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Introducing ... Cirque de Govan

A TROUPE of performers brought together to celebrate the Commonwealth Games is aiming to set up Scotland's first dedicated circus school.

Sam MacFarlane flips over Cory Johnson as the Commonwealth Youth Circus trains at Kinning Park Complex in Govan, Glasgow Photograph: Stewart Attwood
Sam MacFarlane flips over Cory Johnson as the Commonwealth Youth Circus trains at Kinning Park Complex in Govan, Glasgow Photograph: Stewart Attwood

The Commonwealth Youth Circus, which will stage a series of shows during the Queen's Baton Relay in Scotland, is to train a new generation of tutors after a successful fundraising campaign.

It is hoped this will be a first step in developing a dedicated school in Scotland, where performers can learn and practise their skills.

But forget clowns, custard pies and lions - the modern Big Top is more about a combination of acrobatics and theatrical performance.

Kat Borrowdale, marketing director of Bright Night International, the Govan-based creative performance company which is leading the project, said: "We wanted to create a performance to inspire the next generation of circus performers in Scotland and to show what is possible.

"I think once people see it, they will be really excited about how much circus can develop and about taking part in it.

"A Scottish circus school has really been the dream - it is something we want to see and we think that Scotland needs.

"We would also like to see a circus training course, which people could participate in for one, two or three years, and really dedicate that time to becoming a professional circus performer."

The 18 young people involved in the Commonwealth Youth Circus, who are aged between 13 and 25, will stage a series of performances at the Queen's Baton Relay at various locations in Scotland during July.

They were selected through an audition process and were already skilled in disciplines such as gymnastics or dance, but have spent the past nine months mastering new tricks such as acrobatics, the freestyle urban acrobatics of parkour, juggling, hula hooping and aerial performance.

Last month, the group raised an additional £4876 in a crowdfunding campaign that exceeded its initial target.

The rewards offered to supporters included photographs of "Cirque de Govan" in action, T-shirts and "surprise" visits by the performers to a workplace or birthday party.

The funds will be used to help the members of the troupe train as teachers and offer a series of free workshops at a tent pitched in the heart of Govan, where the Commonwealth Youth Circus is based.

Borrowdale added: "What is so exciting about circus is that it is very accessible. Most people can master a skill in a shorter amount of time than they would expect, so it has that immediate benefit for your self-confidence.

"But to get really good at circus, you need to have a real mental fortitude and be able to confront your own learning problems.

"Once you start to achieve the bigger tricks and the more difficult aspects, it's incredible to know your body is capable of that.

"And when you get very, very good at circus, it looks impossible: it has that kind of super-human aspect to it.

"It is incredibly inspiring and exciting to an audience to see that kind of risk and the hours of work that has gone into it."

Laura Harrison, 20, from Glasgow, is one of the members of the Commonwealth Youth Circus who is hoping to train to become a teacher.

She had a background in dance when she joined the group, but is now skilled in parkour and stilt acrobatics.

She said: "I never thought I would be doing handstands on stilts or doing parkour and climbing up the side of walls. All of a sudden I have been swept up into this circus world.

"When I meet someone new and I say I am in the circus, the reaction you get is just ridiculous - they just don't believe it."

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