The power of the arts to engage, motivate and empower disaffected young people has been examined in this publication and elsewhere, notes David Alexander.
Of all performing arts forms, circus seems to command a greater degree of this power than any other form. Circus education and training allows all people to discover the best in themselves, but for young people with challenges, with learning difficulties, ADHD, and particularly for the many thousands who have rejected the mainstream, cognitively-based education system, it offers a route to raised self-confidence, an awareness of the importance of the self within a social context and greatly improved employability in many vocations. Most of all, circus offers a physical, fun, yet demanding discipline which is healthy, street credible and cool!
The Clocktower in Mostyn, North Wales, provoked considerable Tory backbench outrage and many raised eyebrows in the world of professional circus arts when, in July 1996, a front page headline of the Daily Mail read ?Buskers draw £3/4m from the Lottery.? One successful Welsh circus arts project had attracted more funding than all circus projects in England combined had up to that date.
Two years on, and still without any core revenue funding (the grant was awarded before the Wales Arts Lottery allowed revenue grants), the project is not only surviving, but is gaining national recognition for the delivery of innovative training and accredited education courses in and through the popular performing arts. These courses combine circus, theatre, dance and music in programmes that engage, motivate, animate and teach ?angry and unteachable? young people. They learn to communicate, share and make informed and empowered decisions. I have incidentally almost completed my MEd in Special Educational Needs and my current assignment examines the ways in which circus can be used to engage and motivate young people with learning difficulties.
Circus operates in this almost therapeutic way as a result of its unique ability to appeal to the self via the physical domain, a domain which needs neither spoken, read or written word, the source of many young people?s difficulties with mainstream education. We have a long-term mission at the Clocktower which includes high quality arts vocational training, but the vision will also always involve and include young people for whom the challenges of life are far more intense and pressing than concerns about the next Equity contract.
David Alexander is Director of the Clocktower. t: 01745 560011, e: firstname.lastname@example.org