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Big top in Belfast

The Belfast Community Circus has been passing on performing skills for 18 years, having grown out of an Arts Council of Northern Ireland outreach programme that took drama workshops into some of the most troubled areas of Belfast.

"The drama workshops were well received initially," says Kathryn Montgomery. "But the programme didn't really work because, in countries that have sectarian divisions, people associate certain areas of the arts - music, theatre, visual arts - with certain communities. But in most cultures, the circus has never belonged to anyone, so it offers a level playing field."

Only when a pair of drama teachers with circus experience decided to start regular Saturday workshops for a core membership of young people from all sides of the community did the project begin to take off in a big way. The circus, it seemed, was one place where people from all backgrounds were happy to let their children mix.

Today, the group has its own premises in Belfast, and offers professional training programmes for performers and community circus teachers from around the world, while continuing, above all, to take circus to children in areas of high social need.

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