Our story began in 1999, with the inimitable artistic partnership of circus artists Julian Bracey and Billy Alwen. At the time, contemporary circus in the UK was a fledgling art form, taking its cues from both popular and counter-culture. Billy and Julian’s decision to form a company dedicated to making an accessible and creative form of modern circus was ahead of the zeitgeist.

Within a couple of years they were spending more time making shows and less time in the air or on the street. Word of mouth recommendations brought more and more commissions and the Company was soon averaging annual audience figures of 250,000.

18 years in, Cirque Bijou is a sustainable not-for-profit organisation and a creative powerhouse with a team of producers and a global network of collaborators, supported by a unique mix of Arts Council project funding, local authority commissions and wide-ranging commercial projects.

Today, Cirque Bijou combine a pioneering spirit with sky-high production values that gives our shows a unique edge few can match. We make shows in myriad environments with and for communities and clients worldwide, with emerging and world class artists, and for audiences of 50 to tens of thousands. We are proudly based in Bristol – a city full of artists and a thriving circus network.

 

what we do

  • We tell stories for audiences and communities worldwide, using circus, theatre, music, visual effects and technology.
  • We approach new commissions with open minds and a connoisseur’s diverse and expansive knowledge.
  • We settle for no less than the dream team for each new ideas-driven, original and bold show.
  • We ground our work firmly in informed planning and confident execution.
  • We are passionate about diversity and sustainability in all that we do.
  • We make shows that are authentic, memorable and a true feast for the senses.

Meet our team

Julian Bracey
Artistic Director
Billy Alwen
Artistic Director
Geraldine Giddings
Senior Producer
Kate Lanciault
Senior Producer
Flo Fitzgerald
Creative Producer
Thea Woodrow Davies
Finance & Production
Claire Teasdale
Executive Producer, Extraordinary Bodies
Howie Bailey
VFX and Motion Graphics
Simon Langley
Production Assistant
Tom Falding
Production Assistant
Georgia Burgess
Costume & Styling

Julian Bracey

Artistic Director

I was a graffiti artist here in Bristol back in the 80s which was an exciting time when the city’s now famous street art scene was just emerging. Like circus, graffiti is an alternative, fast-moving, visual and immediate art form. In the 90s I studied 3D design, including a period in Montreal where I first encountered circus. This training had a huge bearing on the way I make shows today – I am very design-driven and the immediate visual impact of my work is foremost.

Around about the same time, I travelled Europe and then the world performing a one-man street show, learning first hand about audiences. Along the way I was inspired by some great circuses like Cirque Archaos who were producing really avant-garde shows that combined live art, circus and chainsaws…Nothing like that existed in the UK and I started to see that I could make something exciting and different.

At the beginning, Billy and I were performing, making props, directing shows, loading vans and blowing things up. In 18 years the company has grown dramatically in terms of scale and aspiration and the backup of our great team now helps us realise our vision and brings new ideas to the mix.

I love mixing modern technology and styles of movement with circus. A memorable moment for me was creating an urban circus show for the National Theatre’s outdoor festival as part of the Olympic celebrations in 2012. It had a great young cast of artists and musicians and a huge, multi-level video-mapped set. It was outdoors on a perfect summer’s evening and we attracted a huge audience on the Southbank. There was so much young talent in that show and I’ve loved seeing them go on to do great things. By contrast, I learnt a huge amount about touring work as Chief of Gags on Muse’s stadium tours. We provided actors, flew artists from giant lightbulbs and UFOs and toured a giant robot at 4 metres high that had to pack down into two flight cases in 7 minutes.

Above all, I love the element of surprise that circus affords. I always aim to give the audience a truly unique experience – something extraordinary that they won’t get anywhere else. I want them to feel like they ‘had to be there’.

julian@cirquebijou.co.uk

Billy Alwen

Artistic Director

The best circus crosses so many art forms. It tells stories to people of all ages and backgrounds and it can surprise, shock and make you cry all at once. That is the kind of circus I aspire to make.

I enjoy working outside of my comfort zone, and being able to push artists into new areas. As a former circus artist, my interests also lie in the detail of the circus skills, and in pushing those skills to new levels.

I’ve had unparalleled experiences creating Cirque Bijou shows – it’s impossible to choose a favourite. Battle for the Winds was a true epic, celebrating London 2012 with 52 shows in 7 UK counties – with thousands of artists and hundreds of thousands of audience members. By contrast, limited resources meant we made the first Extraordinary Bodies show in only 10 days, with an exceptional company of disabled and non-disabled artists. We were using a huge new piece of circus equipment designed especially for the show which was a challenge in the timescale, but the success of that show has now resulted in an international integrated circus project. Last year I brought one of the best highwire walkers in the world to work with me on new finale spectacle for Wilderness Festival. As a team we had a truly ambitious vision for what we wanted to achieve. Although we only finally saw this realised on the night of the show, the team’s trust in each other meant we were confident our ambition would be played out.

The best work I have made has always been collaborative, whether with new artists, musicians, co-directors, choreographers, or with clients and co-producers. It involves putting together the right team, belief in each other’s abilities, and having a collective creative vision to go for something truly ambitious. I’d like to think this is the Cirque Bijou blueprint.

billy@cirquebijou.co.uk

Geraldine Giddings

Senior Producer

I’m the company’s strategist and knowledge bank, with an overview of all the different pieces that make up the Cirque Bijou jigsaw puzzle. I keep an eye on the bigger picture so that the plans, ideas and collaborations that are bubbling away are developed and celebrated.

After ten years in the company, I am well and truly part of the family and my lateral thinking, critical eye and quiet tinkering help to tell the Cirque Bijou story and support the Artistic Directors’ visions and ambitions.

It’s a long running joke that Billy and Julian come back from each show saying ‘that was the best show we’ve ever done’. The brilliant thing about Cirque Bijou is that usually, that’s true. It is a privilege to work with such an outstanding and ever-growing team who work their socks off to achieve something we are all passionate about.

geraldine@cirquebijou.co.uk

Kate Lanciault

Senior Producer

It’s my job to keep on top of everything going on in Bijou world. No matter how crazy it gets, my fingers need to be in all of the pies. I love being an integral part of creating and organising shows, coming up with ideas for unusual briefs, working closely with artists, crew and clients on the logistics, and seeing all the planning come to life whilst getting my hands dirty onsite.

Happiness is very important to me; it takes happy artists and a happy team to make great shows, and great shows make happy audiences and happy clients. I hope that my energy, enthusiasm, knowledge and passion keeps everyone smiling. The brilliant thing about Cirque Bijou is that every day throws up a new challenge and we all build on our expertise with every job.

I love working as part of our passionate small team, and the amazing growing network of artists and crew. Nothing beats the shows themselves though – the building anticipation behind the scenes, the adrenaline pumping as the first light hits the stage, the gasps of delight from the audience…and of course the after party!

Flo Fitzgerald

Creative Producer

With a background in visual arts & design, a lifelong family education in performance, and an aptitude for leadership, my role as Creative Producer melds my strengths and interests into one big colourful pot and satisfies my itching curiosity for all creative disciplines and processes.

My work spans all corners of creation, from scrupulously designing marketing materials, to choreographing our LED umbrella show in distant lands, and from camping in festival fields managing teams in my dungarees, to the slickest of stage management for corporate events in the O2 Arena.

If I were to describe what it’s like working with the Cirque Bijou team, I would use the same words I use for our shows; unique, memorable, adventurous, and surprising.

flo@cirquebijou.co.uk

Thea Woodrow Davies

Finance & Production

I am always on hand to assist the team with the most detailed of logistical planning. I keep tabs on the whereabouts of our artists, and a close eye on numbers – I’ve just finished training in accountancy for business, supported by Cirque Bijou. When I’m not in the office navigating spreadsheets, or helping to organise shows, I am on site making sure there is a clan of smiling artists, or dancing with our LED umbrellas!

With a creative upbringing and a background in music, I love the performing arts. I enjoy learning about the artistic and technical side of circus, and particularly how we incorporate different performance elements such as live music and dance into a circus show. I feel lucky to work with a talented team who offer me support and trust, and all the wonderful crew and artists.

thea@cirquebijou.co.uk

Claire Teasdale

Executive Producer, Extraordinary Bodies

I am the team’s most recent recruit, stepping up to the exciting role of Executive Producer for Extraordinary Bodies – Cirque Bijou’s partnership project with Diverse City.

I saw Extraordinary Bodies’ first show, Weighting, at its first performance in Exeter in 2013. I felt then that it was a testament to the ambition and scale of work the company is aiming for. It attracted such a wide audience and was utterly inspiring.

I have been working in the arts for 25 years, for community theatre venues, outdoor arts, and in the public sector, fundraising, programming and promoting for numerous events. Professionally I value honesty, equality and great work with a wide appeal.

I admire Cirque Bijou’s willingness to adapt to different environments, artists and audiences, and am honoured to be part of such a friendly and motivated team.

claireteasdale@extraordinarybodies.org.uk

Howie Bailey

VFX and Motion Graphics

I am the designer and creator of motion graphics and visual effects for Cirque Bijou, and specialise in integrating these visual elements with live performance.

My interest in performance and technology goes way back. It was the making of an instructional yo-yo VHS in 1998 that really kick started it all. As well as being a yo-yo ‘master’, a professional juggler and a VJ for live bands, I was also a founding member of ‘Feeding The Fish’, a company experimenting with combining performance and technology, something that Cirque Bijou also specialises in.

I love that Cirque Bijou has always been pushing boundaries, working with diverse artists and finding ways to use exciting new technology in their shows. They keep me on my toes, and whether it’s for an intimate performance with a single artist, or an arena show, I enjoy taking on the challenges that arise.

Simon Langley

Production Assistant

I am Cirque Bijou’s right hand man. I’m a practical thinker and love technical challenges. My work is varied and hands on, no two jobs are the same. When I’m not driving large scale props across the country for shows, or onsite tackling a staging issue, I’m knuckling down in our production unit soldering LED strips, or sorting rigging equipment.

My favourite gigs have actually been the most challenging or demanding ones, because I enjoy pushing myself and testing my skill set. It’s always great fun working with the Cirque Bijou team, I love the creative environment, the positive energy, and the meticulous attention to detail that’s part of the whole team’s ethos.

Tom Falding

Production Assistant

I had a very strong interest in circus from the age of about 8 and started to teach myself basic skills, favouring juggling. I started to perform with local groups from the age of about 11. When I was 14 my collection of circus equipment had grown so much that I started to run workshops for all sorts of events and groups, and that’s how I started working with Cirque Bijou over 10 years ago! I like to think that I bring a fun, relaxed but ‘can-do’ attitude to the team. The main thing I care about is the people, I feel it is my duty to ensure that everyone we are working with, especially when working with community groups, has the best experience they possibly can,  I thrive off seeing them enjoying themselves.

One of my favourite things about working with Cirque Bijou is that the team trust me to get things done, the responsibilities I am given reflects this. I love it when i’m given a role where I have to go away and think about how I’m going to make it all happen. I enjoy the challenge of knowing that I’m going to have to get things spot on to help make the show equally spot on. Being part of the Bijou family, the fun I have on jobs and the proud feeling of accomplishment I get at the end of a show, makes it all worth the hard work!

Georgia Burgess

Costume & Styling

Costuming for circus revolves quite heavily around practicality, and ensuring that the performers feel safe and comfortable in what they’re wearing. I love the challenge of creating suitable costumes for artists’ different needs and skills, as well as making them look visually exciting to enhance both theirs and the audience’s experience.

Having recently graduated from Arts University Bournemouth with a degree in Costume & Performance Design, it’s been amazing to apply my skills in the professional world so quickly. I love working for Cirque Bijou because of the variety and creativity of the shows, as well as the privilege of being part of such a fantastic team, who have really supported me at the beginning of my career.