Let’s Circus has pioneered the addition of modern circus as a regular cultural offer for communities across the The Outer Hebrides
In 2007, the Let’s Circus team developed a Hebridean circus and street arts programme with the Hebridean Celtic Festival, building from previous annual work established by Steve Cousins between 2002-5. With a focus on Stornoway, the HebCelt has expanded upon its excellent musical programme by commissioning Let’s Circus to curate an international programme with deep connection to its local community. The present format of 2019 has Let’s Circus and its Magpie Big Top venue as the heart and soul of the family programme at the island’s most important cultural event.
During the lifetime of the project, circus and street arts (an otherwise extremely rare visitor to the Outer Hebrides) has established itself as a popular and high demand cultural activity.
Stornoway’s annual street arts programme has grown to become a full schedule of dance, music and variety, with local groups embracing the opportunities that HebCeltFest now brings. This new, local culture of viewing, and doing street art, forms a focal point for the summer season of many local groups. The list of local performers showcasing on the streets is a world away from the humble beginnings of a small team of street artists performing to locals who ranged from shy to thoroughly confused back in the noughties. The cultural change and increased public demand of live performance has been huge.
With support from the Festival, Let’s Circus’s Hebridean focus has gradually shifted from purely Stornoway-based provision, to delivery locations established right across the Hebridean Archipelago. Schools, arts organisations, festivals, community trusts, rural halls and cultural attractions have all partnered with Let’s Circus to present a special events. Annual tours and one-off events are now funded from a mix of commercial buy-in, ticket sales and in 2016, with some subsidised funding.
In 2015 the Let’s Circus Hebridean programme had developed to a tented circus company of award winning international performers, delivering publicly acclaimed shows and a mobile circus school across Skye, Lewis and Harris. Let’s Circus has since expanded their reach as regular visitors to the islands of Barra, North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist. In 2018 the most ambitious tour was launched – an unsubsidised self produced halls tour taking in small rural community halls such as Ness and Uig (Isle of Lewis), Scarista and Tarbet (Isle of Harris), Carinais (North Uist) and Stoneybridge (South Uist).
The rural halls touring model can be seen in this video.
Public feedback from these events include the following reviews:
Developing circus outreach events in remote locations is core to the ambitions of Let’s Circus, and our work in The Hebrides continues to be a motivation.
Project Lifetime: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014-19
Location: The Outer Hebrides and Skye, Scotland