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Creation and residency centres

Cirko – Centre for New Circus, Helsinki

Since 2002, Cirko – Centre for New Circus has been working to promote and develop contemporary Finnish circus. In 2011 the Cirko circus building opened in Helsinki’s Suvilahti – 1,400 square metres of offce and performance space, custom-made for contemporary circus. Cirko offers the public high quality and interesting contemporary circus, with its performances attracting more than 10,000 visitors a year. Cirko also provides circus professionals with a first-class working environment: around twenty professional groups practice at Cirko’s rehearsal spaces each year.

Cirko center runs a year-round residency programme which encourages and helps emerging and young circus artists to develop new contemporary circus works. Cirko conducts the Nordic region’s largest annual festival of contemporary circus, Cirko Festival, each May, which also serves as a platform for Finnish contemporary circus showcases. Cirko is internationally active in the field of contemporary circus through various networks.

Circus and arts space Sipola, Rovaniemi

The circus and cross-art space Sipola opened in Rovaniemi in Northern Finland in January 2015. The space is an old industrial hall which has been cleaned, repainted, and fitted for circus rigging. The main tenants of the space are the circus company Agit-Cirk and a second company called The Cross Art Collective Piste. So far the main purpose of Sipola has been to provide these two companies with space for rehearsal, storage, set building/ design, and teaching. During the first year over fifteen different productions were rehearsed in Sipola, in addition to weekly circus classes held for both young people and adults. Many different sets have also been designed and created in the space.

The space itself is 15m x 9.5m x 5.5m. The open rehearsal space is about 9.5m x 9.5m. There are multiple rigging points for aerial, and also some for tightwire. Even though the space is in Lapland it is still fairly warm – it has underfloor heating, radiators, and is quite well insulated with double glazing. Both companies have storage rooms of 12m x 2m. There’s also a kitchenette and a shower, and one can drive a big van into the space if one needs to.

The space is designed for practicing and creation, as well as a base for teaching. Secondary goal has been to have artists visit Rovaniemi to rehearse and perform, as Finland is short on spaces for both. Because there is hardly any touring in the country, and most of the shows are either created in a couple living rooms or in a single space one of the goals behind opening Sipola was to invite collaborators to work and create performances, with the long-term aim of exchanging performances between cities. Sipola also collaborates with the annual Silence festival, based 160km away in Kittilä. Some companies performing there will have a residency season in Sipola in the run-up to the festival. Sipola is still looking for the funding as it is difficult to find financial support for these kind of initiatives.

The space is unique in Rovaniemi, but also in Finland. It creates possibilities for so called ‘free field’ organisations to actually function, to be able to create performances. The performing arts don’t have a strong residency culture in Finland, let alone Rovaniemi. Even within its first year of functioning Sipola has proven its worth: promoting new creations and new collaborations, it has become a significant help to and asset for local organisations.

The dream of the people behind Sipola is to have a practical, functional space with everything that is needed for a successful residency for companies from Finland or abroad – including themselves.

Riku Lievonen

— Managing Director, Cirko —

"We have only a few organisations and venues who programme and present circus in Finland. For many audiences, it’s simply not easy to see circus. The lack of touring resources and the large distances between venues are not the only reasons. The most important challenge is to change the mental landscape. Many theatres and venues could present more circus, if they only had better knowledge and an understanding of the nature of the art form. Other challenges are to develop better working conditions for circus artists and companies; to create new platforms to present their performances; to remove barriers between professionals in circus and the other performing arts (e.g. theatre directors); and to strengthen audience engagement."

Photo: Petri Anttila