For our 25 Years Celebration, we are looking back on some of our favourite projects from the quarter of a century…

This month we’re looking at Extraordinary Bodies, our partnership project with Diverse City.

The Partnership

Extraordinary Bodies is a unique partnership between Cirque Bijou and Diverse City, a company who champions equality and diversity in the arts. We first worked together during our large scale celebration Battle for the Winds. This show launched the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Sailing and Windsurfing Events at Weymouth and Portland.

Following on from that collaboration, Billy Alwen and Diverse City’s Claire Hodgson wanted to create a new circus company that challenged the way contemporary circus is made. Their ambition was to create original inclusive and accessible shows with and for disabled and non-disabled people. Working with writers, digital artists and composers, they have placed universal stories at the heart of circus with casts that truly represent society.

Since then, Extraordinary Bodies has been supported by donors, trusts and foundations and the Arts Council, which in 2016 awarded the project a significant Ambition for Excellence Award. Since 2018 Extraordinary Bodies has been regularly funded through Diverse City’s Arts Council’s National Portfolio award.

Circus for Every Body

Extraordinary Bodies has created and toured six live shows both indoors and outdoors, and been part of numerous other projects over the past ten years. We’ve developed new circus equipment, experimented with creative approaches to accessibility and supported new circus artists along the way.

Most recently in 2023, we toured our most ambitious project to date – Waldo’s Circus of Magic and Terror.  Set in 1930s Germany, this circus theatre musical with a cast of thirteen tells a forgotten story about the lived experiences of circuses and disabled people during the rise of the Nazis.

Prior to Waldo’s, we made and toured indoor theatre shows Human and Delicate, and presented a digital piece, What Do You See In Me?  written, produced and performed during and around COVID.  Before the pandemic we toured the large scale outdoor show What am I Worth with its large revolving set, live music and community participation.  In What am I Worth, we ask important questions about human value and relationships.

Our news piece An Extraordinary Year for Extraordinary Bodies goes into more detail about some of these shows, and especially our approach to creative access within them.


We produced our first Extraordinary Bodies show, Weighting in 2013 and performed in front of Exeter Cathedral with a large community choir. It featured a cast of seven disabled and non-disabled artists, including incredible dancer, Dave Toole, who is sadly no longer with us.

Weighting was the start of a long-term collaboration with writer Hattie Naylor and musician and composer Ted Barnes.  Access was provided by BSL performance interpreter and audio describer.

The show toured to five locations across the UK in 2015-16 with support of Arts Council England the Clore Prize Fund, ending in a headline performance at Bristol’s Doing Things Differently  festival in 2016.

Find Out More…

Read more about this show, and the rest, on the Extraordinary Bodies website.

Watch our videos from Extraordinary Bodies and are other favourite shows from over the years in our 25 Years of Cirque Bijou showcase on Vimeo.

Photo credits: Paul Blakemore, Dom Moore and Richard Davenport