Drop in to a typical Lolly Jar Circus class and you will see young people, aged four to twenty-six, tumbling, balancing, leaping and juggling. There is laughter, concentration, effort, frequent failure and renewed effort.
Founder of Lolly Jar Circus, Judy Bowden, assures me that this is all safer than it looks.
‘Our trainers are very experienced, they do lots of warm-ups and progress the young people from simple circus skills to difficult ones, based on their capabilities.
‘The point of social circus is not the skills themselves but the participant’s growth in confidence, resilience and social skills as their strength and coordination grows and success comes.
‘I first saw this sort of thing in action when my own children were involved in Cirkidz and after that I wondered how learning circus skills might benefit young people with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds.
‘Finally, we put together a board and, with some supporters, created Lolly Jar Circus.
‘Five years later, here we are.
‘In our classes are young people with a wide variety of backgrounds and abilities. In many ways, that is the point, working together and understanding that our community contains many different sorts of people.
‘One of our trainers said recently “what keeps me going is the laughter”, and there’s plenty of that, but also we see the growth in our young participants and hear about positive changes from proud parents.
‘Recently, I was shown a video of a girl with a disability riding her bike for the first time and then there was the young man with cerebral palsy who could walk into school and hang his bag up unaided for the first time.
‘As well as the trainers who are paid, we are operated by a board, volunteers and myself.
‘We have to make a small charge to cover costs like hall-hire, but some of our donations are in the form of scholarships that we can provide to families who couldn’t otherwise afford their children to attend.
‘Some of our students are in state care and it is a good way for them to build skills, confidence and friendships in a safe environment.’
And the future?
‘We have some great supporters including the Department for Human Services and the Sisters of Charity.
‘Right now we have classes in Campbelltown, Glandore, Elizabeth and Windsor Gardens and we probably need to consolidate a bit, but in the future it would be good to have permanent premises of our own and, eventually, a paid manager.’
You can find out more about this great operation at the Lolly Jar Circus website.