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Cirkus Syd - Shadowing

Circus is happening in the south of Sweden and a big reason behind this is the human behind Cirkus Syd. Lina B Frank! Boom. She and I talked art outside and inside of working hours, flew around Lund on bicycles together and I dove into her life for 3 weeks.

I’m already plotting ways to stay more connected to the Skåne region, particularly Lund and Malmö. I notice some of my old Stockholm Circus School crew making the move or hovering around the south! Circus is blossoming there, in that inspiring early stage, where there’s plenty of room and flexibility for creativity and the understanding and structures begin to exist. It’s almost comparable to that in-between moment when art institutions are young and open with a functioning system yet not too overstructured, square and institutionalised! 

In the office

Cirkus Syd’s office, Stenkrossen in Lund, is an almost 2,000-square-meter workspace for art, culture and innovation. The building is full of other cultural workers, freelancers, artists, professionals, amateurs, students and volunteers. I was amazed by the facilities; two stages, a huge training space with crazy circus-like height, loads of offices, a kitchen and large dining area, and last but not least a very characterful office combined with a smaller fully equipped training space which Cirkus Syd inhabit! I love this space, and in the spirit of circus, you need to climb up a ladder to get to the office area. The only thing missing is a pole to slide back down into the training space. There are also other working spaces with full accessibility which don’t require climbing, which we also sometimes ‘officed’ in. On a busy day in the office, we were 7 including me! Director, PA to the directors, circus technician, community and artist development officer, events manager and financial and administrative support. Lina is certainly creating opportunities for circus humans and she’s doing so at a rapid pace! 

I found my spot on the office sofa where I tuned into an array of different meetings, with the municipality, Circus Thinkers, etc etc! I also worked hard on my agenda and discovered part of Cirkus Syd’s library. The atmosphere in the office is great, high energy and focus with a great laughing/ doing ratio. It feels like circus, a bunch of incredibly interesting misfits that complement and work well together.  

Cirkus Syd has a handful of exciting and huge initiatives which of course require extreme dedication to organised officework! Cirkus Syd is the coordinator of this project, the NHLP-EU (which is co-funded by the European Union and Arts Council Sweden), they hold Residencies at Stenkrossen through open calls, have recently organised a cultural exchange residency in Montreal, they hold weekly open and member training sessions, run circus playground for small kids as well as organising and programming two biannual festivals! Southern Sweden Circus Festival (SSCF) in September of the even years, and New Horizons Festival in November/ December of the odd years. Cirkus Syd also holds masterclasses, workshops, events, Circus Thinkers and is part of Circus Link! 

Currently, the most important work for Cirkus Syd is infrastructure development and international cooperation! I talked and recognised two distinctive areas that Lina is pushing for with her festivals:

Regional development: Building infrastructure which develops the regional circus scene by promoting and giving platforms to local artists as well as broadening the involvement of children and emerging artists in the Skåne region.

International meeting point: To focus on artistic quality to become a meeting point for the national and international circus scene, helping to expand the understanding of what circus can be, and as a result expanding the cultural development/ education of Skåne audiences. 

In an area that is exploring circus in the early stages, these two strands need to work together!

Outside of the Office

My brain certainly isn’t used to such dense office work, sometimes we are talking 8-hour blocks of computer work. My field trips have felt very needed and have opened my eyes to other exciting things in Lund and Malmö with a particular Women led trend!!

Karavan: It was such a pleasure to talk with Hanna Hedvall from Karavan. What an ambitious and kickass new facility for professionals they are opening in a few weeks! It’s enough to get us all running. A huge main training room, countless other smaller spaces and studios, a kitchen, hang-out space and a co-working area for producers! The original building, which is already fantastic will remain and function as a separate place for residencies and shows. One of the most incredible things about this for any non Swede is their collaboration with Cirkuscentrum! Funded by Kulturrådet/ The Swedish Arts Council they operate in a few different places around Sweden including Cirkus Cirkör Stockholm and enable professional circus artists to train for 500SEK a year! That's about €43! What the heck, an incentive like that is enough to make any circus human train more!

PotatoPotato: A female experimental and avant-garde performing arts collective and theatre based in Malmö and Stockholm. I am always drawn to these somewhat radical and punk departures in art! The aesthetic, risk and human scale of it feels so in line with my working excitement and values. 

Christina Sporrong: Independent Swedish/ American artist, sculptor, welder, blacksmith and circus artist! Someone who has taken brave and scary steps in the last years and reminds us to keep following the ebs and flows of life’s changes. Christina is a member of Cirkus Syd teaches silks at Stenkrossen.     

I also had the pleasure to go to the Vernissage of a circus exhibition at Teatermuseet and watch the Premiere of Ett drömspel at Malmö Stadsteater. 

Skissernas Museum (Museum of Artistic Process and Public Art): In Lund, there is a gem of a museum called Skissernas which recognises the value and intrigue in the process rather than finished works! Cirkus Syd has programmed performances in the central space and it seems like they are always holding events. I had the chance to watch some young musicians from the Academy of Music in Malmö, studying on the jazz/improvisation bachelor's degree. 

Lina B Frank: As we are both passionate explorers in the circus and live art field, we already knew of each other and our english-isms in Sweden served as a fun common point. ‘Working mostly with Contemporary Circus, Cross-disciplinary Arts and Live Art - with bold and brave people, explorers and visionaries at heart. Lina is interested in how art can be used to facilitate democratic participation to challenge the status quo’.‘My USP is my ability to network, seeing the wood through the trees and structure projects strategically to lever desired impact’. I naturally interpreted USP as Unique Super Power, and although I learnt this really is not the meaning I do believe Lina has some superpowers. Without humans like her, us circus people would have far fewer opportunities. I cannot name all the other 'bits and bobs Lina involves herself in and drives. Oh and also, she's a killer mother doing it totally on her own, so much respect!!!

I have a lot to unpack after these wonderful 3 weeks of shadowing, but one thing I notice is the burst of energy I have to attack my company goals with Lina-like momentum.



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