Through circus, I surprised myself and surpassed my own expectations of what my body was capable of and how strong I could be both physically and mentally. Circus has opened my eyes to some of the strongest, most capable and inspiring women that I’ve come across.

Tilly Lee-Kronick

At Cirque Bijou we passionately believe in and value a diversity of ideas, skills, approaches, strengths, cultures and bodies. That is why we do what we do. For over 20 years, our shows have always been made by, with and for the widest range possible of different people.

On International Women’s Day, we wanted to say that every day we #choosetochallenge gender bias and inequality when we see it within the industries that we work in. More than half of our workforce is made of amazing and diverse women and they are fundamental to how we make shows.

Circus as an art form has its own particular ways of stereotyping genders and also enabling freedom from those very stereotypes. It allows for exploration and expression of identity, as all art should. In conjunction with a new video being released by Vice and the National Lottery, we wanted to shine a light on one of our leading ladies, Tilly Lee-Kronick.

As a female circus performer I felt very aware of certain expectations that didn’t sit right with me, doing the splits, being dainty, wearing small leotards. Some of these expectations confused me, as there is conflict within me about how much I want to live up to these expectations, I do want to have nice splits and I do love a nice leotard! I soon realised that the discomfort was that I didn’t want appreciation solely for my flexibility, body size or costume choice. I wanted recognition for my strength, ability, thoughtfulness, creativity and dedication.

Tilly Lee-Kronick has been one of our core artists for several years. She is strong, creative, inventive, thoughtful and determined. She regularly performs with us in the weird and wonderful world of Caravanserai at Bestival and Camp Bestival, and has been in our shows at events including Godiva Festival, Aardman’s 40th anniversary party, and numerous others – often dancing extraordinarily gracefully upside down at a great height, often singing at the same time!

She is also a key artist in our project Extraordinary Bodies (which we run with Diverse City), working with us as a cast member of our new show Human,  which is set to tour this autumn. She performed in the devised and improvised In C at Bristol Beacon and Birmingham Town Hall, in our Extraordinary Bodies cabaret at Smithfield Market and our pandemic mini-film What Do You See In Me?.

I first met Tilly when she was still studying at Circus School and she showed such enthusiasm for Extraordinary Bodies’s work that we invited her to join the Company… Bit by bit she has become an essential member of the artistic team

Billy Alwen, Cirque Bijou Co-Artistic Director

Tilly has many solo projects on the go – performing her one woman show Ripe, directed by Mish Weaver, and developing a new circus show with aerialist Coral Dawson and fellow Extraordinary Bodies cast member, aerialist and musician, Jonny Leitch.