For two weeks in June we had the absolute joy of pitching and working out of a beautiful Big Top tent, thanks to support from Arts Council and DCMS Cultural Recovery Fund. 

The giant blue circus tent at Avon Valley Wildlife and Adventure Park served as a summer home, a rehearsal and events space, and a trial run for a proposed future purchase for Extraordinary Bodies, our partner project with Diverse City.

One of our main objectives was providing a safe and accessible rehearsal space for our new Extraordinary Bodies show Human. This will begin touring this autumn and features film projections, circus and live music.

We also invited artists and practitioners to dream about a fairer and more inclusive cultural landscape with Theatre Bristol‘s event ‘Dreaming in the Big Top’, and offered training and rehearsal opportunities including an Audio Description for Circus workshop.

As the fortnight drew to a close, we continued our learning and testing by inviting an audience of friends, allies and partners to a celebratory, Covid-secure cabaret night (read more about this here).

The canvas home-from-home also became a temporary, very well ventilated, office space. After 15 months of working from home, it was great to be back on site working with both our immediate team and our wider network of brilliant crew and artists.

A very important reason for the tent was to test out our COVID-secure working practices in a range of real life situations. As the world opens up and live performances get underway in front of live audiences again, we at Cirque Bijou want to ensure that we have all the practices in place to make this a safe and comfortable experience for all involved.

“The big top represents new beginnings, new ways of working and new directions of creativity with inclusion at the heart”

Geraldine Giddings, Senior Producer

I cannot fault one thing… the location was beautiful, everything was well organised and not once did it feel like something we may need was missing… I really appreciated how well you managed to keep everyone safe and comfortable whilst giving us all a chance to have a great time

Silvia Pavone, International Circus Artist

The purchase of a future Big Top tent is supported by ACE and DCMS’s Cultural Recovery Fund.

Featured photo by Andre Pattenden