Forgotten Circus School: bringing circus skills to Tottenham

Forgotten Circus School is based in High Cross Centre on Fountayne Road. There are three directors: founder Luke Shaw, FC school manager Lindsey Higgins, and head of content and design Rachel Hardwick. They run the school from their bright and spacious live-in studio alongside a number of teachers.

Forgotten Circus School offer a range of classes and intensive courses, team-building days, rehearsal space and private hire. They also provide photography, rig hire and are a performer booking agency. They run an events and promotions company with the same name and performed at a number of festivals last summer.

Their wide range of classes include ropes, silks, trapeze, straps, contortion, hand stands and balance, aerial yoga, flexibility, floor based acrobatics, acrobalance, stilts, juggling, hula hooping, dance workshops, and children’s classes.

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All photos: Rachel Hardwick in-house photographer for Forgotten Circus

We sat down with Lindsey Higgins who, alongside running the business (which is a full time job in itself), works as a veterinary nurse three days a week. When she met Luke (in a straps class) she started helping him with the Forgotten Circus events business.

At the time, they were travelling an hour and a half each way to train four times a week. ‘We kept thinking “we really like doing this everyday and want to continue it so what would allow that to happen?” Through the events company we already knew quite a lot about rigging and had quite a lot of equipment.’ After sitting down and sharing ideas, they decided that starting the circus school would give them an affordable way to continue studying the skills.

‘We wanted people to come into an environment which makes them feel like home… The attitude people have when they practise here is so incredible and the community that come here are so supportive especially with each other…’

Lindsey specialises in aerial hoop and conditioning and teaches eight classes a week for both adults and children. Lindsey explained that they try to make sure that their classes are the best value possible and they create classes and workshops based on what their students want to study. ‘We listen to what people want and create it which is cool because we end up doing things that we never imagined. We’re going to do unicycle lessons and we’re doing a peg stilts workshop.’

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All photos: Rachel Hardwick in-house photographer for Forgotten Circus

In between all their other commitments Lindsey and Luke still manage to train every evening so you could say they have achieved their initial goal.

In the future, Lindsey would like to do workshops to support people with PTSD and other mental health issues. She told us how aerial can help with this. ‘Having that feeling of being off the floor and being weightless and not having any of the pressures pushing down on you – I personally know that is my anti-depressant. It’s the same with Luke. Circus makes you really truly happy and you feel like you can get away from everything that stresses you out. That’s want we want to try and make sure we give to everyone that comes here.’

Lindsey told us that the classes are ‘suitable for everybody’. The Forgotten Circus teachers, along with Lindsey, assess each class to ensure that each person is able to achieve what they need to in a lesson. ‘Nobody is pushed to do anything further than they want to. However, we always push to see improvement and growth. If you were a complete beginner I would probably tell you to try trapeze or aerial hoop because you can sit on them if you get tired… Silk, rope and straps all rely on you holding yourself up… You need to use your body to pull yourself up.’

The most common thing that they hear is ‘I’d love to do that but I’m not strong enough.’ Lindsey explained, ‘When I started doing this, I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t do a push up, I couldn’t do a pull up, I certainly couldn’t lift my own weight. You develop that with practise.’

‘If you think that you can’t do something then you won’t be able to do it. You need to think I don’t know how to do this, but I can know how to do this and then my body will be able to do it.’

Forgotten Circus like to have mixed ability classes because ‘complete beginners can see and speak to people and see their progression. If you put the work in and believe in yourself then you can do it.’

‘I’ve got four personal trainers who come here to use the fitness that they have. You strengthen and you stretch and it’s holistically good for your body and stress levels. At the same time, I have people that would be absolutely terrified just to even sit in the hoop. It looks high, you’ve got a crash mat underneath you and when you’re up there it looks pretty scary, but when you overcome that fear and do something that looks incredible that feeling in itself is so powerful. To watch people break through those mental challenges is just incredible.’

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All photos: Rachel Hardwick in-house photographer for Forgotten Circus

Nearly all of the Forgotten Circus teachers are performers. ‘The dream was to bring in people from beginner stage up to professional level depending on their goals and aspirations. For those looking to pursue careers, we have the resources to help them create routines and in house photographers and videographers to help with portfolios and showreels. We aim to create an outlet for them to learn and grow and to help educate in rigging, industry standards and expectations’.
Forgotten Circus has also worked across a number of big events. Most notably at Bedales’ anniversary (one of the oldest drama and performing arts schools in the country). ‘We put up a rig, we did teaching on the rig and then we co-ordinated a performance. It was nice to be a part of that as it’s a huge part of the performance world.’

Lindsey’s favourite circus skills are hoop (which is where she started), chains and rope. The chains are the same chains you would use to lift up a car! ‘You can use them as loops or you can use it like a rope so you can hang it down and climb it and do twists and turns in it.’

Lindsey thinks some of the skills you learn in circus, such as being patient and waiting for changes to happen by putting work in, can be used as life tools.

‘In this day and age you want everything yesterday because there’s no time… I think we really lack that idea of building something that’s meaningful and it shows in interpersonal relationships as well. Having something like this, even if you don’t want to perform in it, to allow yourself the space to grow, change, adapt and develop – to allow that frustration of not having it instantly to disappear, means everything else in your life becomes a little bit more like you have more time. Everything becomes a bit clearer, you can see the steps laid out in front of you and start to apply it to everything you do.’

‘Come and learn to fly!’

For classes, visit forgottencircusschool.co.uk

For event production and performer services go to forgottencircus.co.uk

This article first appeared in the Music & Performance issue of Discovering Tottenham which was released in June 2018.

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