Circus Starr | The circus with a purpose

This year has been the year of firsts for me since I got my new powerchair in February and 2 weeks ago I added another to my ever-growing list as I went to the circus for the first time! Circus' aren't something that have necessarily always interested me but I love gymnastics and acrobatics so on paper it seemed ideal for me. Circus Starr aren't like other circus performances though, they are inclusive, accessible and offer free tickets to allow disabled, disadvantaged and vulnerable children to experience something that typically they might not get the chance to. I was kindly invited along to one of their Luton shows, part of their UK tour, to experience the show and what they do.

Circus Starr is a touring circus boasting world-class, professional artists from across the globe. It was first founded in 1987 and provides free seats for thousands of disadvantaged, disabled or vulnerable children, whilst helping to raise much needed funds for local charities - Circus Starr

Circus Starr are a not-for-profit organisation which supports local businesses and children's charities whilst operating a donated ticket programme that gives thousands of children the chance to experience the circus, thanks to the support of local businesses. The big thing for me is that Circus Starr's performances are relaxed performances, which are aimed at opening up live performance and theatre experiences for people with autism and other learning disabilities, we're seeing more and more theatres put on relaxed performances but I hadn't heard of a circus doing so before this. At Circus Starr children are actively encouraged to interact with the acts, cheer, applaud, move about and can leave and come back at any time to get some space.

Photo via Circus Starr

Another big thing is that on this tour they are bringing a Mobiloo along with them to every date, this is a portable Changing Places which allows disabled children and adults to use the bathroom. These unfortunately are still not commonplace, and I've covered this issue for nearly 2 years now, but having a Mobiloo along on this tour is a big step forward, and a very encouraging one too. It allows families who would typically not be able to attend, or would struggle and have to change their children in their car or elsewhere, to enjoy the experience knowing there are suitable and accessible facilities metres away.

Photo via Circus Starr

Circus Starr are wheelchair accessible too and the wheelchair spaces are front row which I love because in a theatre or at a performance the wheelchair spaces are rarely so close to the action. I had to attend in my manual wheelchair as we could only reach the venue by car and I will say that my Mum struggled to push me across the grass, it would have been nice to see some kind of mat put down leading up to the entrance to make wheelchair access a little easier.

As for the show and the acts, obviously it's been designed for people quite a bit younger than myself and my Mum but we really enjoyed it and felt some of the acts were exciting and daring enough to be entertaining to both the adults and children, I particularly enjoyed the audience participation and the parallel bars act. All of performers were incredibly talented and were really good at interacting with the children.

I do have a little bit of constructive feedback though! There were 2 things that surprised me during the show. Firstly, a balloon was popped during one act, which really shocked me as it's not something I'd expect at a relaxed performance, avoiding loud and sudden noises seems like something pretty key to keeping it relaxed. Secondly, on the flyer and in the show they said how they were deaf friendly but I couldn't spot a BSL or Makaton interpreter anywhere, perhaps I just didn't spot them though! The final act was a song that was partially signed though, and it was nice to see the audience giving the signing a go.

Overall though I really enjoyed the experience and it was great to see so many children having fun and being able to openly show their excitement! Organisations like Circus Starr are so important to allow all children to experience live performances. You can find out more about them, donate to keep them going and find information about applying for tickets on their website. They are touring the UK until 25th January.

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