Just more than two decades ago Leonie Mills put in for a modest grant for disadvantaged schools for Upper Main Arm. With that she planted the first seed for what was to grow into Spaghetti Circus. Twenty-one years later Spaghetti Circus is still going strong and this year the nation’s best circus folk will be converging on Mullumbimby for the Mullumbimby Circus Festival.
According to co-producer and programming co-ordinator Shien Chee the vision is about ‘the community coming together. We are talking about the circus community based on a tradition of 25 years of national circus festival. The only opportunity for people to see each other is at the international festivals, and it’s often fleeting, so this is like a big circus family get-together.’
What better way to have a meeting of bent, very bent, and bendier than humanly possible minds, than with a festival. But this, according to Shien, is not going to be an annual event; it’s quite possible in fact that this may just be a very special one-off event.
‘The thing about the Mullum Circus Festival is that it may never happen again; Spaghetti Circus only turns 21 once! It will be this extraordinary meeting of the country and world’s best circus talent in our home town.’ Of course, if the event is super successful, the organisers may consider a bi-annual event, although programmers and producers are working on a shoestring budget. Fortunately circus folk can do some pretty spectacular things with shoestring, like hang from their teeth!
One of the features of this event is the week-long master class and training sessions offered for the circus community.
‘We are having a training program for the week before, running 30 September until 3 October. It will feature all artists at the festival, something like 30–60 trainers, teaching more than 100 participants who come here to upskill and learn from master classes. It’s at a train-the-trainer level; its going to be carnie central!’ laughs Shien.
The festival program is impressive, with cabaret duo Die Roten Punkte, Casus and a cast of local circus superstars like The Space Cowboy, Tigerlil, The Great Gordo Gamsby and of course performances from Spaghetti Circus.
‘The festival features more than 100 artists, and we are talking the best in Australia, and some I reckon are the best in the world; they’ve come straight from Edinburgh, Berlin, Canada… straight to Mullumbimby.’
So what is it about Mullumbimby that has carnie folk all over the country singing our praises?
‘Spaghetti circus has a great reputation in the national circus community,’ says Shien, ‘because we produce really beautiful and interesting work and the kids who come out of here come out of something a bit special. I don’t know if it’s because we are a little bit more creative; I don’t know what it is. I guess it’s the spirit of people who come out of here that carries across in circus really well.
‘I think also Leonie Mills has a lot to do with it. She is highly respected; she is the powerhouse of Spaghetti Circus. The amount of work she does is phenomenal.’
The Mullum Circus Festival will take over the showgrounds, creating a hive of circus activity.
‘We have a big top (going up next week); we have the entire showgrounds as the festival site; artists and performers will be camping onsite as well. People are travelling here from all over Australia. We also have a tiny top; Space Cowboy is bringing his mutant barnyard; there is flying trapeze; and we have this beautiful venue that has a facade and chandeliers, velvet curtains. It’s a cabaret venue. If this were spiegeltent, spiegel is only like one of the children in the family and this is the whole family! We have everything from youth circus shows to shows for little kids to adult shows on the Saturday night and everything in between.’
The Mullum Circus Festival will be selling tickets at every farmers market and community market between now and the circus festival, 4–6 October, Mullumbimby Showgrounds.
With only 1,500 tickets for sale each day (take into consideration the Living Earth Festival at the Community Gardens had 6,000 attendees), you don’t want to miss out. Get your tickets now. Living three-day ticket prices are as follows:
Family pass $360
Tickets are also online at mulllumcircusfest.com.