05/09/12 - The time I ran away with the circus...

Okay, not really.  I am far too uncoordinated and nowhere near flexible enough for that.  In actual fact, I did what is probably the closest I will ever get to actually running away with the circus, which was working on the Piccadilly Circus Circus.  If any of you weren't aware of this event - I'm sure most of you won't have been, as it was a very hush-hush thing until the day before it actually happened - the Piccadilly Circus area of central London and the streets adjoining it were closed to traffic over the weekend and the pedestrianised areas became home to 247 international circus artists over twelve different stages as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad running alongside the Olympics and Paralympics.  I spent the weekend as a volunteer, wearing a rather fetching bright orange T-shirt and liaising with the artists in order to ensure that they had a productive and pleasurable weekend as many of them had travelled a very long way to perform.  This job mostly involved keeping the dressing rooms stocked up with water and fruit, and sitting in windowless kitchens waiting for instructions from the group I was assigned to - the incredibly talented Gandini jugglers who, as a London-based and very self-sufficient troupe, needed very little assistance.  None, in fact.  Although my being there felt like a bit of a waste of time - especially Saturday, when I spent upwards of four hours sitting on the floor in a kitchen - ultimately, I had a really great weekend.  Seeing all the performances, spending a weekend in London (and seeing the darling Megan who let me use her as a hotel!) and getting some volunteer experience to whack on the old CV made it worth it.

Gandini Juggling


Opera singers in GIANT dresses

But the best part was undoubtedly the finale.  At 8pm on Sunday evening, a huge crowd gathered in Piccadilly Circus to witness the showstopping final event of the weekend.  No one knew what it would entail, just that it was one not to be missed.  And my word, was that true!  Les Studios des Cirque, a French company, performed an absolutely stunning zip-wire act more than thirty feet above the heads of the awed spectators.  With haunting music composed specially for the occasion and one and a half tonnes of feathers scattered over the crowds, it was certainly one I would have been gutted to miss (but if you did, you can watch a bit of it here).  Even after the act was finished, people stayed for over an hour more to play in the feathers - I, of course, amongst them.  Have you ever made a feather angel?  You're missing out!  It was like a classy foam party and something I believe all universities should consider as a much more fun alternative.  I kind of want one at my wedding now!  I'm still finding feathers in my bag and clothes, an amazing reminder of the once-in-a-lifetime weekend I experienced.


Even after a vigorous shaking, my clothes
were still feathery for a long time.

So there you have it.  I marvelled at the skills of performers from seventeen different countries, gasped and hid my face at death-defying circus acts, and best of all - I partied with  the angels.  

Were any of you lucky enough to be at the Piccadilly Circus Circus?  What did you think?  Let me know in the comments!

Note: photos marked with '*' are not mine.  This is probably obvious by their clearly superior and professional quality.

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