Circus Festivals in Europe

Earlier today I was having a conversation on Steve Jack’s UK Circus Days facebook page about the possibility of a large rural circus festival for the UK (as most festival programming at the moment goes on in  cities, towns, and urban spaces.)

I wanted to post a link to examples of circus festivals throughout Europe, and couldn’t find one anywhere, so I’ve made my own!

Let me know if I’ve missed anything…

European Circus Festivals


(And, if anyone’s interested, here’s the conversation so far…

TW:…they should get one massive field put all the shows in the uk in it, say to them they have a week to bill and see what show gets the most people lol

KK: I think Britain could really do with a great big circus festival! We’re trailing behind a lot of Europe in that regard…

TW: Yes…the like of monte carlo circus festival etc etc.where is the uk circus festival.its would be fantastic in the country. What does everyone else think

KK: I’d love to see an event that showcases the traditional and the new and experimental together as examples of circus today, rather than finding the work separated along us/them, then/now lines as they often are!

SB: Clowns international is looking for a new home for its festival…. Just thinking aloud……

KK:  They would be brave to have it in uk – I think clowns have an even worse rep here than circuses (sadly, in both instances!)

KK: (That said, it would probably be a great way to shake up people’s preconceptions…!)

SB: There has been a clown convention every year for decades. For the last few years its been at Butlins Bognor Regis and with over 100 clowns attending and the camp packed out, a local parade supported by thousands of locals and this year a Gala show its shown how much love there is for our art. Steve has been there with his camera. I have been to last 5 or 6. It’s how I got into clowning. True we mainly attract clowns from outside the circus however there is an amazing array of talent from all over the world who attend including some brilliant junior clowns.

HD: blackpool towers got a really good circus

SJ: I think it would be fantastic BUT if you want my honest opinion (sorry) I don’t see the public buying into it which is what it would all be about.

TW: I agree with you about it needs the public to buy it but I really do think it would work with the right people running it.we have some fantastic artists in this country not alone circus shows itself.if you find a big enough venue like the 02 arena put on a circus festival people will come and see it and love it.

TW: …in my eyes shows in the uk are all amazing because at the end of the day you all work so hard producing directing performing billing painting cleaning the tents etc that you should all be proud of the shows you have etc

KK: I think somewhere less like the O2, and somewhere more like a giant field somewhere in the middle of the country where tenting companies can pitch, ‘theatre-tents’ can be pitched for modern end-on productions, visitors can buy a day pass or camp for the duration, street acts happen… Kinda like Glastonbury but without the massively priced tickets and music! 

SB: a field full of circus would be my kind of thing. There is so much variety and we get so few circus who come this way. I travel to see them when I can.

AE: now I like that idea.

TW: I like that idea to.a field full of circus tents all gleaming in the hot sun people shouting roll up roll up the smell of popcorn and candy floss lol

DK: dream on people . No1, a field full of circuses would need the co-operation of Circus Directors , while we wait for that day to come along let’s all go outside , look up and wait for the flying pork to pass overhead , No 2, We had a sort of Festival many years ago with the Circus World Championships , to fund such an event nowadays would be astronomically expensive ,so who would do it and where would the money come from ? The logistics involved are immense I know this from being in 2 Hungarian Circus Festivals in the State Circus Building in Budapest and watching the Kristov family , who were in charge at the time, spend months arranging a 4 day event ,Its a nice dream but that’s all it is.

KK: Ah, dreams can be made real by dedication, determination, and lots of conversations! I think it’s only a matter of time tbh, and rather than wait for it to happen I’m keen to explore the ways of making it happen!

DK: dedication , determination , conversations , but no money, first get your funding then people will get interested

IH: Having just read the Martin Lacey book ”The Great British Circus- Views Of Martin Lacey” and agreeing with David’s comments above, a National circus festival will never happen. It would be great , BUT will never happen. The host circus would hold the awards, similar to Eurovision, in their Big Top and the following year hosting it would be passed on to the winner of Best Circus the year before. BUT first you would have to get ALL the circus proprietors in this country agreeing, sorry talking to each other first. Then you’ve got the problem of funding the whole thing and thats before the arguments start!

KK: Nah, you only need a couple, because there’ll be plenty of interest from the contemporary circus field, and we can import and showcase international offerings, then after a successful season or two, uk based proprietors will be pleased to sign up!  And, if not, it’s their loss! Plenty of places to source shows from if they don’t want to be part of the competition… Don’t think having a ‘host circus’ is a great model because of these self-serving elements of the current culture. Funding will indeed be the biggest task, but that’s not to say it can’t be done.
Sometimes we let ourselves get a bit isolated here on our island. There are models that work elsewhere, we need to learn from them!

DK: If you want a festival of the standard of Monte Carlo, Budapest etc you have to have either a 38m+ big top or a building because if you want arial acts, and acts with big props they cant be housed in a small tent , To make enough money from tickets it would have to be a 2000+ seating capacity ,The advertising budgets would be quite big and unless you get TV interested its a no-go from the start , a proper circus festival has to have animals and theres your second problem . Using contemporary Circus is fine if you want a 2 hour show of silks, jugglers and handstand acts because that seems to be the main output of most of the Circus schools now , I know the last sentence is provocative but many of the ” contemporary ” artists can’t walk into a ring or take a decent compliment which is why they start and finish their acts in a blackout, I have been doing this for a while and I kow what I’m talking about

AE: If you don’t dream big you’ll never be big. Go…I’m in.

TW: Go…start a petition up lol.i mean surely with circuses closing down in this country and health and saftey being tight etc the circus owners would just join forces for one big event to raise awareness of the art form circus schools etc etc.yes they may not get on but neither do footballers or boxers or even mps but when they need to they all get together for anti-bullying racism etc etc

KK: I don’t think a petition is the way to go, but thanks for the feedback  I think ACE, amenable local councils, corporate funding etc will be the elements to pull together. There may also be people working on a similar idea already… must check with the Circus Development Agency… Perhaps part of the seemingly growing split between ‘us/them’ is the traditional business-based model of circus, and the emerging arts-funding based system?



00 comments on “Circus Festivals in Europe

  • Harm van der Laan , Direct link to comment

    First of all, thanks for your wonderful, interesting and well-written blog, I’ve had a lot of fun so far and there’s plenty left to read.

    A couple of updates for the list:

    Circusstad (the Dutch festival) is spelled without a t
    Humorologie (Belgian) offers a combination of circus and comedy shows
    There’s a third Dutch circusfestival ‘Circustheaterdagen’ at the Dutch island of Schiermonnikoog (

    • Katharine Kavanagh , Direct link to comment

      Thanks for that Harm – I’ve updated the links 🙂
      Glad you’re enjoying the blog! I will see if I can catch your show in October, as I will be working in Harderwijk for the month… 🙂

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