Cairns enews

Introducing Circa Cairns

Creating new possibilities for circus from the nexus of culture and place.

Circa is delighted to announce the launch of CIRCA CAIRNS, a bold new chapter in its journey to explore ‘what is possible in circus?’

Circa Cairns is a proudly First Nations-led contemporary circus ensemble. The company’s creative lead is Harley Mann, a proud Wakka Wakka man and outstanding new talent as a performer, arts maker, director and company leader. Harley is one of the first First Nations artists to graduate from the National Institute of Circus Arts. His leadership promises to create great art from the encounter of culture and place. 

Circa Cairns Creative Lead Harley Mann said: “Art comes from people and their stories. I’m fascinated by stories that don’t look the same, that don’t come from the same people and don’t come from the same places.”

Dr Anita Heiss AM, Circa Board Member, Wiradyuri woman and author said: “I am extremely proud of the steps taken by Circa to grow First Nations talent in the circus industry. With Harley in the leading role, and support from local community, I believe Circa Cairns is set to create a new and significant space for our performers well into the future, and that’s where our focus is directed.”

Circa Cairns currently comprises three full-time artists and a creative producer, well known Cairns arts leader, Rebecca Youdell. It is envisaged that the company will grow to five over the first year and feature seven, full-time Cairns based artists by 2025 comprised of a majority of First Nations artists. Collaborations with guest artists will be a regular feature of the ensemble’s output.

Circa Cairns builds on Circa’s decade-long engagement with Cairns Regional Council. Led by Circa’s Executive Producer Danielle Kellie it resulted in multiple successful community engagement projects. Circa’s Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz conceived of a First Nations-led ensemble based in Cairns and Executive Director Shaun Comerford led a coalition of Circa Executive, Board, local and national stakeholders to make the vision possible. Circa invited Harley Mann to be the initiative’s Creative Lead.

Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch commended Circa on this new initiative that will see the company leverage its global reputation for exceptional physical theatre to grow its footprint in Cairns and realise First Nations-led participation in circus as an artform.

“This is an exciting time in Cairns and I applaud Circa’s leadership in extending its reach into Far North Queensland and its commitment to enabling employment and career pathways with a focus on First Nations peoples,” Minister Enoch said.

“The Queensland Government supports Circa with core operational funding through the National Performing Arts Framework.”

“With the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games set to be a powerful celebration of First Nations arts and cultures throughout the state, Circa Cairns will help to showcase Queensland talent on the world stage, aligning with the priorities in Creative Together, our 10-year roadmap to support a sustainable future for the arts.”

Cairns Regional Council Deputy Mayor Terry James said: “We are very excited that Circa has chosen Cairns as its home away from home. Our residents have been enjoying Circa’s amazing physical theatre performances for many years as part of the Cairns Festival program.”

“To have this nationally renowned ensemble have a temporary base at the Tanks will not only ensure more amazing shows, but provide inspiration and opportunities for local performers looking to pursue a career in the creative arts. It’s a great feather in our cap as we continue to develop our credentials as the Arts & Culture Capital of Northern Australia.”

Circa Cairns is supported in 2022 by the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund – an Australian Government initiative.

The Circa Cairns team will work with support from Circa’s Brisbane base, to create and perform work locally in Cairns, to be toured nationally and internationally.

Shaun Comerford, Circa’s Executive Director said: “We are delighted to bring new resources and fresh talent to the burgeoning arts community in Cairns.”

Circa Cairns will provide opportunities for emerging First Nations Artists and Far North Queensland residents to undertake training and skills development that might otherwise be unavailable. It will partner with CYCAS Youth Circus and will work closely with Council, Cairns TAFE and remote communities to tailor a suite of programs to maximise impact.

Circa Cairns will pursue an ambitious program of productions. A number of projects are currently in development and commencing this month is Deep Listening, a community workshop program targeted at First Nations circus artist development. Inspired by connection to place, this program aims to create new circus languages and performance tools with remote communities through a serious of workshops centred around the process of Deep Listening.

Circa Cairns // Connected to place, tradition, culture and community.

Photo by David Kelly. Pictured Harley Mann.

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