20 STORIES OF CIRCOSTRADA - CELEBRATING THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NETWORK: On the bus - an article written by Johannes Frisch

An Article written by
Johannes Frisch
and edited by
John Ellingsworth
09 April 2024
2 min
illustration: Marion Jdanoff

It was a cold winter day in December 2018 at the Cir- costrada General Meeting in Rouen/Elbeuf. Only a few members had come from Germany — Valérie Marsac from Munich and Hamburg-based Andree Wenzel for the network Initiative Neuer Zirkus (INZ), the circus promoter Ute Claasen, and then circus producer Stefan Schönfeld and myself, coming to a meeting for the first time to represent Tollhaus in Karlsruhe, a new Circostrada member. This day marks the very beginning of a push towards self-organising within the contemporary circus scene in Germany. At that time there was almost no professional education, a lack of possibilities to rehearse and to create, to work or to perform for circus artists outside the traditional varieté theatres and circus companies. But there was a small growing scene of experimental artists, most of whom had come back after training at foreign circus schools, and who now lacked funding and support for their work. This was a central topic of conversation when the German Circostrada crew happened to sit together in the shuttle bus for an excursion to the outskirts of Rouen to visit Atelier 231. Inspired by an earlier meeting with representatives from the European programme circusnext, we had an intense desire to create a smaller version of this kind of support scheme to help German artists to gain more recognition. A spark was lit in the minds of this small group, and at the general meeting’s final event, marked by the performance of Alexander Vantournhout in the huge glass foyer of the Pôle Régional Des Savoirs, Andree, Stefan and I agreed to stay in contact about our new idea. After that, it needed only a few weeks for the German circus network now named BUZZ to found Zirkus ON, an alliance to support and present mainly young artists, each year helping three new circus pieces with residencies, mentoring, performance opportunities, and other support. Within only a few years Zirkus ON, which was mainly designed by the circus artists Andree Wenzel and Kolja Huneck, and was driven by their enthusiasm, grew into an immense instrument to strengthen the German scene — widely recognised, passionately discussed, and delivered by more than a dozen partners. Andree is still the artistic force behind Zirkus ON. Stefan and I support as board members, but there is now an extremely active team and major support through the programme #verbindungfoerdern, funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media. ATOLL Festival in Karlsruhe has been one of the most important platforms for artists coming out of the Zirkus ON programme, which in 2023 is onto its fifth edition. At the end of 2023, Zirkus ON hopes to become an official member of Circostrada. Without the shuttle bus at the general meeting in 2018, Zirkus ON wouldn’t have found its way. A little bus ride, a big step for circus in Germany.

Johannes Frisch is the Responsible for Press & Public Relations, Advertising, Social Media at TOLLHAUS KARLSRUHE.

John Ellingsworth works as a writer and editor in the cultural field. He has worked on projects and publications for Kulturrådet, IETM – international networkfor contemporary performing arts, Dansehallerne, ELIA – European network for higher arts education, Flanders Department of Culture, Youth and Media, EDN – European Dancehouse Network, and others. He also works as a data analyst and researcher for the cultural mobility network On the Move, recently authoring several reports on digital mobility and environmental sustainability in the context of cross-border collaboration.