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ISACS Member - Dea Birkett
ISACS Member - Dea Birkett

national circus festival irelandWe have invited our members to tell us a little more about themselves, their backgrounds, inspirations and thoughts on the exciting art forms of Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle in Ireland (and further afield)!

Introducing National Circus Festival of Ireland, one of the most exciting circus festival in Ireland, organised every year in Tralee, Kerry by Fanzini Production. The festival is an opportunity to see eye-popping international shows, be sore from laughing at the absurd, meet fellow circus artists and professionals, and in awe of feats of incredible circus skills during four days of workshops, performances, talks culminating with a circus parade and outdoors show. National Circus Festival of Ireland is celebrating its 16th edition in 2017. Since ISACS formation in 2011, we have partnered together on numerous projects the most notable of which is our Share Open Forum. NCFI are also one of our core partners for the DELVE programme hosting two ISACS members on a special Go see initiative that we have created.

We got the chance to interview artist director Con Hogan on the festival and his views on the sector. Read on to discover his thoughts and learn a great deal about being a circus artist and director.

View National Circus Festival of Ireland ISACS profile

View National Circus Festival of Ireland 2016 after movie

View National Circus Festival of Ireland 2017 Programme


National Circus Festival Ireland acts


Can you describe your work?

Well according to a recent Irish Times feature on us, we are “clever, surreal and not just a little bit silly”

I like to make work that is outdoors, improvised, absurd and makes people laugh from the belly before their brains kick in. 

Every year, we make the National Circus Festival of Ireland happen in Tralee, an explosion of circus, absurdity and skill in the depths of winter.  We are the western lighthouse of Circus in Europe.


How did you first get involved in Street Arts, Circus or Spectacle?

I began, as many others did by being introduced to juggling while at college.  I found it a most satisfying distraction from Marine Science! 


What is your earliest memory of experiencing Street Arts, Circus or Spectacle?

I remember a performer at the Rose of Tralee (Tralee is my hometown) a Moroccan guy that used to tour the circuit back in the day.  He was an acrobat, juggler and hat manipulator.  He was excellent and the intimacy of the performance is what sticks out in my mind.  He would do a backflip 2 feet from you.  He wasn’t on a stage with lights, sound and effects, he was right there, right next to you doing amazing things.


Can you identify a pivotal moment that transformed your work significantly?

Two moments came together, my decision to focus solely and full-time on Fanzini Productions and at the same time the Arts Council’s decision to support our art form resulting in our first arts council project grant.  It allowed us the time to access to directors and makers and costume designers that we could only dream about previously.  The small festivals grant allowed the circus festival to book acts a year in advance and invite such luminaries as Leandre, the Gandinis and Kamchatka to the festival.

 National Circus Festival Ireland acts 3 small


What other activities, creative or otherwise do you do that contribute to your work?

I am fortunate enough to be able to travel the world, performing at festivals with our different shows.  While there, I am also fortunate that I can see a lot of different work from all over the world that I can then bring to Tralee for the circus festival.

I am also a master of the siesta, the power nap, sleeping and snoozing in general.


What was your first experience like of presenting work to an audience?

I was Beauty’s father in the CBS boys Tralee presentation of Beauty and the Beast.  I had a rather fetching pair of knee-high boots with fluff on the end, which also happened to be my mothers.


What advice would you give to someone wanting to show work publicly for the first time?

Do it!  We need more companies and we need more performers.

 National Circus Festival Ireland parade


Are you working towards any new projects at the moment?

A festival called NCFI!

A duo show with Kim Mc Cafferty, called CraicHeads

A new site-specific festival music party mobile machine called Horsebox soundsystem

A walkabout piece with Hannes Yung called Juggling Machine

A site-specific piece called Misguided Tours with Den Fanzini.


How do you feel about the street arts, circus and spectacle sector in Ireland right now?

I have been excited about it for a good few years now!  I feel every year is a pivotal year for us.  We now have an aerial creation centre, several circus training spaces, a vibrant youth circus community in Galway, our performers are traveling internationally, we have 2 circus festivals now and we have ISACS to lobby on our behalf!  So, it is an exciting time.  We have challenges though!  We don’t have a wealth of festivals that can programme medium to large scale contemporary circus work, the  funding allocated to our art-form is relatively tiny, our population still don’t get clown or circus, we still have no full time circus school, or circus creation space and we are an island off an island on the edge of Europe!


What do you think is necessary for the art forms of street arts, circus and spectacle to develop and grow in Ireland?

Full-time circus school/education

Creation space for contemporary circus

Irish-based artists to see more international work

Irish population to see more contemporary circus work.

More festivals being able to programme ambitious medium to large scale Irish work.

We need to develop our own expression of contemporary circus, an Irish voice.


What role/impact has the ISACS network had on your work to date?

I feel ISACS has had a huge impact on our sector. The lobbying role is crucial, as we can lobby the arts council on a sector basis, rather than individually. The international networking role played by ISACS is also hugely beneficial to Irish-based artists, as it provides a direct, informal connection to international festival programmers.

 National Circus Festival Ireland acts


What is the best comment you have ever received for your work?

Rua, aged 11 “you’re not really a clown, you’re more like a sophisticated clown”

Mark Graham, a year of festivals in Ireland  “Move over Rose of Tralee, there’s a new festival in town”


Finally, do you have any favourite tips or advice for emerging artists?

Rehearse outside for outdoor shows.

Keep your props off the ground.

Performing is always better with an audience.

It takes a year for a show to properly hum.

The greatest cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree.


Join ISACS at the National Festival Circus of Ireland on November 9th-12th 2017 in Tralee! Check out our #Delve17 and Share Open Forum at National Circus Festival of Ireland on our website!


View National Circus Festival of Ireland ISACS profile

View National Circus Festival of Ireland 2016 after movie

View National Circus Festival of Ireland 2017 Programme




Irish Street Arts Circus and Spectacle Network

Irish Theatre Institute, 17 Eustace St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland
00 353 (0)87 0541812 info@isacs.ie
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