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Not to be missed circus festival NZJCF

I admit it I’m a festival convert. I know for most people the word ‘festival’ conjures up psytrance hippies or drunken hipsters with flowers in their beards but there is more to festivals than alcohol driven music raves where sun and sex are the only goals. Of course the word festival can cover anything from classical music to religious holidays to Burning Man but to a really good festival of any description is about one thing, a celebration of community.

New Zealand Juggling and Circus Festival - photo by Danny Addto

I recently had the privilege to teach a short workshop at The New Zealand Juggling and Circus Festival 2016 held at Parakai Hot Springs, north of Auckland, New Zealand.

With around 200 participants over 4 days this annual festival is far from huge but it has the all-important community in spades. Jugglers and circus performers are by nature a small tightly knit community (after all there are only so many performance based jobs in a country the size on New Zealand) the difference with a festival of this nature is this community’s willingness to welcome new members and share their skills and love of circus art.

Circus workshop

The New Zealand Juggling and Circus Festival has a whole range of activities on offer with a full festival pass including camping, workshops, hot pools, gala show (featuring world class international acts), hydro slides and fire performances for $100. There are family pass and day pass options to suit every need.

See a list of performers and workshops available at the 2016 event at NZJCF.

This festival really has something for everyone, whether you want to camp quietly with your family and have the kids play with fun new coordination skills and have a blast on the hydro slides. If you’re a circus geek keen for new skills from the best in the country, you can pick from an amazing array of workshops. Or just want to relax in the hot pools by day and party at night with fire circles and tunes to spin your heart out to. This is a festival that caters to all comers.

I am by nature a doer and the friendly but independent nature of this festival is perfect for me. A place where people will introduce themselves in the coffee tent or workshops, where when you see something cool even a beginner can say “that was awesome, could you teach me to do that?” and even the most professional of performers will take a minute to get you started.

The Lyra Ladies. Photo by Kerry Howard Photography

There are two events up and beyond the amazing range listed on your ticket that are perfect examples of how this community comes together. One is the renegade show and the other is the Circ Olympics.

In the Circ Olympics people of all ages and skill ranges come together to compete in a series of games and competition both silly and serious. Competitions range from longest 9 ball cascade and fastest unicycle race to combat clubs and juggling limbo. They serve as a place to get inspired by new tricks, a place to pit your skills against your friends and a place where even a first time participant might win a prize for creativity and daring. Mostly the Circ Olympics are a tonne of fun and a hilarious spectacle.

The Renegade Show (totally separate from the professional gala show) is the other staple of circus festivals, a show not open to the public, they are not professional or polished acts, some acts are even bordering on obscene as the night goes on. This show is the perfect place to do what carnie people love to do best, share new tricks. Have an amazing new trick but only land it 50% of the time? Put it in the renegade. Have an act that is a little too obscure for corporate circus? Put it in the renegade. Learnt a new trick over the weekend? Want to do it onstage with marshmallows instead of juggling balls? Put it in the renegade. People show off, people need three tries to get it right, people laugh, people participate. All are welcome and the sense of community inclusion is one of a kind.

Sharleen juggling. Photo by Boyd Anderson

Ok, so I will stop waxing lyrical about how much I love circus and festivals in general. =)

My point is, that something as relatively obscure as a circus festival can be a great and reasonably priced weekend away for such diverse people as folks who just want to get away for a fun few nights relaxation, families with kids of all ages and of course circus geeks.

Don’t let the title of festival put you off, even if circus doesn’t sound like your thing, keep an eye on the council website and events listings for other community run festivals and events. They are a great and underutilized way to discover new interests and build communities that fosters support networks and personal development.

NZJCF New Zealand

Of course I really do recommend you check out The New Zealand Juggling and Circus Festival, this great festival is the perfect place to give something new a go and a shining example of community building. I want to thank Sam Kronfeld and Logan Devitt the organizers of the 2016 NZJCF for having me, I will be back again and again.


Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this post check out this article on some weekend getaways from Auckland or share this article on social media.

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