Airhedz at #NYCE2020

Two young women stand in front of large lights spelling out: NYCE

After setting up a Youth Circus in 2018 and an Aerial Youth Group in 2020 to complement our regular adult programme, it was exciting to be in a position to apply for the National Centre for Circus ArtsYouth Circus Event.

This blog shares thoughts of the two young people, and the two teachers that attended.

What was it?

“The National Youth Circus Event brings together youth circus schools from across the UK, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The three day event gives youth circuses the opportunity to visit the National Centre for Circus Arts, take part in a weekend of workshops, masterclasses and meet other young circus performers. The weekend also includes a Practitioner Programme of workshops for group leaders.” (NCCA Website)

Who Went?

The four of us look to camera outside the NCCA.
Suzy-Jade Carter, Amelie, Martha and Tina Carter all took part in the event.

What Happened?

We arrived at the NCCA on Friday afternoon. In our welcome pack was a map of games for us to play as a team. We wandered round the complex building, making our way through corridors, studios, and halls. It was a great way for the four of us to familiarise ourselves with the space, and to gel as a team too.

The games included:

GENERATION GAME: 20 objects were pulled in front of us. We had to list them all in the end and we did, thanks to SJ’s wise suggestion for each to remember just five.

CRYSTAL MAZE: a bucket of balls was balanced on the head (strapped to a helmet) and the wearer needed to complete an assault course as quickly as possible without losing the balls.

BULLSEYE: We all got to throw juggling balls through suspended hoops to build a score; each hoop had a specific value. I was rubbish!

Then there were variations of SUPERMARKET SWEEP, WHEEL OF FORTUNE, and PYRAMID OF CUPS. While we waited our turn, there was a circus-inspired crossword to do and a WordSearch. A great way to get all the groups working, exploring, bonding, meeting in safe spaces and seeing how circus toys could be used in creative ways.

Then they fed us on Fish & Chips in varying guises – veggies and vegans fully catered for!

After more games with the whole gathering of 23 groups, we headed off to the YHA they had booked for all those living outside London. We all buzzed with excitement, and it was only the first evening. There were two full days to follow!

Saturday Morning started with banquine run by Barely Methodical. They LOVED this. It was so different to anything they had ever done before, learning how to balance, and balance on, each other to generate lift and flight.

Separating then, the two attended classes in Silks, Manipulation, Aerial Hoop & Trapeze, Doubles Verticals, Tumbling, Devising with Punchdrunk, finally concluding on Sunday Afternoon with Flying Trapeze! There was even a cabaret on Saturday night performed only by young people. So much was crammed into their two days.

Three girls hold open umbrellas mid-performance. Two are suspended in the air, the other looks on from the floor.

Meanwhile Suzy-Jade and I had our own programme. We had great fun with Fernando from Punchdrunk; were excited at the biofeedback explorations from Glen and James; and I loved hearing how the NCCA’s Sensory Circus had developed with Lila and Beth. We also took time to witness our two Airhedz learning, enjoyed time to discuss other teachers’ methods, and made plans for how to include our new ideas into future programmes.

For Amelie, “The teamwork and meeting new people that all have one thing in common, circus!” made the greatest impact, while for Martha she “learnt how diverse circus skills can be and how it’s something for everyone. I loved seeing what everyone could do and learning new skills.” Both are keen to “carry on with the moves” learned, to “improve them,” and perhaps make “a sequence to show the group I’m with or teach others what I have learnt”.

I shared SJ’s sentiment that, “It felt like such a privilege to see so many young people challenging themselves physically and mentally… all having fun, learning new skills and meeting like minded people.” Within a few days we were both incorporating different elements in our own classes, at Airhedz and at the school where SJ also teaches. It was invigorating to allow ourselves time to reflect on our practice, and to really feel part of a greater community.

Would you recommend it?

Speaking to other participants and teachers at #NYCE2020, it seemed the annual event offered different groups this opportunity each year. Now that I know what to expect as a youth leader (rather than running sessions for the event as I’ve done in the past) I would not hesitate to take another group if given the chance.

Amelie said, “I would as I don’t think I would change anything about my experience. Also, it’s a great opportunity to meet new people and try new things.”

Martha told me, “I would definitely recommend this to others. I say if you are given the opportunity take it, you will learn so much and make new friends. It’s an excellent team building activity that allows you to learn new things and broadens your knowledge in the circus life!”

Suzy-Jade also had no qualms about it. “This is a unique and wonderful opportunity for young people to consolidate and learn new circus skills. Everyone was friendly, helpful and a joy to spend a weekend with….what a treat it was. Thank you for the opportunity Airhedz.”

And thank you National Centre for creating, providing, funding and supporting so many young people and their teachers to attend such an event. It’s easy for our work to become overwhelming, for our focus to become myopic, to forget we are part of something bigger. This event that cost us only time and effort helped life our heads and reconnect.

Martha and Amelie stand together looking into camera. Both wear Airhedz t-shirts.

But shhh… don’t tell too many people. I want to bring the Airhedz back!

Thanks for reading.

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