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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal – A Documentary by Naomi Smyth

An interview with the lady behind the camera, on the circus that occupies unused buildings around the city of Bristol and brings the community together through breathtaking artistic, sensory liberation! From small shows and squatting, to the enormous CarnyVille, and going 'legit'; the Invisible Circus are something else.

Written by Helen Martin

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Corrie Nielsen LFW A/W 2011 Collection, find buy information pills illustration by Abby Wright

The BFC Tent is massive. Or a lot bigger than the other show spaces. But the benches are the same; white and hard. I went to where I was supposed to be seated and realised it was smack bang in the middle of an already super full bench. I went to the end of the bench; “Any…? No, no, ok then. Thanks.” Luckily a man on the bench behind saved me by shifting up a bit and motioning towards the space he’d made. “Ah wonderful, thanks!” I sort of wanted to chat with him, but found the non-moving up people – now before me- much more interesting. Yabbering and air kissing their faces off with some other people in another row. They went from exceptionally animated and friendly to bored and motionless in second. They reminded me of whippets. The BFC was packed, rammed, up to the brim. Before long, it went dark. The wall of photographers were in their pyramid, like hyeneas, eyes blazing, they were poised…some of them taking shots for no apparent reason. Or, just in case something ridiculous happens.

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Corrie Nielsen LFW A/W 2011 Collection, illustration by Jenny Robins

Big shoulders, high necklines, victoriana, huge circle skirts, sashes over shoulders, trouser suits with extra long legs and short jackets, balooning at the middle slightly, and beautiful midi length skirt suits with puffed shoulders. The shoes were angular or strappy, and the hair either blown up, or short and sharply pointed. But as the show continued, the more dramatic it became. The start featured outfits you could happily wear to a whole host of occasions, all fitted, 60s shapes with Victorian influences, in reds, black, grey and teal, but then it went MAD.

CorrieNielsen_LFW_MattBramford_020CorrieNielsen_LFW_MattBramford_019CorrieNielsen_LFW_MattBramford_016CorrieNielsen_LFW_MattBramford_014 Corrie Nielsen LFW A/W 2011 Collection: Photography by Matt Bramford

It was fantastic. Everything got extremely vulumnious. Enormous jackets, enveloping the models in shells of silky, padded looking fabrics. Deep purples, teals and bold reds came streaming out. Waist and neck detailing included ruffles, pleats and knots. Skirts were bubbled and swathing. Some were paired with sheer, ruffling tops, others; tight corsets. Many of the models also wore wide headbands, which added to the historic, modern twist charm, mixing modern design with 60s and the late 1800s. And making it work surprising well.

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Corrie Nielsen LFW A/W 2011 Collection: Photography by Amelia Gregory

Then two show stopper dresses came out. One nearly pure, off white with a hooped top skirt, corseted top, long train and beautiful headpiece, wrapped around the model’s blonde hair. With ballet satin encased feet, this was ghostly, heavenly and adventurous in one. It appealed to me through its theatre, gracefulness and just off purity. The dress had character, frivolity and fantasy wrapped up. Spiced up innocence, a thrown out of her castle, princess. What did she do to be ejected? For me, although more Elizabethan perhaps in design than Victorian, this was Hardy’s; Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Walking over the hills, her boots worn through, her daze; a story.

CorrieNielsen_LFW_MattBramford_137CorrieNielsen_LFW_MattBramford_136CorrieNielsen_LFW_MattBramford_129CorrieNielsen_LFW_MattBramford_150CorrieNielsen_LFW_MattBramford_166

Corrie Nielsen LFW A/W 2011 Collection: Photography by Matt Bramford

In contrast, the next dress was BLACK. It reminded me of Queen Victoria herself, mixed with Queen Elizabeth I. Then with the addition of Helena Bonham-Carter and Tilda Swinton. Exploded hair, Elnett insanity, all rough, a bit haphazard and COOL. Together with the most over-ruffled, incredible dress, fit for a QUEEN, it was an explosion. Black as the darkest night, but with a slight shine, like the moon reflecting, the material was reminiscent of a glassy ocean at night. The neck was high, ruffled, starched and stretched down to the waist. The sleeves puffed at the top, then tightened to the wrists. Then the skirt was full and glorious, with a train behind. It was like watching the night fairy, or a stunning, black widow spider move along the catwalk. Deadly. She would have destroyed the off white, semi angel in seconds. It was the ‘other’ side of our heroine, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, downbeat on the moors. Or indeed, 19th century’s; Emily Brontë’s, Wuthering Heights. With Cathy, depressed at the Wuthering Heights estate, angered and serious, yet of course, utterly beautiful. I wish the show had been on the Yorkshire Moors (I don’t), as the dress would have looked sensational, with the wind whipping about and the layers of fabric billowing. The semi angel would have been on a deserted beach in Scotland, or a corn field. I wonder where Corrie would have placed them.

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Corrie Nielsen LFW A/W Collection, illustration by Jenny Robins

Dear Wuthering Heights, I quote thou: ‘Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!’

I hope you see what I mean.

Jenny Robins’ and Abby Wright’s illustrations can also be found in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, available here.

Illustrations by Ankolie

Even the invitation to this show had me excited; detail of a vintage toile print on a fabric corset lined with vintage style brass buttons and the byline ‘inspired by the court of Louis XV when art became frivolous’ grabbed my attention.Because all of this is frivolous, for sale isn’t it?We’re in the middle of a recession and yet here we are, still feeding are obsession with fashion and art because it has become such an integral part of our lives.Combining fashion and music is a big part of my job as a stylist to musicians, so opening the show with Analize Ching on the violin was a big hit with me, followed by wonderful orchestral music that evoked the atmosphere of a French royal court.


I’d been a little underwhelmed by a lot of very drab Autumn/Winter collections, where hues vary only from black,to greys, some cream and back to black. The colours Prophetik used are all natural, with plum shades blended from madder root, rumex, logwood and indigo, and burgundy mixed from madder root, curled dock and gallnut. Adding yet more splashes of colour and prints were the quilted pieces, handed down from Jeff’s grandmother Lola from Tennesse. Hemp, cactus silk and ostrich feathers provided stunning texture and shape to the pieces. Accessories label ‘Dotted Loop’ provided reworked vintage accessories and even the shoes were made from vegetable-tanned leather.


Its rare that I can get at all excited by menswear, but the pieces in this collection spoke to the avid period-drama fan inside me. Military inspired jackets and riding boots?Phwoar.Yes please. Jeff himself appeared at the end showing how the look can be worked, though I’m sure he could probably get a way with wearing pretty much anything and still look like he just finished writing poetry/surfing/horse-riding; all listed as his hobbies.Only someone this comfortable with his masculinity could design coats for men made out of pastel pink quilts.


Corsets, tailored jackets and voluminous skirts; Jeff is very good at designing clothes for real women’s bodies.He recently dressed the lovely Livia Firth for the 2011 Golden Globes, and I can only imagine that his celebrity following will continue to increase.The final dress, ‘Mrs Moulton’ features ostrich feathers that shed naturally twice a year (from the ostrich, not the dress-that would be a high maintenance frock indeed) hand sewn on white silk and organza- I can totally picture this as a celebrity wedding dress.Watch this space.


I’ll leave you with Jeff’s take on Renaissance Art.I think it’s very interesting considering our current pre-occupation with all things vintage.
‘Renaissance art is not a rebirth as one implies, but freedom from the past. Unconcerned with what has been said or done, living in the present with an immediate relation to all things…achievement does not birth beauty but raw effort confessing its own failures and in the confession is the beauty of Art.’



Illustrations by Alexandra Rolfe

It was a mighty long trek from the main fashion activity at Somerset House to 33 Portland Place for my first show of the A/W 2011 season. As it was bStore, for sale and as 33 Portland Place is stunning (the location for much of the recent filming of The King’s Speech), and I thought it much worth the effort. Amazingly, about it arriving at 6:23 for a 6:30 show I still managed to be first in the queue. Which luckily meant I was first to get a cocktail when the doors finally opened.

bStore were obviously out to put on an intimate and relaxed show for ‘friends’. The cocktails were stunning (well done – best Mojito I have had in ages) and the drawing room we were all ushered into to settle into the evening definitely set the tone. As the room filled it also became obvious that the gathered audience were bang right-on bStore target; urban gentlemen and ladies in the up-to-date yet classically English look that bStore helps to promote. I especially favoured the lovely American woman who had had a little too much to drink, tottered on me and my bags and then had to prop herself against the wall as her ‘heels were far too high’ (if you are reading this, you know who you are!).

Cocktail downed and people watching over, we made our way into the show area. Tightly packed and with live band playing (as with the cocktails, very good) we all took places throughout the two rooms that made the runway circuit. bStore got this location just right, the slightly disused English club room feel suited the brand to a T.

Unfortunately, this is about where the amazing parts of the show came to an end. In dim lighting the first model came out, but he was halfway around the circuit before most of the audience realised the show had actually started. I believe there were two reasons for this: (1) as the lighting was so dim, the model was literally walking in shadows, and (2) the model didn’t look any different to the assembled crowd, it was hard to tell audience and model apart. The parade of models followed as we squinted in the dark to see what was on offer. Muted ochres, burgundies and black on clothes kept to the signature bStore look. Slightly tailored English, slightly American grungy, with the same proportions bStore has been following for a number of seasons now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually a big bStore fan and there was nothing here that was awful. Most of it was immensely wearable and if it was my first bStore encounter I would have been more ecstatic (but still squinting, why were there no lights? It’s a fundamental part of this process, surely?). But knowing what bStore offers, this show didn’t really bring anything new to the brand and left me feeling a bit meh. Competent? Yes. Enjoyable? Yes. Groundbreaking? Nope.

Illustrations by Alexandra Rolfe

It was a mighty long trek from the main fashion activity at Somerset House to 33 Portland Place for my first show of the A/W 2011 season. As it was bStore, capsule and as 33 Portland Place is stunning (the location for much of the recent filming of The King’s Speech), I thought it much worth the effort. Amazingly, arriving at 6:23 for a 6:30 show I still managed to be first in the queue. Which luckily meant I was first to get a cocktail when the doors finally opened.

bStore were obviously out to put on an intimate and relaxed show for ‘friends’. The cocktails were stunning (well done – best Mojito I have had in ages) and the drawing room we were all ushered into to settle into the evening definitely set the tone. As the room filled it also became obvious that the gathered audience were bang right-on bStore target; urban gentlemen and ladies in the up-to-date yet classically English look that bStore helps to promote. I especially favoured the lovely American woman who had had a little too much to drink, tottered on me and my bags and then had to prop herself against the wall as her ‘heels were far too high’ (if you are reading this, you know who you are!).

Cocktail downed and people watching over, we made our way into the show area. Tightly packed and with live band playing (as with the cocktails, very good) we all took places throughout the two rooms that made the runway circuit. bStore got this location just right, the slightly disused English club room feel suited the brand to a T.

Unfortunately, this is about where the amazing parts of the show came to an end. In dim lighting the first model came out, but he was halfway around the circuit before most of the audience realised the show had actually started. I believe there were two reasons for this: (1) as the lighting was so dim, the model was literally walking in shadows, and (2) the model didn’t look any different to the assembled crowd, it was hard to tell audience and model apart. The parade of models followed as we squinted in the dark to see what was on offer. Muted ochres, burgundies and black on clothes kept to the signature bStore look. Slightly tailored English, slightly American grungy, with the same proportions bStore has been following for a number of seasons now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually a big bStore fan and there was nothing here that was awful. Most of it was immensely wearable and if it was my first bStore encounter I would have been more ecstatic (but still squinting, why were there no lights? It’s a fundamental part of this process, surely?). But knowing what bStore offers, this show didn’t really bring anything new to the brand and left me feeling a bit meh. Competent? Yes. Enjoyable? Yes. Groundbreaking? Nope.


Illustrations by Alexandra Rolfe

It was a mighty long trek from the main fashion activity at Somerset House to 33 Portland Place for my first show of the A/W 2011 season. As it was bStore, price and as 33 Portland Place is stunning (the location for much of the recent filming of The King’s Speech), generic I thought it much worth the effort. Amazingly, site arriving at 6:23 for a 6:30 show I still managed to be first in the queue. Which luckily meant I was first to get a cocktail when the doors finally opened.

bStore were obviously out to put on an intimate and relaxed show for ‘friends’. The cocktails were stunning (well done – best Mojito I have had in ages) and the drawing room we were all ushered into to settle into the evening definitely set the tone. As the room filled it also became obvious that the gathered audience were bang right-on bStore target; urban gentlemen and ladies in the up-to-date yet classically English look that bStore helps to promote. I especially favoured the lovely American woman who had had a little too much to drink, tottered on me and my bags and then had to prop herself against the wall as her ‘heels were far too high’ (if you are reading this, you know who you are!).

Cocktail downed and people watching over, we made our way into the show area. Tightly packed and with live band playing (as with the cocktails, very good) we all took places throughout the two rooms that made the runway circuit. bStore got this location just right, the slightly disused English club room feel suited the brand to a T.

Unfortunately, this is about where the amazing parts of the show came to an end. In dim lighting the first model came out, but he was halfway around the circuit before most of the audience realised the show had actually started. I believe there were two reasons for this: (1) as the lighting was so dim, the model was literally walking in shadows, and (2) the model didn’t look any different to the assembled crowd, it was hard to tell audience and model apart. The parade of models followed as we squinted in the dark to see what was on offer. Muted ochres, burgundies and black on clothes kept to the signature bStore look. Slightly tailored English, slightly American grungy, with the same proportions bStore has been following for a number of seasons now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually a big bStore fan and there was nothing here that was awful. Most of it was immensely wearable and if it was my first bStore encounter I would have been more ecstatic (but still squinting, why were there no lights? It’s a fundamental part of this process, surely?). But knowing what bStore offers, this show didn’t really bring anything new to the brand and left me feeling a bit meh. Competent? Yes. Enjoyable? Yes. Groundbreaking? Nope.
Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, decease set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, information pills mind and soul, it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow – from squatters to ‘legit’ workers. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?
The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!

Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol? What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

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2 Responses to “Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal – A Documentary by Naomi Smyth”

  1. [...] is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and [...]

  2. [...] “There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based.” (Amelia’s Magazine) [...]

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