This is the first of a series of posts about the circus teams that Serious Fun is working with in Yangon. Let’s start with the boys from Thanlyin.

Serious Fun trainer Jules Howarth is teaching 25 boys in the circus team at Thanlyin Boys’ Training Centre, who he describes as the best young jugglers in Burma currently, full of humour and madcap energy.  Many are in their second season with Jules and they’ve been working hard on their circus skills. When Jules returned in December, they turned out for the first workshop wearing their T-shirts from last year’s International Juggling Festival, proudly showing off the “everyone needs to have fun” logo and eager to show Jules what they’d been practising.

Circus workshops

Every Thursday afternoon, the boys move the tables and chairs in the dining hall aside, Jules positions the plastic bins full of brightly coloured props, and the workshop begins with a warm up routine they’re all familiar with.

Jules demonstrates a new trick or a new prop then the boys try it out, helping each other along the way.  They’ve been testing out the translations of  diablo legend Donald Grant‘s book (thanks Donald).  Later they spread out into the compound with the props, practising whatever they like and inventing their own routines.

Each workshop includes a presentation to the whole team, when the boys show what they’ve been working on and the other boys pay close attention and enthusiastically show their appreciation.  Each boy has a personal chart where their progress in tracked in several circus skills including 3-ball juggling, balance, hat, flower stick, diabolo and spinning plate.

Principal U Kyaw Oo says that the circus workshops make the boys happy and positive in their outlook and he’d like to see the workshops rolled out in more of the Social Welfare department’s training centres.

“The children seem to be really interested in these lessons and these games help their brain development,” says U Kyaw Oo.

About the Centre

Thanlyin Boys’ Training Centre centre is a home for boys, mostly orphans and street children, who are in the care of the state. There are usually around 160 boys at the centre, aged 8-16. They have a daily routine of primary or secondary school, meals and chores, with free time in the afternoons and on weekends. That usually means playing sport, often chinlone, Burma’s popular cane ball manipulation game. The centre has several exemplary chinlone players, U Kyaw Oo says proudly. When the boys turn 16, the centre helps to find them a job and somewhere to live.

The Civil Society Initiative, a volunteer effort of the British Council Library, visits the centre regularly with a mobile library, reading stories and loaning books to the boys. CSI introduced us to the boys and U Kyaw Oo in 2014 and CSI volunteer Zin Zin is providing fine assistance to Jules as the translator for the Thanlyin workshops this season. CSI and the British Council are supporting the Day of Fun on February 13 when we’ll bring all the circus teams in Yangon together for workshops, rehearsals and presentations. We are very grateful for their support and encouragement for the social circus project.  We’re really looking forward to seeing what the boys and other circus teams will get up to when they all get together.


The Thanlyin circus team
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