Hunter community circus part of Newcastle fringe festival

NO NET: High above the audience, Circus Avalon gymnasts perform on the silks with only a thin mat on the ground beneath them. Pictures: Ian Kirkwood.

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PEOPLE POWER: Circus Avalon’s Gallery of Rogues salute the audience at the end of their performance. Everyone loves a rogue, says circus head guy John Campbell.

CIRCUS is back at its traditional Novocastrian home –Birdwood Park –on Saturday and Sunday as Circus Avalon finishes atwo-weekend season as part of the Newcastle Fringe Festival.

Wild and wet weather kept the crowds down for some of last weekend’s performances, and so organisers are hoping for a bigger turnout this weekend.

MINGLING: Circus Avalon performer and crew, including John Campbell, centre right with beard, meeting fans after Saturday evening’s show in Birdwood Park.

Circus “head guy” John Campbell said on Thursday that the 14 cast and six crew were pleased with the way their “Gallery of Rogues” themed show had worked out.

They were pleased, too, to be performing in Birdwood Park, the spiritual home of circus in Newcastle for many years, recalled nowadays by a sign on the Stewart Avenue footpathwith the motto “Remember the circus”.

Travelling circuses including Barton’s Follies, Wirth’s and Bullen’sused the park for decades before it was cut in half in 1973 for an extension of King Street.

Mr Campbell said he founded Circus Avalon in Tasmania 25 years ago, moving it a few years later to Queensland and then to Newcastle, 19 years ago.

He said the circus was based nowadays at Waratah High School. Its big top shows were usually at theNewcastle Police Citizens Youth Club grounds at Broadmeadow.

“But to be part of the Newcastle Fringe Festival we had to come into town itself, and so with some fantastic assistance from Newcastle City Council, we are here at Birdwood Park,” Mr Campbell said.

The circus performs in a 250-seat big top that keepsthe audience very close to the performers. Contortionist Jess Peters, whose riveting spine-bending routine left people shaking their heads in disbelief, is based in Sydney, but Mr Campbell said the rest of the performers were from the Hunter.

He did not believe that circus was dying under the weight of digital devices, saying that real-life skill and daring would always outdo imagined feats.

“People love the immediacy,” Mr Campbell said. “Everyone’s so close together, you literally see the sweat dripping off people. You hear the exertion. There’s no net under the silks. If someone slips or drops something, the risk is real.”

Circus Avalon also runs a circus school and Mr Campbell estimates he has taught more than 10,000 people in the past 25 years.

“A lot of the naughty kids seem to like the circus,” Mr Campbell said. “But that’s alright. I was a naughty kid too!”

Circus Avalon performs at 11am, 3pm and 6pm on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets atthe door or at circusavalon苏州美甲学校. Newcastle Fringe Festival, with more than 100 shows at eight venues, runs until Sunday. Details at newcastlefringe苏州美甲学校苏州美甲学校论坛