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.

20 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 (maternity leave)
Rachel Pender-Cudlip
Arts Administrator
Howie Bailey
VFX and Motion Graphics
Tom Falding
Production & Stage Management
Simon Langley
Production & Stage Management
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

During 15 years with Cirque Bijou, I’ve had the opportunity to see the company grow exponentially from a provider of innovative entertainment and new circus performance to an ambitious, nationally recognised and influential organisation with many strings to its bow. It’s been a brilliant journey to go on and the path continues ahead.

As Senior Producer, I work across most of the internal and many of the external operations of the company. From marketing to finance to building our team to strategy and business development, I’ve a broad range of responsibilities within the team. Since 2018, half of my time has been committed to our groundbreaking ACE-funded project Extraordinary Bodies, in partnership with Diverse City.

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. We give each new piece of work our all and learn along the way, making sure to get the most out of each new opportunity that presents itself. We’re a team of hands-on, open-minded, creative-thinking doers who get excited about each new show and thrive on working hard to make things happen.

You can contact me if you’d like to talk about a new show or project with us, to discuss a partnership or co-production opportunity, or if you are interested in working with us.

geraldine@cirquebijou.co.uk

Kate Lanciault

Senior Producer (maternity leave)

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!

kate@cirquebijou.co.uk

Rachel Pender-Cudlip

Arts Administrator

I’m the first port of call for all general enquiries and responsible for the day-to-day running of the office.  I also provide administration support to the company’s ground-breaking project Extraordinary Bodies, the UK’s leading integrated professional circus company, in partnership with Diverse City.

One of my favourite aspects of the role is how varied it is  – I manage the company’s marketing and also look after some aspects of finance.  It’s wonderful to be involved in all areas of the company and the fantastic projects we are involved with.  It’s exciting to work with such a talented cast of artists and crew, and I love supporting them in creating and putting on all these wonderful shows.  It’s lovely to be part of such a happy and creative team.

rachel@cirquebijou.co.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.

Tom Falding

Production & Stage Management

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!

Simon Langley

Production & Stage Management

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.

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.