2007 – date
Let’s Circus “The Circus that runs away to join you!”
Let’s Circus was founded in 2007 by Helen Averley and Steve Cousins and is based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Helen’s daughter Freya makes up the third member of this small family circus. She has been performing since she was 10 months old, and is now 18 year old she and a professional aerial artist and circus teacher.
For the first 7 years Let’s Circus was known for its little yellow entourage of vans and caravans. Initially they delivered one-off circus workshops and shows of circus & street theatre at local or community events in the North East and Scotland, Australia and Kenya. In 2009 they founded a youth circus “Five Ring Circus” as part of the Cultural Olympiad and and circus school in Newcastle, Circus Central.
In 2015, Let’s Circus commissioned their first circus big top to be made in Australia, “The Magpie” as it is known is a a black and white tent was flown in to the UK. In 2015 the seating was hay bales and audiences were asked to bring their own chairs. In 2016 red benches were added to the kit list, adults are seated on benches, and the VIPs (children) are seated on the ring mat at the front audience size is about 230. Everyone in the audience is within 5m of the stage. The tent has 2 king poles and is about 7.5m high. It has an aerial rigging bar for 2 people to do static aerial acts which is 6 meters high. Each season saw the set up become a bit more elaborate. The stage is 19m square and 50 cm high. It is equipped with LED stage lights, festoons and a sound system. In Feb 2018 Let’s Circus got a heater and was the most Northern circus tent to open for the 2018 season and feb half term. (A week before the big snow falls came.)
The Magpie’s first outing was to Lindesfarne, 1.5 hours north of Newcastle. It hosted the first circus to visit Holy Island, the Five Ring Circus. From this Let’s Circus’s passion for taking the tent and a small band of talented and intrepid international artists to amazing communities on remote islands grew. By the end of 2017 they had been to Harris, Lewis, Barra, Benbecula, Skye and Mainland Shetland.
In 2015 – 2007 Let’s Circus held a circus training festival “Circus! In a Field!” in a sheep paddock in Guyzance, rural Northumberland. It is now a biannual festival (next one will be in 2019). In 2017, The Magpie was joined by 2 even smaller black and white tents called “PeeWees” (after the little black and white Australian bird) and after the last of the yellow vehicles was confined to the scrap heap the fleet was enlarged to include “The Puffin” a 7.5 tonne truck, painted by Frank Styles, Sunderland graffiti artist as well as vehicles and trailers covered on had cut vinyl stars.
Circus education is an important part of the Let’s Circus mission alongside entertainment. The ethos of the circus is to encourage the love of Circus and to encourage people to participate in the art form to realise that circus is the art of the possible and to make them feel that they have been transported and inspired by performance. “I always come out (of the Magpie) thinking the world is a better place.” Audience member, 2018.
Let’s Circus artists and crew members are highly skilled and hail from across the globe, including the UK. When touring the circus will have a total of between 11 and 15 people.
In the 2017/18 seasons core artists included: Witty Look (Japan), Oneface Mapacha (Kenya), Matthew Tiffany (UK), Freya Averley (UK/Ireland), Duo Ariba (Mexico), Toni Smith (New Zealand) and Steve Cousins Ringmaster and Balloonatic ( UK/Australia).
Everyone is involved in the build up of the tent and performance as well as all the domestic tasks on the road, like cooking. e.g. Helen is the truck driver, tent master, rigger and front of house and well as candy floss maker, book keeper, general manager and graphic designer. Steve a ringmaster, driver, tent crew, booking agent, logistical manager, web manager. Freya is an aerial artist, teacher and tent crew. The longest stand was for 14 shows, in Feb 2018, Corbridge, but typically the circus does 4 – 5 shows and around 3 workshops per stand. In 2017 The Magpie went up on 5 islands, and in 6 locations in the North East and Yorkshire. The tour to the Shetlands lasted a month, the Hebrides 4 weeks and other stands were 1 week to 10 days long.
Let’s Circus also operates as a Circus Agency and are the “Agent of the North” supplying artists and event programmes for many events and clients of all sizes.
The circus has been involved with many European projects: Including Leonardo Life Long Learning programme 2012-2014, Project Partners include social and community Circuses from Italy, Hungary, Spain, France and Ireland. In 2017 they set up with Erasmus Plus to receive Young Entrepreneurs and also European Volunteer Students (EVS).