The Circus Space, based in east London, is the powerhouse of British contemporary circus and one of the top three centres for the circus arts in Europe, writes Rob Hardy.
We offer a diverse artistic programme which includes a BA (Hons) Degree in Theatre Practice (Circus), the UK?s only higher education course in the circus arts, as well as continuing professional development opportunities, participatory and leisure activities for people from London and a varied performance programme.

A recent survey of Circus Space professional members highlights the importance, and scarcity, of having sufficient time and space to explore, innovate and take risks, and create and showcase new work - a sentiment which is echoed in The Arts Council of England?s recent strategy document for developing circus. To help achieve this The Circus Space established a Professional Development Centre (PDC) to provide a package of support to circus professionals including practice and rehearsal space, training courses and masterclasses, showcasing opportunities and affordable workspace. Two initiatives within the PDC - Creation Studio Bursaries and the Jerwood Circus Awards ? are specifically designed to nurture and develop the talent, creativity and imagination of young circus performers.

The Creation Studio programme is a new three-year initiative funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation which offers bursaries to enable professional circus performers to experiment and devise new work, with an emphasis on the process rather than realising a finished show. Of the 11 awards just made seven went to performers who are at the beginning of their careers.

The Jerwood Circus Awards, sponsored by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, were conceived to enable performers and small companies to create and showcase new work. The Awards consist of three annual commissions (one of £10,000 and two of £5,000) that reward both ongoing excellence and emerging talent, and proposals that demonstrate creative thinking, innovation and the potential to tour to other venues. In 2001, the first year of the scheme, the £10,000 award went to a new company, Kicking the Moon, which was established by three performers who graduated from The Circus Space?s circus degree. They created a new performance piece entitled ?Two for Tea, One for Me?. The Award also gave them the chance to work with an experienced director, composer and prop-maker and gave them an invaluable insight into other aspects of the creation process, particularly time management, managing a budget and marketing. The opportunity to perform the work also raised their profile and drew the attention of bookers and agents. Since premiering the show at The Circus Space in April the Company has performed in Paris and Osnabrück and has been commissioned to perform at the 2003 London International Mime Festival, and an application to the Arts Council?s National Touring Programme to tour Two for Tea, One for Me around the UK is pending.

Rob Hardy is Fundraising Manager at The Circus Space. e:

The winners of the 2002 Jerwood Circus Awards will be announced on September 18.