Join us for the Circus Education: Creativity and Inclusion in Learning Conference!

This is a not-to-be-missed industry event for any individual, practitioner or organisation working or interested in circus education in Ireland. The conference is aimed broadly at those already engaged in youth circus practice as well as participants with an interest in youth circus from the fields of education, youth work, academia and community.

The first of its kind in Ireland, this free two-day conference sees Galway Community Circus (GCC) partnering with University of Galway – Drama and Theatre Studies and the Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network (ISACS) to explore the application of circus arts education at all levels to promote creativity, inclusion and social change. The conference will feature practical workshops and thought-provoking discussions across a range of topics including global perspectives on circus education, inclusive practices and youth-led participation in youth circus, fostering creativity and self-determination, trust and community building and future-perspectives for circus education in Ireland. There will also be engaging hands-on workshops on pedagogic approaches to promoting inclusion and creativity.

The conference is open to adult practitioners aged 18+. Young people are welcome to join the Galway Community Circus Birthday Bash accompanied by parents/guardians if under 14 years.

Conference attendees can expect:

  • Practical workshops on inclusive practice and creative processes in circus education
  • Thought provoking discussion-based workshops
  • Presentations of new research on circus in education
  • Opportunities to connect, share, learn something new and hear about happenings in the international circus sector
  • Admission to an exciting new Youth Ensemble circus performance
  • Cupcakes and craic celebrating Galway Community Circus’s 20th birthday

You should attend this conference if:

  • You work or are involved in the Irish youth circus sector
  • You are passionate about circus education and its progression
  • You are interested in learning more about youth circus as a tool for social change within your work
  • You want to make connections with policy and decision makers in the sector
  • You want to expand your national and international networks
  • You want to include creativity and inclusion in your current programmes
  • You are interested in furthering your own circus education or have an interest in research
  • You want to learn more about what’s happening in the international circus sector
  • You want to contribute to the future of circus education in Ireland

This is a brilliant opportunity to connect with new and old colleagues and immerse yourself into the world of circus education. We can’t wait to see everyone.

A more detailed conference programme with session descriptions will be released in the coming weeks.

The Circus Education: Creativity and Inclusion in Learning Conference is funded by Arts Council of Ireland and the CASSCS Research Development Scheme, University of Galway and is co-produced by Galway Community Circus, University of Galway and the Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network.


Friday, 18th November

10.30am: Registration – please check in at the registration table upon arrival

11.00-11.30am: Welcome

Opening words by Prof Michal Molcho, Vice Dean of College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies and Head of Children Studies and School of Education at University of Galway

11.30-12.30pm: Roundtable – Circus and Education: Inclusion and Creativity- Where We Are and Where We Want to Go

Moderator: Ulla Hokkanen (Executive Creative Director, Galway Community Circus)

Panellists: Laura Ivers (Head of Circus, Street Arts and Spectacle at Arts Council of Ireland), Dr Michal Molcho (Head of Children Studies and School of Education at University of Galway), Stevie Boyd (Artistic Director FLIC Scuola di Circo), Mairéad Folan (Creative Director of NoRopes Theatre Company, board member of Galway Community Circus)

What can circus education give as a mechanism for creativity and wellbeing? How do we develop and professionalise circus education in Ireland? What do we need to do to make circus education accessible to all?

As a starting point for our conference, this roundtable will look at the current developments and future vision for the circus education sector in Ireland through a discussion between practitioners, researchers, and policymakers.

12.30-1.30pm: Lunch featuring performances from the Galway Community Circus Youth Ensemble

1.30 -2.30pm: Keynote – Alisan Funk: The Significance of Circus – Fostering Creativity, Self-Determination and Inclusion through Circus

Alisan will discuss circus education in a global context highlighting where, when and how circus interventions empower and enable learners in recreational and pre-professional environments.

Alisan Funk has been a circus student, practitioner, creator, performer, teacher, teacher trainer, researcher, and is now assistant professor of circus, head of the BA in Circus at the Stockholm University of the Arts, and on the managing board of the European Federation of Circus Schools (FEDEC). She researches at the intersections of circus, creativity, and curriculum theory. Passion for circus education – and educating about circus – drive her work and research.

2.45-4pm: Research Panel: Presenting Circus Education Research from Ireland

Moderator: Marianne ní Chinnéide Panellists: Barbora Adolfova, Dr. Stephen Cadwell, Dr. Ian Walsh

European Youth and Social Circus Pedagogy and the Promotion of Social Well-being by Dr. Ian Walsh

This paper explores how youth and social circus aims to promote social well-being through the examination of educational initiatives funded by the EU to standardise pedagogical approaches in the European sector. Aspects of Corey Lee M. Keyes’s (1998) seminal ‘five dimensions of social well-being’ is used as a framework for the analysis to investigate the Erasmus + Circus Training Formation programme, that provides training for trainers in youth and social circus.

Circus Youth Voice and What Does It Say by Barbora Adolfova

What are the topics that young circus people care about? Do they come to the circus programs to talk about personal and societal issues or to forget about them? And do they want to bring these topics on stage? Czech circus producer and researcher Barbora Adolfová will present findings from her youth voice study that she conducted in five American youth and social circus programmes as a Fulbright scholar at Pennsylvania State University in the past academic year.

This is Between Us: An investigation into Galway Community Circus’ Lifeline project with a focus on Trust and Community

Participants in circus training programmes appear to exhibit a motivating emotion that does not correlate directly with wanting or desire, nor does their motivation appear to be derived from the avoidance of disgust or fear, the opposite is quite often true. Instead, the motivating emotion that participants appear to exhibit seems to be a product, or combination, of identification, trust, and bonding. Put simply, we may describe this motivating emotion as a particular sense of community.

This paper will attempt to show that the particular training techniques and styles used in youth circus (e.g. a place for everyone, no one is excluded, anything is possible, adaptability) and the approach to trainer training (e.g. having an emphasis on soft skills as well as hard techniques) are fundamental in allowing for this particular sense of community to develop and thrive.

2022’s Lifeline is a particularly good example of these techniques and approaches as participants were motivated to perform the terrifying and difficult task of wire-walking across a river. Based on interviews with the organisers and participants, this paper will attempt to show that by giving the participants a space for free identification, nurturing a healthy level of trust, and developing that trust into an appropriate tutor-student bond enabled 150 people to tight-rope walk across a river in Galway in front of thousands of people.

4- 5pm: Galway Community Circus 20th Birthday Bash

Join us as we celebrate Galway Community Circus’s 20th birthday and launch their new 2023-2027 Strategic Plan.

6-7pm: Galway Community Circus Youth Ensemble Performance

The performance will take place at the Galway Community Circus Hall, St. Joseph’s Community Centre, Shantalla. If you would like to attend the performance, please be sure to select it as an add-on at checkout.

Saturday, 19th November

9.30am: Registration – please check in at the registration table upon arrival

10am: Welcome

By Juliette O’Donnell

10.15-11.15am: Conference attendees can choose between a practical workshop or a discussion-based workshop. If you would like to attend the workshop, please be sure to select it as an add-on at checkout as registration numbers are limited.

Choose either:

Workshop 1: Inclusive practices in circus education – practical workshop with Pete Duncan of Co-Train

Who gains from more inclusive circus? Join us in this enjoyable interactive workshop that will get you to explore and imagine inclusion in circus education. Attendees can expect to learn more about models of inclusion, inclusive strategies and the new Inclusion Manifesto by European Youth Circus Organisation EYCO. The workshop will include games, case studies and creative activities.

Think Tank 1: Key Performance Indicators Covered in Glitter – Sprinkling Circus onto the Grey Task of Art Project Evaluation’ with Stephen Cadwell

In today’s world of budget-tightening, circus artists and circus arts groups often have to be very familiar with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and project evaluations. Sometimes these activities may be linked to funding, or they may be self-imposed to ensure quality control. But often the KPIs used in these processes are lifted from the fields of dance, theatre or sports.

What would a genuinely indigenous set of circus KPIs look like? Are the KPIs we currently use sufficient or do they miss some of the magic? In youth circus, should the young people themselves be determining the criteria for success, as opposed to external funding bodies? Questions like these and more will be discussed and all efforts will be made to make the discussion as circus as possible. (WARNING: glitter may be used)

11.45 -12.45pm: Conference attendees can choose between a practical workshop or a think tank conversation. If you would like to attend the workshop, please be sure to select it as an add-on at checkout as registration numbers are limited.

Choose either:

Workshop 2: Creative processes in circus education – practical workshop with Stevie Boyd, Artistic Director FLIC Scuola di Circo

The workshop will be based around the individual and will combine theatre and acro-dance to study how to remain released in the body and sustain stage presence to allow participants to bring it onto their own practice at a different date. More specifically, we will concentrate on body positioning, and stage intention, and see how that can modify a sequence on the floor that we will have created during the first part of the workshop.

Think Tank 2: Youth Participation in Youth Circus with Barbora Adolfová and Caoimhe O Dochartaigh Barr

Adult youth workers often feel that we do everything we can for the young people in our programmes. But do we know what they really need and want? How can youth circus teach young people to speak-up and take part in decisions made about their life? Come talk about youth participation in youth circus worldwide – best practice, inspiring ideas, but also obstacles along the way. (WARNING: glitter most likely will not be used, unfortunately.)

1.00-2.00pm: Lunch

2-3.30pm: Conference Review and Next Steps – What’s next for circus education in Ireland?

Moderator: Lucy Medlycott (Director of Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network) and Pete Duncan (Co-train)

A brief overview of the two days, summarising the discussions, interventions and core ideas which have arisen and inspired us for the future. Where will we go from here?

Presentation of the results of Circus++ research by Dr Ian Walsh and Ulla Hokkanen (15min)

3.30-4pm: Closing