International Social Circus Day 2017

A day of global celebration

When the call went out to celebrate social circus around the world with the 2nd annual International Social Circus Day, the team in Yangon responded with a pop-up public workshop in Mahabandoola Gardens right in the centre of downtown.

Social Circus Myanmar was one of 44 organisations taking part in a wave of events across the globe aimed at showing the positive impact of social circus. From Myanmar to Madagascar, and Afghanistan to Japan, the aim was to bring fun to local communities and raise awareness of social circus activities.

The Yangon team brought a slack rope, hula hoops, spinning plates, juggling props, stilts, bubbles and more to the park for adults and children to try out.  Huge thanks to all involved, especially Julien Ariza for coordinating, facilitators U Pho Ke, Kyaw Min Soe, Anne Bougault, Betti mo, Caroline, Maya Takagi-Vlahek and the social circus team from Mingaladon.   Thanks also to David H. Photography.

 

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A Workshop Experience

Photographer and guest blogger Jeanne Hallacy joins a workshop with the Scholarships 4 Street Kids social circus team in Perle, Mingaladon.

(Sunday 8th Jan 2017)

ABOUT THE CENTRE 

The Yedana Foster Home located on the far outskirts of Yangon in Mingaladon district is a local organization working in partnership with the government Ministry of Social Welfare.

The center houses 33 youth, many of who were abandoned at birth in public hospitals. The children aged 8 to 17 live as a family and attend informal education classes at the adjacent school run by the NGO Scholarships 4 Street Kids or the local school.

 

KHIN CHO THET

Social circus workshop action

12-year-old Khin Cho Thet is the middle child among eight siblings. Her family struggle to survive in Palay Township on the modest salary her father earns driving supplies for a construction company.

Khin Cho Thet attends non-formal education classes at a school run by the NGO, Scholarships 4 Street Kids. She is working on her Diabolo skills in the social circus and is happy when Saya Jules comes each week to teach them juggling skills.

“I have more confidence now,” she says. “I’m a slow learner in school but in the circus group I put all my efforts towards learning.”

EITTE PAUNG

Eitte Paung with spinning plateEitte Paung’s smile stretches across the yard where the children gather for the Social Circus workshop like a beam of light. He was referred to the Yedana Foster Home a year ago by the government social welfare department. His father and brother live in his native Shan state and are too poor to give him the opportunities he thrives upon. An ethnic Palaung, the 17-year-old says he doesn’t reply to people who assume his physical challenges make him incapable of achieving his goals.
“I can do anything; I’m clever at handicrafts, can repair watches and am a very good swimmer”, he says.

”I’m so happy to be in the program and make new friends. I learn from watching others and sometimes I think I can’t do something but then a friend shows me how and I finally get it.”

Eitte Paung’s favorite circus skill is the Pagan Bya Pyeh plate spinning and he does a mean hat flip trick.

HAN DEE DEE HTUT

social circus workshop Mingaladon
Han Dee Dee Htut (wearing a grey T-shirt) says the social circus activities make her happy.

“I’ve grown up here at the center” 11-year-old Han Dee Dee says. “I like spinning plates and feel so happy in this program.”

Han Dee Dee is in grade 6 at the nearby government school where she excels in math.

“I really want to learn how to ride the unicycle,” she says, “I know it’s difficult but I want to challenge myself.”

Han Dee Dee dreams of being a teacher in the future.

 

 

SAYA JULES, CIRCUS INSTRUCTOR

social circus workshop Mingaladon
Jules leads the social circus team through circle activities at the beginning of the workshop.

Jules has been devoting himself to building Social Circus Myanmar since it’s founding in 2014. He travels to Burma for several months a year to teach juggling and circus skills to children in need; holding weekly workshops at community organizations serving street children, hearing impaired and developmentally disabled youth.

“The way to develop the group is to formalize their skills. The next stage for Social Circus is to find a place where we can have proper equipment, safety mats, more teachers and train the youth more effectively.”

 

social circus workshop Mingaladon
Phyu Phyu offers encouragement as the hoop is passed around the circle, no hands!

Jules begins and closes each workshop by gathering the children in a circle. With translation from Social Circus volunteer translator, Phyu Phyu, he tells them the symbolism of being part of a circle, “In our circus circle, we use many things that are circles, plates, hoola hoops and juggling balls. We are also a circle. It’s our circle of friendship, sharing together and helping each other learn.”

 

 

 

WORKSHOP GALLERY

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Sold! Stanley Donwood giant Glastonbury wristband. Thank you!

Sold! Thank you!

stanley donwood glastonbury 2016 giant wristbandStanley Donwood is well known as the artist responsible for every Radiohead album since 1995 and has created artwork for Glastonbury Festival since 2002. Also known as the “giant wristband”, this tapestry was one of only two created using the same needle printer as the coveted festival wristbands. Signed by Stanley and Michael Eavis. 

Limited edition, one of only two tapestry versions of Glastonbury 2016 art ‘Somewhat Slightly Dazed’ by Stanley Donwood

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Serious FUNdraising for Social Circus Myanmar

FUNdraising through crowdfunding

Our fundraising for the Social Circus Myanmar project has received support from people around the world who are backing our prgramme of workshops with at-risk and vulnerable young people in Myanmar (Burma).

Our startsomegood.com crowdfunding has just finished with 75 supporters pledging $3416 for our third dry season programme in Yangon. Thanks for being part of the fun everyone. We’re inspired and humbled by your response and messages of encouragement.

FUNdraising with an ebay auction

Now we’re privileged to be auctioning an extraordinary piece of art from the 2016 Glastonbury Festival of the Performing Arts as we continue with fundraising for this year’s programme. Juggler extraordinaire Haggis McLeod, who runs Glastonbury’s Theatre & Circus fields, joined us in Yangon last year for the International Juggling Festival. This year he introduced me to Glastonbury festival’s resident artist Stanley Donwood, well known as the artist behind the Radiohead album art since 1995.

The tapestry backstage in Theatre & Circus
Jude, Stanley & Haggis with the tapestry at the centre of our fundraising auction on ebay. Photo: Charles Gervais, Both Hemispheres Photography

Stanley’s official festival artwork is visible everywhere during the festival, from the big screens on the stages to the posters and programmes, and the coveted wristbands on every festival-goers wrist. Stanley liked what he heard about the social circus project in Myanmar and gifted the Serious Fun Committee a 3 metre by 1 metre tapestry created from his original 1 metre-long Glastonbury 2016 linocut.

Stanley Donwood's tapestry being sold at auction for fundraising
Alice, Phil & Isabeau showing off the tapestry in the Circus field at Glastonbury Photo: Charles Gervais, Both Hemispheres Photography
Glastonbury Free Press article
Glastonbury Free Press article about Stanley Donwood & Somewhat Slightly Dazed

He named it “Somewhat Slightly Dazed” in homage to David Bowie who died as he began working on this year’s festival.

“David Bowie made a song called Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed back in 1969. As well as being an homage to Bowie it’s also a good description for most of the people at the festival. It’s a picture of the motes that whirl in a blue summer sky when you lie on the grass, and of the endless passages and messages drawn in the air by birds and insects, and a paean to beautiful hallucinations. Here we are, anchored to planet Earth, unwashed, and somewhat slightly dazed.”  Stanley Donwood, June 2016

The tapestry is one of only two created and has been signed by both Stanley Donwood and festival founder Michael Eavis.

Stanley Donwood signs the tapestry
Stanley Donwood takes a moment out from the Glastonbury festival to sign the tapestry
Michael Eavis signs the tapestry
Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis signs the tapestry
Project underway in Yangon

Meanwhile on the ground in Yangon, our team is battling Yangon’s notorious traffic jams and hot humid weather to lead workshops, spread the word about social circus, and work with our local partners to develop plans for a social circus network and arts centre.

We started this season with no funds but a firm belief that the young circus teams in Yangon deserve supporting, and we are grateful for our friends and contacts around the globe who are backing the project in any way they can. Any ideas for fundraising, please leave a comment below! Click here to check out the auction progress on ebay.

Jude

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Social Circus Myanmar

 

Start Something Good -page-image

We have launched our new Crowdfunding Campaign to support Social Circus Myanmar in the dry-season project Nov 2016 – March 2017.

You can help us achieve our goals with even a small donation. And just as importantly let more people know what we are doing! Spread the word and spread the serious Fun.

Thanks!

 

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The S4SK Social Circus Kids

Social Circus Myanmar Teams

The second profile on our social circus teams in Myanmar focuses on the Scholarships for Street Kids team, a group of children who usually don’t have much chance to learn or have fun. They’re aged between 8-16 and do not go to school; instead they work for around $2 per day to help support their families.

160125-s4sk_action
The S4SK team training in front of a poster of Aung San, the father of modern Burma.

Scholarships for Street Kids (S4SK) provides these children with out-of-school classes, giving them a chance to get an education. S4SK’s model is to encourage a community to find a venue where the children can be taught a few hours a week, then bring in teachers and resources to provide lessons. Each family receives a small payment to make up for the time the child can not work.

About S4SK and Social Circus

The S4SK children have been part of the Social Circus Myanmar project right from the start. Serious Fun training specialist Jules Howarth began teaching juggling to the children in 2014, as part of our activities leading to the international juggling festival in February 2015.

The first dry season’s workshops took place mainly in Hlegu, about 90 minutes outside Yangon, under trees in a dusty yard. Last dry season, weekly circus skills workshops took place in a crowded space in Mingaladon in the outer suburbs of Yangon. The kids have made steady progress with various props, earning passes on their progress charts and having a lot of fun.

“Most of our children are child labourers and haven’t got the opportunity to play since they have to earn their family income,” said S4SK programme director Aye Aye Thinn. “Fortunately, we had the opportunity to provide play and training in circus skills and circus arts by connecting with Serious Fun.

Benefits of Performance

As the children’s technical skills develop, so too do their performance skills. Daw Aye Aye said the opportunity to show the public what they have achieved has had a lot of benefits.

“When they had the opportunity of public performance in front of the audience, they felt proud of their existence, satisfied with their skills, aware and confident of their strengths. And they get an awareness of children’s participation, which is one of the child rights.

“They also found  out that sharing and caring for each was very important for success and happiness,” she said.

 

S4SK would like to establish circus teams with their students in other areas. “The (social circus) project supports our children with educational, social and emotional development,”said Daw Aye Aye.

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Georgia – A Ground-breaking Festival

Georgia, 1991

These two short videos show some of the juggling action.  Were you there or do you recognise someone who was? Leave a comment below.

It’s 25 years since a plane-load of western jugglers arrived in Tbilisi, capital of the newly-independent Republic of Georgia, for a juggling festival with the Georgian circus. The circus needed help and a sense of new possibilities after losing its lifeline from Moscow as the Soviet Union fell apart. The festival took place in a Soviet-era circular circus building amidst scenes of protest and political turmoil on the streets of Tbilisi.

The 163 visiting jugglers were billeted with families who met the plane at 3am when it landed several hours late from Moscow. Before leaving the arrivals hall, festival organiser Haggis McLeod briefed the jugglers on Georgia’s legendary hospitality.  Despite the hour, he said there was bound to be a table full of food and drink ready when they arrived at their host’s home. “If you’re tired, just go straight to bed, it’ll be fine,” he said, “but whatever you do, don’t mix the vodka and the red wine.”  Nobody went straight to bed.  A few people missed the warning about mixing drinks and spent the next few days in recovery.

In Georgia, hosting a visitor is an art and an honour. Being a juggler visiting Georgia in 1991 meant lots of feasts, hours of ritual toasting, and sometimes being hijacked to a picturesque village high in the Caucasus mountains instead of dropped at the circus building in downtown Tbilisi.

The festival was a feast in itself, with superb skills exchanged, understandings reached, and entertaining public shows which boosted the Georgian circus coffers. However for many participants, it was the once-in-a-lifetime moments shared with the Georgian people that are still remembered, 25 years later.  And the pogo sticks on sale in Rusteveli Avenue for only 50 pence!

The fun, adventures and mutual understanding shared between visiting jugglers and the people in Georgia inspired the formation of the Serious Fun Committee in 1993.  The festivals staged by Serious Fun volunteers in Thailand, Laos and Burma/Myanmar have been based on the same sort of interaction.  Everybody gives their energy and skills and everybody benefits.   We owe a great deal of thanks to the Georgian festival for showing us the way.  Serious Fun – it’s a state of mind.

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Social Circus Weekend

Celebrating Social Circus in Yangon

 

When the international call went out back in January to help create a chain of global events to mark the first ever International Social Circus Day on April 2, there was no hesitation from Serious Fun Yangon coordinator Virginia Henderson.

Virginia knew the social circus teams would be keen, fresh from a four-month dry season residency by Serious Fun training specialist Jules Howarth and the Day of Fun finale in February. And she knew the Circus4All troupe are always ready to share what they do with others. The only question was what sort of event to stage during the hottest time of the year in Myanmar.

It became a weekend of events – a photo exhibit, public workshops both days and a fire show on Saturday night – at the Yangon Gallery, with its delightful exhibition space (and air con) located in a picturesque corner of  People’s Park.

Juggling at Yangon Gallery

Photographs of the social circus teams and Circus4All were printed on large vinyl, mounted on plastic pipe and hung on the pristine gallery walls. Drinks and snacks were arranged with social circus supporters 100 Plus and Seasons Bakery at City Mart. Transport, music, circus props, kids;  check check, check.

As expected, it was hot. With the temperature at 43 degrees outside, the Yangon Gallery’s cool aircon made it a very enticing venue. First to arrive were a dozen young women from Ratana Metta Organisation, who trained with Jules in 2015.

jugglers at Yangon Gallery

“RMO young women are familiar and confident with all the props and just flew to their favourites, instantly bringing the gallery to life,” said Virginia. “One of them, Htet Het, was awesome. She seems to have mastered everything.”

“I just love showing what I can do with these props. We learned and now we can show off. I also like to help the others learn,” Htet Het said.

unicycle yangon gallery

With photos of the teams in action on the walls, and videos of previous social circus activities, (the Burma Webisodes and Day of Fun) looping continually, the weekend celebrated the art and joy of social circus and created “tons of laughter and excitement” according to Virginia.

“The kids were particularly excited to see themselves in the videos and on the walls,” she said.

Learning Circus Skills

yangon gallery 100 Plus hula hooper

Workshops took place on Saturday and Sunday as Circus4All as the social circus teams passed on their skills to each other and the public.

“Each day we had an intense few hours of free flow spontaneous workshops,” Virginia said. “It was wonderful to see things like the Save the Children group of demobilized child soldiers teaching poi to the children from Scholarships for StreetKids. And theCircus4All team were great. We had Maya leading line dances with hoops and Pho Kae the plate master in demand all day and smiling non-stop. Everyone loved it.”

P1160941a_pho ke_plate master

What did people think?

People walking through the park came across the scene and joined in.

“It’s extraordinary! All these people, big and small playing together having such a fun time. I’ve never seen such a performance,” said one man.

flower stick Yangon__27719

“My friends and I were just wandering around the park and found this great activity. What a surprise. We have really enjoyed sharing with everyone,” said Han Su Yin, a tailor from Hlaingtaya.

Yangon Gallery assistant Ko Htet said it was something new for her and her friends. “This is really special, great participation by all the visitors from many different places. Good to see everyone together having fun, being active,” she said.

Virginia described it as a weekend of delightful joy, action and fun. “We had great support from the Yangon Gallery and thanks to everyone who helped make it happen, it was absolutely fantastic.”

fire show Yangon__27815

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Social Circus Weekend info and flyer

Social Circus Weekend

April 2nd-3rd

Free circus skills workshops and a photo exhibit at The Yangon Gallery, People’s Park, to celebrate the first ever International Social Circus Day.  Join in with events happening around the world to celebrate the art and joy of social circus.  Come and meet the social circus teams and learn some new skills. Thanks to the Yangon Gallery and 100 Plus for their support. Social Circus Weekend Flyer

Social Circus Weekend flyer

 

The_Yangon_Gallery_Logo100plus

 

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Day of Fun 2016

Dozens of children and young people joined in the Day of Fun last Saturday, coming from different parts of the city with one common purpose. They juggled, played and had fun together, highlighting their achievements and celebrating the power of circus to postively impact on their lives.

tossup2

A highlight of the 2015-2016 Social Circus Yangon project, the Day of Fun brought circus skills teams together for the first time. They come from different backgrounds and have faced different challenges in their young lives, but they have a few things in common; the ability to toss a diablo, spin a plate, keep juggling balls in the air and balance on stilts or unicycles for a start.

Surmounting logistical and financial challenges, Serious Fun trainer Jules Howarth, who has been running regular workshops with the teams since December, set up the Day of Fun on Burma’s historic Children’s day, February 13. It was a a day of skills-sharing, humour and fun held in the lush garden of the home of British Council head Kevin Mackenzie and his wife Alex, on the shore of Yangon’s picturesque Inya Lake.

“Jules is making memories and building self-esteem over the long term, it’s not just a one-off day of fun. These young people are seeing themselves progress, which is a gift denied the disadvantaged too often.” – Alex Mackenzie.

Noisy, excited, happy children from the teams at Scholarships for Street Kids, the Karen Hostel at Taung Thu Gone, Thanlyin Boys’ Training Center and Eden Center for Disabled Children joined with the young men from Helping Hands and the Circus4All team for games and workshops, filling the air with laughter and inspiration.

Circus4All founding member Phoe Kae Ko, one of the participants in our training of trainers week with adaptive circus specialist Thomas Hinz in Yangon last May, was delighted to take part in a spinning plate workshop.

Plate & Stick is the game I can perform best, and it is a pleasure to teach it to the kids on Children’s Day,” – Phoe Kae Ko

Day of Fun Presentations

The workshops were followed by presentations when team members, alone or in small groups,  shared their skills in front of invited guests.  It’s a process they’re familiar with from the weekly workshops and they weren’t phased by the presence of a bigger audience than usual. Their focus, concentration and confidence were all on display.  The kids charmed and impressed the audience.

“What will I take away with me from the day? Watching a boy on stage (from Eden Center for Disabled Children) throw and drop his juggling club four or more times. It was memorable for the number of close calls, the club bouncing off his wrist, and his resolve to catch it, which of course he did. The audience erupted into applause, because we know how difficult that was – we’d tried it that day too!” – Alex Mackenzie.

Thanks to people backing the project in Yangon, including the British Council, City Mart supermarket, 100 Plus drinks and the hard-working Serious Fun volunteers, along with the people around the world who supported the StartSomeGood crowdfunding campaign, the teams experienced a children’s day they’ll always remember.

Day of Fun comments

 

“The day was wonderfully organised. From the large (the drinks sponsors brought a massive ice chest and tents to keep us cool) to the small (medical kit for the inevitable scratches – when you’re looking up at your hoops you don’t always remember to look down at your feet). Of course the most important people were the participants, who were guaranteed to do what was expected of them – have fun continuing to develop their circus skills, meet other workshop teens like themselves and perform at the end of the day. Their enthusiasm was clear from start to finish.” – Alex Mackenzie

“Being part of the DoF/SF was a really great experience for myself, but more importantly for the children. From the kids who were doing absurdly complicated tricks to the ones who were learning to catch, every single one of them was actively learning and working together. It’s a holistic educator’s dream!” – Ewan Cameron

“There was a moment which blew my mind.  One boy used his gestures asking me to hold him onto a unicycle. Each of us was handicapped in own way; his disability and my weak Burmese speaking. These questions popped up; ‘Had he done this before? How long before he will get bored?’ ‘Could he finally ride this unicycle? etc.’  But his eagerness and laughter turned my frustration into really being with him; no matter if he failed or not. To trust someone and to be trusted are crucial to develop one’s confidence to reach his/her full potential and to have courage for being out of comfort zone.  Thank you for this trust, that taught me an essence of fun, it has no boundaries. ” Usasinee Rewthong

“I’m very glad to see the children participating on that day because almost all the children here don’t have much activities outside of their studies. By doing so, I’m sure that they have improved their self-confidence and social skills.” – Zin Zin

“I spent the most rewarding day with the charming, cheeky young critters at the Day of Fun. Aside from being super impressed with their circus antics, it was really lovely watching them interact and cooperate with each other. I guess they don’t get a lot of chances to meet up with other kids and nice to see big folks helping smaller folks. Well done Yangon Social Circus. “ – KT Julian
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