Belfast’s Writers’ Square will see the Big Top being raised aloft for Tumble Circus’ Winter Show, and co-founder, Tina Segner promises that audiences need to prepare to be surprised, and amazed.
Running from December 17 to January 3 the all-human performances combines acrobats, aerial artists and jugglers in an hour-long fun-filled show.
For Tina, a skilled acrobat, aerialist and juggler, the journey to co-found Tumble Circus began in her native Sweden.
“I was 17 or 18 and my friend had just come back from an Interrailing trip around Europe and she’d learnt to juggle and I thought it was really cool,” she explained. “She taught me how to juggle and after that I practised a bit and I thought it was great fun and I joined a little juggling school.”
From there a plan to see more of the world saw her “stuck in Ireland”.
“We were meant to stay for three months but that was 1995 and during that time I ended up meeting lots of people who could do circus skills and I was enthralled,” she said. “I loved what they were doing.”
As performers put the final touches to the extravaganza in Belfast’s Writers’ Square co-founder of the troupe, Tina explained that the skills the troop will showcase are very demanding and require extensive training, something which drew her into the circus.
“I think it was a bit of a challenge that made me see it as something that I could pursue,” she said.
“It is using my brain as well as my body, especially with juggling and using patterns.
“You had to use your brains as well as your physical skills. It was challenging, and all the people who were doing it were really great. I loved the environment and I loved everything about it.”
With the planned stay in Ireland extended she met Tumble Circus co-founder Ken Fanning.
“I lived in Dublin for two years and by this time Ken and I had met and we were doing shows together,” Tina explained.
“Lots of people started contacting us and asking us to do shows and how much do you charge?
“We didn’t really know that much but we knew that we needed to do some proper training. I think that’s when I realised that’s what I wanted to do for a living. That meant I needed more training in it. Then both myself and Ken ended up going to a circus school in England and it lasted a year and it was great. It was the best time of my life.”
Now settled with Belfast as her home, her partner Grant is also a performer, as is her son, Kasper.
“It’s also lovely doing Winter Circus and having Grant and Kasper as part of it, something that has others inspired,” Tina explained. “All of a sudden, without us realising, Kasper can become a role model.
“He encourages other people to do things. Kids can associate themselves with him because he’s a child, he’s not an adult doing things. The kids can say ‘we want to do that’, ‘we want to be like this’. It’s really great.”
Despite a difficult 18 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic Winter Circus show is returning for its fifth year, and Tina promises it will be “louder and prouder than ever before”. All a far cry from when it was so demanding it nearly didn’t return after the second year.
“Before we opened in the second year, I said to Grant to remind me that I never want to do this again,” she explained.
“He said we should probably wait until the end of the run and make that decision. But the third year was really good. Fourth year was great. Last year was cancelled but it’s really exciting taking it out now.”
Taking place in the Jossers’ Big Top Tina said it, “just about fits into” Writers’ Square.
Since starting Tumble Circus Tina and the team have developed an impressive set of credentials having headlined Glastonbury Festival’s Circus Big Top, played at Edinburgh Fringe, Perth Fringe World and Adelaide Fringe Festival. They have been seen in Norway, Iceland, Canada, Australia and many other countries and have toured our big top shows all over Ireland.
Tina’s success has also brought her shows back to Sweden.
A few years back I was able to perform in my hometown,” she said.
“500 people came. We put the trapeze rig up in the middle of the square and the news had just spread that I was coming to do a show and there were people that I hadn’t seen since I’d left as a child.
“There were people from my time, people from school, my old school teachers, my mum and dad’s friends came. It was amazing.”
And despite her parent’s initial misgivings about her making her career as a circus performer Tina admits they are now supportive and “my biggest fans”.
Tina explained that Tumble Circus promises something far removed from what people expect.
“Start with traditional circus costumes and music – we don’t do that,” she explained. “We try to make it into a show. We have a ringmaster. We mix all the acts.
“They’re all crafted so that, even though they’re much unexpected, people don’t know what’s coming next – but there’s still a very coherent feel to the show and we mix modern things, we mix loads of different art forms into the circus.
“Tumble Circus combines circus skills with comedy, theatre and social commentary to make people laugh, react, and act.”
With the heated Big Top going up in Writers’ Square Tumble Circus will be performing every day, except Christmas Day throughout the run with 11 of the days presenting two shows, with nine performers.
“Someone described it as the Irish Circus Soleil hit by a bus,” explained co-founder Ken.
“It’s not like normal circus. But it is. It’s Belfast-inspired circus. It is circus made in Belfast for Belfast people. It’s a bit of craic. Noisy, skills, comedy, beautiful bits, bit of poetry.”
Winter Circus is supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council, Tourism Northern Ireland, Arts & Business and Destination CQ BID.
Family tickets are also available and group bookings (10+) can be booked by emailing [email protected].
View the Winter Circus Covid-19 policy at https://www.tumblecircus.com/