national circus

the beautiful special edition of The Night Circus with the beautiful Mafra Library!


11 years ago I visited this beautiful place, the Palace of Mafra but back then we weren’t allowed to take any sort of photos. I was a sad 14 year old because it was amazing, especially that library, and I couldn’t take pictures! This year I went back there and this time I could take pics! :D So yeah, I killed my thirst for pics :P AND OF COURSE I COULDN’T MISS A CHANCE TO TAKE PHOTOS OF MY COPY OF THE NIGHT CIRCUS WITH THE LIBRARY AS A BACKDROP! 

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These beautiful advertisements for ‘Portraits Of An Icon’ at National Portrait Gallery have been spotted in tube stations around London.

The top photo was taken by me at Piccadilly Circus. The bottom shot was taken by Terence Pepper at Charing Cross.

Audrey Hepburn: Portraits Of An Icon is showing at National Portrait Gallery until 18th October. Don’t miss it!

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Finally getting more control in these shapes! Woop woop! Back rehab is laying off :D #circuseverydamnday #handstand (at National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA))

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Circus skills as far as the eye can see 👀

Here’s an idea of what shared practice time looks like in our largest training space, the Combustion Chamber, with degree students and professional members training alongside each other. If you’re a professional circus artist, become a member and train in beautiful converted power station rooms.

nationalcircus.org.uk/membership

To celebrate International Women’s Day this month, we interviewed our very own CEO - Kate White.

From leaving school, can you tell us about your career path and how you got here today?

I left school and started working in an American bank in the City of London. I quickly discovered that I liked the drama of it all. I was actually working in the currency trading rooms and I managed to go from being in the outside office, where you’d be just processing transactions, to getting myself a position on the junior dealing desk in about two and a half weeks. Then I gave up work and had my family. I didn’t go back to the money market because the very long working days wouldn’t sit desperately well with having a family. I didn’t work for a number of years, apart from doing things on a voluntary basis.  I then set up my own business, with a friend, who also shared my passion for making things. We used to make big sculptural things using metal frame work, armatures and recycled materials and we used to make paper. We set up our own company and we used to sell the sculptures. We wrote a book and we used to do lots of teaching in the arts world. After a while, we decided that we wanted to build a studio for ourselves because until that point we were basically doing everything at our kitchen tables and we were running out of space. We decided that to build a studio, we needed a small mortgage so I got a part time job in a box office in an arts centre. However, after I’d been there for not very long, I was asked if I wanted to become the Arts Development Officer for the council that it was attached to, which I did. I started to realise that my frustrations around arts organisation’s, that never wanted to do quite what I wanted them to do, were probably better resolved by me being an Arts Manager than by me working as an Artist.  After a period of time doing that job, I then moved to a Marketing role in a small rural arts venue, where I was for a couple of years, half way through that time, the Director left that arts organisation and I then took over as the Director. I then decided that I didn’t want to run a place because I was fed up of worrying about leaking roofs, blocked toilets and all the things that you have to worry about as a director of a very small place. I decided that I wanted to go somewhere bigger and move back into Marketing so I did and I went to another arts venue in a city on the Welsh boarders where I ran a Marketing and Communications team. I ended up being there for about 3 years and again there was a period of time when the Director there was taken ill so I stood in as Interim Director. Again, I decided that I didn’t really want to run a building. Then I came to Circus Space, almost 10 years ago.

Which female leaders have influenced the way you work and how you have evolved?

There are many female leaders within the arts world who I look at in awe because they all seem to be massively dynamic, they have endless energy and are very passionate. I would say that I’m equally influenced by the people that I don’t want to replicate and behaviours that I’ve not enjoyed being a part of. The most singular influential person was Jane Rice- Bowen. We worked together in a previous organisation and then we worked together here at the National Centre, job sharing for over 5 years, which was amazing and very creative.

If any, what barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?

I don’t realistically think within this organisation and within the context that I exist, around the conservatoire and within the wider arts field that I could honestly say, I have felt any real challenges in doing my job as a woman. I think that one of the things I have on my side is age; I’m a middle aged woman and I think it’s often harder for young women. I think age gives you a certain gravitas or if you just care less about being outspoken. I think within my context here, I don’t really feel that I’ve faced any real barriers. In my early working life in the city, where there were next to no women at all at that time in the foreign exchange market, it was tremendously challenging but at that point I was blessed with being very young and the total belief that I was invincible. Again, it didn’t feel like a barrier, it just felt like an exciting challenge to overcome.

What changes have you seen since first embarking upon your career within the arts?

I think the arts have changed enormously and has become far more formalised; it’s no longer good enough just to have a good idea and we can no longer exist in a hippiesh bubble. Back in the day, there were many funding opportunities available and projects were easy to fund however now, you have to be able to run a successful business and you have to have a commercial awareness. I don’t believe any of us that work in the arts now really believed that this was particularly desirable, it probably isn’t why we got into this in the first place; however it is entirely crucial now to be able to have a financial, a commercial and a legal understanding to work within the arts.

Like most industries, the arts are still a fairly male dominated field. What would you say are the main challenges facing women at present who are wanting to progress to senior roles within the arts?

I think the main problem is that there are an awful lot of them. If you look at things like the Arts Marketing Association and you go to their conference, Arts Marketing is entirely populated by really smart, bright, young women but actually there are a huge number of them so, to float to the top, you have to be pretty extraordinary. I think there’s a much better gender balance within the arts in comparison to many industries, not always for the right reasons- I think often young women are willing to take a lower paid employment than young men are, which means that the arts where it doesn’t and can’t pay huge amounts of money, gets that as a huge benefit. There are areas, particularly at lower levels, that are entirely full of young women- you only have to look at our Participation and Outreach team; it’s always incredibly smart young woman who come in and spend a period of time upskilling and developing themselves before moving on to something else.

Gender inequality is an ongoing issue in many places across the world. What role does the arts industry play when it comes to improving perceptions of women in society?

I think the arts are always important because we can tell stories in a way that makes them a bit more palatable than it being shoved down your throat by a faceless politician. There’s a huge difference between news coverage and the sensationalism that happens but the way in which the arts can tell a story, whether it’s through visual arts, theatre performance or music, it can tell that story that can have a really deep and powerful influence on the population, without feeling as though it’s being preachy or prescriptive. As far as I’m concerned, the arts can get in by stealth to places where others can’t.

What brought you to circus and what has been your proudest moment so far?

I came to circus because it just looked really interesting. I was a little bit bored with myself; I’d been in various rural and semi-rural arts venues across the country. I was slightly naive in some ways as I thought that it was a single art form and therefore it would be easier than a multi art form venue- that is not true! Circus just offered me something else that was really exciting. Not least was the opportunity to tell people that I’d run away to join a circus when I was just over 40- frankly that’s a dinner party thing that you can’t give up! My proudest moment so far, I’ve got two that I would find very difficult to split. One was when we finally launched as the National Centre- the day was incredible and it was the result of seven years of really hard work. The moment that probably makes my heart beat fastest was being at the Paralympic opening ceremony in 2012 and seeing those remarkable individuals that we had trained here at the National Centre was amazing and, incredibly, we had pulled this off at relatively short notice. To be honest any of the graduates that know me will tell you that I’m incredibly easy to make cry and so I often have a little tear at the end of year shows- they all judge their success on whether they have been able to make me cry or not.

We talk of how circus is a truly inclusive art form. How do you think circus compares to other art forms in terms of gender equality, ability and age?

I think age is still slightly problematic and I think that’s often the case with anything that has an extreme physicality at its core and at its heart.  In terms of gender, I think that we do really well. There have always been fairly powerful women within circus; certainly as performers. The other thing within circus that really plays to that advantage is that there is no one single physicality that you need in circus; you need great big strong people and you need tiny little people that you can throw around. Circus works as a whole because everybody is different and because all of those differences come together and create something that is so much more.

In your opinion, how do you feel circus can increase women’s confidence?

I think that if you talk to any of the people who come here and train, particularly recreationally, they will talk about feeling strong, about feeling powerful, they will talk about what the physically doing of circus has given them. I think that for women particularly, when their physical presence and being is developed in that way, it gives them a confidence and a power that seeps through and runs into the rest of their lives. The best thing about circus, probably for women, is that it makes you strong- it’s not about a body image thing at all; it’s about strength and with strength comes power.

In what ways, if any, do you feel the arts in general could be more supportive to young women in terms of mental and physical health?

I think the arts do a pretty good job. I think the arts in particular are quite good at seeking out groups that can benefit from certain things and the non-competiveness that exists in the arts, as opposed to sporting activity, is a very powerful way of engaging young women in thinking about themselves differently. It sort of goes back to the previous question around physicality and strength equaling confidence and power.

Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women starting out in the industry?

Don’t give up. Network heavily; try to meet people and most importantly; make sure that you are doing something that you absolutely and passionately believe in! You are not going to become a millionaire working in the arts, you have to get your value and you have to get your rewards from other things, besides the financial. There are a million and one other rewards that the arts are incredibly good at giving you but you have to seek them out.

Working for a charity is rewarding but there has never been a more challenging time for the arts. What is your drive behind your determination and commitment to the National Centre?

I believe passionately in the power of the arts to change lives. We see lives here changed on a daily basis, throughout all programs of activity, and that’s amazing. The one thing that gets me out of bed every morning is walking through the doors and seeing remarkable young people creating amazing things. The drive and the passion that our students display provide us with a really privileged view of young people and what they can achieve. I feel incredibly proud to be even a tiny part of their journey. We have the most remarkable staff team here which consists of people who give of themselves, their time, their intellect and their energy to support that next generation of artists.

What do you see for the future of circus and the National Centre?

I think we must continue to establish what it really means to be a National Centre and to work nationally in offering support for our art form. I think that it’s a continuing process for us in legitimising and maturing this art form to demonstrate that it’s truly aspirational and inspirational for participants and for audiences. I think we have huge opportunities; we have a universal language, a physical language, we can tell stories in a way that no other art form can and we are incredibly cool.  As statutory changes come about with funding for all sorts of activities becoming harder from the public purse, we need to get better at making sure that people understand the value of the work we do and the real life changing opportunities that this art form delivers. Our work brings sheer joy and without work like ours, there isn’t very much cream on the cake and life becomes a bit better with a bit of cream on the cake.

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Going Live: Falling In Reverse “Full Set” from Yahoo Live.