The new breed of circus entertainment is home-grown, involves acrobatic street and theatre performances, as well as workshops. And the only animals you are likely to see are made of papier-mâché.
Cormac Mohally, from Glasheen, is one of the founder members of Cork Community Circus Project which finally got a permanent home this year along the city’s quays.
“I have been doing circus in Cork since 2000, doing street shows and teaching workshops, but since then we have geared up to perform professionally,” he says.
Mohally manages to make a ‘so-so living’ and the best bit is that he and his fellow performers get to travel a lot. “This year alone we have been in New Zealand, Canada, and Tasmania as well as a number of places in Europe. Today we are off to Switzerland.”
Mohally, 32, was bitten by the circus bug in 1999 when he attended a training school for a year in Belfast. He has a big interest in juggling and teaching. When he returned to Cork he and a few like-minded individuals started the Cork Circus Project at the Lough Community Centre that has morphed into a collective based on Albert Quay.
Cork Circus aims to bring circus arts and skills to Cork City and county and make circus arts a true community activity.
The Circus Factory is home to a full-time training and creation centre for up to 12 professionals who can book private time for work with a director.
Workshops in circus skills along with training facilities are available to amateurs and entry-level professionals.
Although the Circus Factory is not a school, there is a weekly group training session on Monday and Wednesday nights.
“We launched it on Culture Night recently (Sept 21),” says Mohally.
“There are lots of different skills involved, including trapeze, juggling, and acrobatics. We are also in the middle of organising a number of clown tutors.”
Still working on new skills, Mohally recently bought a cyr wheel, an apparatus where the performer is enclosed within a circular band and spins and tumbles around and within it to a musical beat.
Fellow acrobat Cian Kinsella from Carlow is a relative newcomer to the circus. “I only started in 2006 when I moved to Cork with Amani Acrobats, an African troupe, and I started doing workshops with them,” he says.
That is how he learned the ropes so he knows the importance of facilities like The Factory on Albert Quay. “This kind of circus is well-established in other countries but it is very new here and there is more of a DIY element about it.
“The Factory is open less than a year and already we have had huge interest in what we are doing. It is in constant use and there is growing interest in people wanting to learn about circus performance.”