Photo: Joonas Martikainen

1

Short history and overview of the street arts and circus

Circus in Finland began when a French equestrian circus group performed in Turku in 1802. In successive decades Finland became a fixture on international circus tours as groups passed through on their way to St Petersburg from Stockholm.

The first Finnish circus troupe started performing in 1896. At the beginning of the 20th century, circus acts were often performed as part of touring funfairs, but long distances, hard winters and the high entertainment taxes that were levied on circus hindered sustainable circus activity.

The second awakening of circus began in the 1970s. The founding of our biggest touring tented circus, Sirkus Finlandia, in 1976 revived a long-lost Finnish circus tradition, and youth circuses were also established in the same decade. Since then, a huge rise in the amount of children and youth engaged in circus as a hobby has fed a new generation of performers and spectators. Today there are more than 8,000 amateurs in 44 youth circus schools and clubs all around the country. High quality youth circus education is widely available, and is designed to provide a solid footing for professionalism in the art field.

Contemporary circus art began to develop in Finland in the 1990s. Today we have around twenty full-time contemporary circus companies and around the same number of solo artists, duos, collectives and working groups. There are an estimated 250 circus professionals working in Finland, both performing and teaching circus skills. Circus is being taught in two educational institutes. one important step in the development of the art form in Finland was the opening of Cirko, a venue and residency centre for contemporary circus, in Helsinki in 2011. The association Cirko – Center for New Circus had been established already in 2002.

One important step in the development of the art form in Finland was founding of The Association Cirko – Center for New Circus in 2002. In 2004–2006 Cirko carried out a development project for new circus with the funding from Finnish Cultural Foundation. In 2006 Cirko was divided into two so that the tasks of documenting, developing and promoting circus arts became the responsibility of CircusInfo Finland and Cirko continued as a production center. The opening of Cirko venue and residency center for contemporary circus in Helsinki in 2011 was a major step forward.

Street arts sector in Finland remains still quite small and unorganized. Outdoor performances can be seen at summer festivals in Finnish cities and villages but a short summertime and unpredictable weather conditions have hindered the growth of the sector.

During the last 200 years, circus has grown to become a respected, active and independent art form. The Finnish government has systematically supported circus arts over the last decade. Circus has received state financial support since 2009, and the amount of support has increased from 100,000 Euro (2009) to 520,000 Euro (2014). Compared to the state support received by theatre and music the support for circus is still very small-scale. In 2014 circus art was finally accepted into the law for theatres and orchestras but yet there are still no circus organisations that would receive legislated funding from the government.