This page was originally set up to collect documents that might be helpful to anyone lobbying for government support for the UK circus sector in response to the Covid crisis. As the pandemic has progressed, additional documents have been developed through the sector, including protocols for best practice under the changing restrictions, which have also been added here (or scroll to bottom of page). Feel free to get in touch if you have more!
In the initial easing of the first lockdown measures, in June 2020, circus was excluded from leisure businesses allowed to re-open in England, leading to this letter of support from the union Equity, based on original wording from Chris Barltrop. He sent the letter to his MP, and has shared the letter on Facebook inviting others to adapt it and use it to do the same (text copied below):
A future without theatres — you’ll know that some of the best ones have been forced already to close — is a bleak prospect indeed. A Britain without the richness and heart given it by so many aspects of live performance. I understand the House will debate the issue today. I ask you to put in a word for the circus.
The current DCMS Guidance bars travelling circuses from opening. A circus is not a ‘theatre’. It is effectively an outdoor event. The tent is simply a roof. Its walls can be opened, lifted up to provide ventilation, rearranged to provide exits at frequent intervals. There are no narrow corridors where people might pass too close. Seating is made to be set up in any configuration; the whole thing is designed to be rearranged at a moment’s notice, that’s what we do, it’s what we’ve done all our lives as we move from town to town. A theatre can’t be rebuilt; a Big Top can! Other aspects – the ticket office, the loos, even the catering facilities – are outside the Big Top in the open air. Like at a funfair. Funfairs may open from 4th July. Circuses may not!
The circus is the only professional live performance many people ever see. It’s for families, and (for all we must go on protecting ourselves against the virus) families benefit from sharing such experiences, they strengthen society. It’s affordable, portable to all communities, cross-cultural. Unlike theatre companies, there is no risk to the public or fellow-performers by close contact. Circus performers live on site in their caravans, so they’re always in a ‘bubble’. Since lockdown began, circuses have been stuck in situ, so each group’s bubble is even more strongly established. Please put in a word for us today, before it’s too late and the circus is killed off.
In June, the government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) sent a call out for evidence on the impact of Covid-19 across cultural sectors. They wanted to know:
• What has been the immediate impact of Covid-19 on the sector?
• How effectively has the support provided by DCMS, other Government departments and arms-length bodies addressed the sector’s needs?
• What will the likely long-term impacts of Covid-19 be on the sector, and what support isneeded to deal with those?
• What lessons can be learnt from how DCMS, arms-length bodies and the sector have dealtwith Covid-19?
• How might the sector evolve after Covid-19, and how can DCMS support such innovation todeal with future challenges?
The call was open until 19th June, but evidence may also be accepted after this date. Full details here.
Collected evidence documents are listed below. Feel free to use and quote as required…
- Socioeconomic summary of EU report on circus (Jan 2020):
- Press release from House of Lords:
- CircusWorks Youth Circus Covid-19 Impact Survey:
- Report 1 (and Supplementary Report)
- Report 2 (and Supplementary Report)
- Summary of Circostrada survey into Impact of Covid-19 on Circus and Street Arts
- Submission to DCMS (Government Department for Culture, Media and Sport) emerging from the #CircusSnapshot research into the UK’s subsidised circus sector
- Protocols template for best practice in the circus sector in relation to Covid-19. Compiled by Di Robson and Kevin Wratten from consultation through the Circus Change UP Covid-19 working group. (This working group, and the other groups under the \ banner, are open for new volunteers to join at any time)