Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Leeds Children's Circus Visit #1

Last night was my first visit to the children's circus. I'd had the most god awful day, it was pissing it down and it was COLD, and I didn't have a bastard clue where I was going (Harehills?!?); so to say I was a bit apprehensive would be an understatement.

As soon as I got there though I was instantly glad I'd made the effort. Richard, the guy I'd been emailing, was so welcoming and he genuinely seemed thankful that I was there. All the staff at the circus are voluntary and an extra pair of hands is always appreciated. When asked how I wanted to approach the evening I was a bit unsure, because it was such a strange environment to be in I decided to simply start out by observing; just getting to know the sorts of things they do and how they interact with the children. This was definitely a good idea - under 10's are MENTALISTS. Seriously, they don't stop running, singing, screaming, eating, crying, climbing, fighting, EVER. I would not have been prepared if I just jumped straight in.

Because the attention span of young children is pretty limited, the under 10's group tends to involve more games based activities than anything else. They started off playing some running games, and then the giant parachute came out, then it was juice and biscuits time, then they were split into 3 groups and rotated between plant pot stilts, spinning plates and tight rope. The hour flew by. Even though I wasn't participating I found myself just sat there smiling, as psycho as those kids are they really are very entertaining!

The over 10's gave the kids a little more freedom. Again they started off with some running games but after the break Richard set up various balancing activities and the kids could flit between them as they pleased - the tight rope was a clear favourite! A couple of the regular staff were missing last night so Richard asked me if I could step in, I didn't mind at all. Basically I was just spotting for them to make sure the kids used the equipment safely and I'd be there to catch them if they fell. I was teamed up with another volunteer and we helped them on the balancing ball, then I learned how to strap them into stilts. I had a great time!

Between classes Richard came over and spoke to me, he apologised because normally he would have been able to talk me through everything and answer more of my questions etc but because they were short staffed he had to get really hands on in the session. Honestly he needn't have worried, I was quite happy sitting and watching, and I didn't arrive with the expectation of being attended to for the whole session - it was their group and I'd be happy to fit around the way they operated.

I don't really know what exactly it was that I was expecting, but my experience there was really refreshing. After observing both the under 10's class and then the over 10's class I understand that the word 'circus' is irrelevant to the purpose of the group. LCC is more about bringing children together, providing them with a place to meet new friends and release some of that excess energy (oh dear god they have a lot of energy) - the word 'circus' just serves as a theme under which to do so.

Richard went into a little bit of detail about the Christmas show. Apparently this year they're trying something a bit different. Usually they prepare a various routines within the group to fill the whole show using all the members of the under 10's, over 10's and the adult session. But this year they're getting professionals in and giving the kids a 20 min slot in the show. Because the sessions are just for fun and skill isn't essential, it's pretty difficult to prepare an hour routine consisting of things people actually want to watch. And it's also hard to keep the kids focussed. So by bringing in professionals the children get to showcase their work, they get to watch an entertaining show, and LCC manages to put on a performance worth the £3 admission fee - everyone's a winner!

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