ISACS Launches Strategic Plan for Irelands Street, Circus and Spectacle Network

ISACS (the Irish Street Arts Circus and Spectacle Network) has launched its 2022 – 2025 Strategic Plan today. The Network has positioned itself as a leading example of an artist-first organisation which supports the street, circus and spectacle art forms of Ireland.

The plan outlines the strategy for the future development of the ISACS network as a whole and positions it as a knowledge hub for those wishing to deepen their understanding of these art forms in Ireland. Strategic goals include the celebration of the history, value and potential of this work, and it’s vital work as a practical and political advocate for policy changes to allow these sectors to thrive in Ireland. The Network will continue to support its hundreds of members to deliver high quality work and to sustain livelihoods within each sector.

Lucy Medlycott, Director, ISACS speaking on todays launch said “We are buoyed up by the enormous appetite and hunger of the ISACS membership who continue to create, inspire and connect with audiences of all backgrounds across Ireland. There has never been a more important time for artists to be supported, recognised and encouraged and that is what we in the ISACS network love to do. We look forward to the future with anticipation and are excited for what we can achieve as a caring collective.”

ISACS recognises the history and value of the skilled, diverse, engaging and deliberately boundary-breaking work of its artists. As part of its strategy, it will proactively engage with policy makers, producers, and the public, regarding the value, diversity and opportunities presented by these art forms. Speaking on the development of the Network, Maureen Kennelly, Director, Arts Council of Ireland said “In the decade since their initial formation, ISACS have successfully established a track-record as a leading voice in the Circus Street Arts and Spectacle sector.”

The strategic plan outlines the development and delivery of a communications strategy that advocates for the value, quality, diversity, history, achievements, and accessibility of its art forms. The organisation will gather data on the evolution, growth and impact of these art forms in Ireland and design and lead a symposium in Ireland to build understanding of the sector and forge new collaborations. It also recognises the breadth and diversity of audiences who engage with street and circus arts.

ISACS vows to continue to be an advocate for effective resourcing for the development of the sector in Ireland. It will ensure that these art forms are embedded into future arts education, arts tourism and arts heritage policy documents. It will highlight the need for infrastructural investment, physical space, and educational programmes. It will continue to campaign for an accessible insurance market for the industry alongside the Alliance for Insurance Reform. In addition, it will encourage the development of a national archive of circus and street arts to maintain, protect and preserve the heritage, story and legacy of these artforms.

ISACS membership has grown from 10 in 2012 to over 200 in 2021. As the network continues to grow, it will continue to respond to members needs through mentoring, training programmes, development and wellbeing opportunities. It will continue to proactively encourage increased engagement with young people and artists who are currently underrepresented in the sector.

Media contact | Tracey Ferguson | +353 (86) 158-4342 |

A few words from Lucy

Thank you all so much for attending today to launch the ISACS Network’s new strategic plan 2022 – 2025. But not just thank you for your presence, thank you for the support, encouragement and belief which you have each invested into the potential and power of the collective art forms of street, circus and spectacle over recent years especially, built on the hard work and toil of many trailblazing artists and arts organisations in Ireland and beyond, some of whom have worked in this sphere for 30 – 40 years in the case of street and spectacle or for over 200 years if you belong to the Circus.

This is ISACS third strategic plan in its short lifetime and this particular one was supported through the Arts Council Capacity Development funding. This funding allowed us the opportunity to work with professional arts consultant and advocate for equal rights – Noeleen Hartigan. We are so very grateful to Noeleen for her persistence, grit and determination in leading us through the strategic thinking process.

Within this plan, we set out ISACS missions, and it is quite simple:

  • To celebrate our Art Forms
  • Advocate for the Policy and Practical Changes that will allow our ArtForms to flourish
  • Grow our Membership &
  • Sustain our Organisation

Our Vision

To be a leading example of an artist first members network which supports and grows the street, circus and spectacle artforms of Ireland.

This vision boils down the essence of what ISACS does and what ISACS stands for – we are lead by our artistic members, their needs, their desires and their ambitions and the role we take is to keep their needs always first and foremost.

We have outlined clearly our core values within the plan, which reflect this vision and which underpin and inform all of our work:

  • Care – We value nurturing relationships and strive for a genuinely inclusive community which connects and cares for each other and the development of the art forms
  • Ambition – We laud ambitious actions and thinking, growing determined, proud, confident and resilient behaviour across and between our membership
  • Encouragement – We endeavour to encourage and empower our members in their journeys, their professional development and creativity
  • Integrity – We are honest, trustworthy, and open with our members, our board, our team, our partners, our funders and our stakeholders

So, what specifically do we aim to do over the next four years. I will simply highlight some key items which will mean success to us:

Goal number 1: Celebrate our artforms sharing the history, value and potential of our work

This goal allows us the opportunity to sing from the rooftops about what it is these artforms do – we aim to build on what we know by presenting factual data, sharing information, and position ISACS as a knowledge hub around the understanding of these artforms in Ireland. We will develop a symposium around these artforms deepening the recognition and growing new collaborations. You are going to hear a lot more about these artforms over the coming years …there is a lot to say that has yet to be said and there is a lot to gather that has yet to be gathered…in short we are an untapped goldmine! Get ready!

Goal number 2: Advocate for the Policy and Practical changes that will enable a flourishing Street Art, Circus and Spectacle sector to thrive in Ireland

For our sector to grow there are some obvious roadblocks that require some major changes to policy and infrastructure in Ireland. We will continue to advocate and speak out for those changes to happen. They include adequate resourcing, infrastructural investment in space and education, insurance reform – which has been a major bug bear and continues to cause incessant obstacles – it remains a mystery as to why a state values and invests in these artforms if the artists themselves involved are refused the possibility of securing adequate insurance product within said state. Plus following on from the recent recognition of circus as a piece of living intangible cultural heritage on the Unesco recognised inventory, we would like to see the development of a national archive for these artforms as well as the reinstatement of educational access for circus children who move from place to place each week. Plus of course we will contribute towards the discourse which came into sharp focus over the last two years on the ‘Public domain’….the place that these artforms physically inhabit.

Goal number 3: Grow our support to ISACS members to enhance their capacity to deliver high quality work and to sustain their livelihoods

The ISACS membership has grown year on year, reaching an all time high in 2021 of over 200 members, thanks to the pandemic. We intend to not just grow in number, but to grow in strength, leadership and professional support through a series of enhanced programmes in the form of residencies, international activities, resources, mentorship and more. We also intend to develop and grow those currently underrepresented in our art forms, build on interconnectivity between art forms and support the future generation through and together with ISACS members who engage with young people in particular.

Goal number 4: Sustain our organisation through increased and diversified funding and enhanced human capacity

It goes without saying that all of the previous goals are big, weighty things which will take time and continuous energy to implement. None of this will be possible unless we source, increase and diversify income streams over the period of the strategy. We have started off 2022 with a high level recruitment campaign to help us to achieve this growth – and are currently in the process of recruiting two new team members to join Amanda as the Company Administrator and Membership Officer and myself as the Director. These roles are for an Operations Manager and a Communications Officer and we hope to be making the appointments very shortly. We also are very grateful for the expertise and commitment of the current very generous ISACS board under the leadership of Miriam Dunne as chair (who sends her regrets today). We are very pleased to be currently recruiting for new expertise and diversity on the ISACS board and encourage you all to spread the word among your networks and help us to find some wonderful new people to help us in the delivery of this plan through a role within the ISACS board. Finally we are in the process of building a new CRM system also supported through the Arts Council Capacity development fund, which will help us enormously in all our goals to gather, evidence and communicate the impacts of these art forms and build the case going forward as to why these artforms matter.

Finally, we have created a detailed implementation plan to accompany this Strategic plan which will see that we measure the success of our work each year and keep us on track with a strong evaluation framework to keep our eye on the ball and remain focused and resolute.

These artforms have made enormous leaps and bounds over recent years in particular, and we are proud to have played our small part in same. Ultimately our role however is simply that of support act, that is it. We are not the star players or the innovators, the dreamers or schemers; we are the bollards and the buttresses and we believe that our members and our artists are changing the way that art is made, who makes it, who accesses it and how it is viewed….they are outside, doing it against all odds from a genuine desire for change then they are transforming, redefining and revolutionising the very essence of how art is viewed and who art is for. More please!

We really appreciate you all so much, Thank you!

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