We’re celebrating 25 years of Cirque Bijou.  Each month we are looking back on some of our favourite projects of the last quarter century.

Cirque Bijou’s Umbrella Project

This month we wanted to focus on the Umbrella Project.  Our colourful LED Umbrellas were made to launch Bristol’s year as Green Capital of Europe in 2015 – they were a creative way to involve the community and create a striking image to showcase the Bristol Green Capital logo. Since then, we have taken the umbrellas around the world and used them in all sorts of different ways.

In The Beginning…

The idea for the Umbrellas came when Julian was brainstorming a way to unveil the Bristol Green Capital logo as part of our large-scale spectacle.  The message he wanted to convey was that moving towards a green future required us all to work together as a community. He also wanted something cool and highly visual, that involved working with local community groups.

The Umbrellas (often imitated, never duplicated) come with many settings – colours can be fixed or programmed to pulsate, or (and this is our favourite), they can fade from one colour to the next. You can have them all the same colour at the same time, or make a rainbow – they can change in time to the music, or to match the choreography.

Since 2015, their design has had many tweaks.  Working with local engineers James Ashwell and Kyle Hirani, they have taken several years to perfect.  James is still our go-to Umbrella technician, and he is always looking at ways to improve and upgrade them.

Community Participation

The main aim of this project is community participation.  Working with groups we can create an eye-catching and memorable piece of processional performance in just a few hours. They’re fun to play with, don’t need any extra tech or previous experience and they look really great in the photos!

They can be used as part of a parade, or as a set choreographed piece. They are especially popular at light festivals and Diwali celebrations.  We’ve been to Transylvania, Shanghai, Almeria, countless UK festivals, parties and special events with them.

Enhancing Larger Shows

The umbrellas are often a key part in our larger shows and are especially effective at bringing a large scale spectacle down to the audience’s level. They’re a great way to bring community participation to a larger piece. Participants engage in workshops leading up to the event, learning the choreography and finessing their moves.

We have taken them to many festivals where they have illuminated the show.  You can see them in action at Wilderness Festival Saturday Night Spectacle 2016, and in our show ‘Way Above the Houses’ at Salford Quays.  

Watch This Space…In 2024 we are creating a much larger LED umbrella for aerial performance!

Book Us!

Fancy bringing the Umbrella Project on board for your next festival, light show, parade or community event? Whether you’re after 20 to 100 umbrellas, get in touch with us to create some caterpillars, butterflies or clock pops with your crowd (did we mention we named the formations?!).

Email rachel@cirquebijou.co.uk for more info.

Check out our favourite videos from the past 25 years on our Vimeo Showcase.

Photo credits: Andre Pattenden, Paul Blakemore