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Festivals and venues programming circus and street arts

Based on the data found in the guide to the sector Le Nomade (2011) there are about eighteen circus and/or street arts events in the French-speaking part of Belgium, of which nine receive subvention from the government. In addition there are about seventeen multidisciplinary festivals and 27 venues that also include circus and/or street arts in their programming. A new online edition of Le Nomade is planned for 2016.

Based on data from Circuscentrum, Flanders has around 21 festivals for circus. In 2014, ten of these festivals received funding from the Flemish government. Several of these festivals also include street arts in their programme. Flanders has a lot of local festivals presenting street arts and some circus in smaller villages. However, there are no exact figures for this activity.

Over the last few years there has been a tendency for indoor venues to leave the comfort of their buildings and to programme street arts or (performing) arts in public spaces. There is no precise data available on how many venues, but we can say that the majority of the bigger cultural houses are known to occasionally go beyond their brick walls.

The same can be said for the programming of circus in indoor venues. Circus in Flanders is on the rise since the Circus Decree, and more and more interesting creations are being made, increasing the interest of cultural houses in programming circus – both Flemish and international work. In the past, circus shows were booked by cultural centres as family shows or programmed for young audiences but of late this has started to change.

Examples

Smells Like Circus

In 2011, Circuscentrum started a collaboration with Vooruit – one of the big arts centres in Ghent – to get contemporary circus in Flanders the recognition it deserves in the performing arts sector. Since 2015 this has resulted in the five-day event Smells Like Circus.

MiramirO

MiramirO is one of the ongoing festivals recognised under the Flemish Circus Decree. This yearly festival in July infiltrates the city, giving a stage to a wide variety of art forms, but with a special focus on circus and performing arts in public spaces. Its aim is to bring audiences together in shared amazement.

La fête des artistes de Chassepierre

La Fête des artistes de Chassepierre is an international festival dedicated to presenting the current trends in street arts from all over the world. The festival happens annually in August and is one of the oldest in the country, existing since 1973.

Bram Dobbelaere

— Artist, Cie EaEo and Cie Pol & Freddy —

What are the most important challenges for circus / street arts in your country and specifically when it comes to audience and marketing development?
"It seems like circus and street festivals in Belgium have no problem reaching a large and diverse audience, while theatres struggle to fill their seats during the ‘regular’ theatre season. I think Belgian audiences are still a bit reluctant to go see contemporary circus in the theatre. Then again this might also have to do with a more general decline in theatre-going. As a Belgian company, we perform for bigger audiences in foreign countries than in our own. Sure, it’s getting a bit better every year, with more theatres booking circus shows, but I thought this evolution would happen a lot faster."