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Festivals and venues programming circus and street arts

There are currently three annual professional circus festivals in Finland whose programmes focus on contemporary circus, as well as some others that include a smaller amount of circus or street arts.

Examples

5-3-1 New Juggling Festival

The oldest of the circus festivals is the 5-3-1 Festival of new juggling, which was founded in Helsinki in 1998. Over its almost two decades the international festival has developed into an important three-day event in the experimental juggling field.

Circus Ruska Festival

Circus Ruska Festival, which began in 2005 in Tampere, is an international contemporary circus festival which focuses on both domestic and international performances. Since 2015 Circus Ruska Festival has been organised in connection with Tampere Theatre Festival.

Cirko Festival

Finland’s biggest annual circus festival, Cirko Festival started in 2006. This one-week contemporary circus festival presents new Finnish and international performances in Helsinki.

Helsinki Festival and Jyväskylä Festival

These general (cross art form) festivals usually include circus and street arts in their programmes. Helsinki Festival has the most international outlook. Jyväskylä Festival’s programme includes domestic groups and especially international clown or non-verbal performances.

Venues

Contemporary circus venues in Finland are mainly in the capital area, e.g. the City of Helsinki’s cultural centres and theatres. The national circus centre Cirko has organised year-round performances since its opening in spring 2011. Outside the capital area contemporary circus can be seen especially in larger cities such as Turku, Tampere and Oulu. New venues have also sprung up in the north of the country, e.g. in Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle.

Tented Circuses

Sirkus Finlandia, traditional circus’ biggest representative, makes an annual seven-month tour around the whole country and is watched by a total of 220,000 spectators each year. In addition there are three small tented circuses – Caliba, Florentino and Tähti – and funfairs which also tour the country.

Other festivals and venues that include circus and street arts in their programmes:

Silence Festival

Flow-Circus

Red Pearl Women’s Clown Festival

URB Festival of Urban Art

Theatre Union

City of Helsinki’s cultural centres and theatres

Institutional theatres

Verkatehdas

Theatre festivals for young audiences

Sakari Männistö

— Artist, Silence Festival

"The biggest challenges for contemporary circus in Finland are that there aren’t many places to perform, and not many people are in the habit of going to see contemporary circus. Touring theatres don’t exist and the cost of giving a single performance is too high. Finnish contemporary circus is often marketed as our biggest cultural export, yet somehow it still seems to be considered a curiosity; it exists and it’s good, but not many people know what it is and not many people actually go and see the performances. Silence festival struggles with the fact that small and mid-scale events are impossible to sustain with ticket sales alone. Organising costs are too high, venues too small, and there simply aren’t enough people to buy tickets. Also, when we are still trying to bring in new audiences every year the ticket prices can’t be astronomical. The potential for us is in the festival’s exceptional location and high quality program: it could really be a big destination for cultural tourism! Our mission is to sustain, increase and develop Finnish circus and the performing arts field. We do this by inviting professional domestic and foreign artists to perform in our festival, by forging new connections with artists from different disciplines, and by encouraging artists to challenge their usual ways of working. Another mission is to increase the recognition of contemporary circus in Finland – to make more people familiar with the art form. This we do through promotion, documentation and collaboration."

Photo: Joonas Martikainen