the GCC has started to offer adult classes to those interested in an alternative to yet another round of Yoga classes.
The hard work involved providing the expert training offered by the circus was rewarded earlier this year when it was announced that three young Galway members had been chosen out of a nationwide search for young performers to represent Ireland at the European-wide ‘Magic Circus Show’ in Geneva this November.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.