The circus is the life for me, says NI punk on a flying trapeze

Ken Fanning and Tina Segner of Tumble Circus
Ken Fanning and Tina Segner of Tumble Circus

Belfast-based circus performer Ken Fanning is proud to be part of a global community of punks and outsiders.

The 45-year-old acrobat, who brings his Tumble Circus to Writer’s Square in the city in December, said becoming a circus performer was the “best mistake” he ever made.

Ken holding another performer aloft in 2017

Ken holding another performer aloft in 2017

He said: “Circus was on its knees in the 1940s, 50s, 60s. It was a dead artform. People just saw it as itinerant performers travelling around.

“In the early 80s it got reinvented by a company in France – Archaos – as this crazy punk show. Then of course people like Cirque du Soleil commercialised it.”

He said: “Tumble Circus is Ireland’s only touring big top alternative circus. We’re a bit more rock ‘n’ roll than a traditional circus, we do a bit of social commentary, it’s contemporary.

“Sometimes we joke that we’re not a circus company we’re a revolutionary movement. We’re street performers, we’re punks – that’s our roots. Then we grew up and joined the circus.

One of the performers who will be taking part in Tumble Circus at Writer's Square

One of the performers who will be taking part in Tumble Circus at Writer's Square

“People who are attracted to that lifestyle see themselves as outsiders.

“The circus is very much a family, which is the old cliche. When you’re on tour you’ll find out where the local circus school is.

“You rock up and tell them who you are, they’ll let you into their house and feed you. You’ll exchange skills, then hang out and party a bit.”

Ken grew up in Dublin then learnt how to juggle in the company of street performers in Holland and Spain.

That lifestyle led him to start his own circus with Tina Segner in 1998: “We set up Tumble circus and then went to circus school in Bristol and learned a few tricks.

“The trapeze would be my favourite. A big toy for a big kid. After three days I realised I’d made the best mistake of my life.

“After circus school we moved to Northern Ireland in 1998 to work for three months with the Belfast Community Circus ... and we stayed. The people were nice and the rent was affordable.”

Tumble Circus, a company which tours the world, will put down roots at Writer’s Square in Belfast for its Winter Circus from December 14 to January 1.

For more information see www.tumblecircus.com