Change is critical – now is the ideal time to reinvent Circus Oz

AAR-Circus-Oz-Big-Top-photo-by-Ponch-HawkesFor almost 20 months, Circus Oz has undergone a comprehensive internal review that examined different robust business and artistic models.

Circus Oz Executive Director, Penny Miles, explains that the company has prototyped new approaches and worked closely with the circus sector, government agencies and other partners to consider the needs and opportunities for Australian circus – especially for its artists and audiences.

“It was obvious we needed to change and do things differently,” said Miles. “The forced pause of the pandemic has allowed us time to focus on reinvention, before we rebuild. This period has been the perfect time to think deeply, be bold and bravely tackle many tough questions. We’ve navigated the possibilities of significant change and are now ready for an optimistic future.”

This week Circus Oz launched their new program (an experiment to test the market) called the Circus Arts Incubator. It will utilise the enormous custom-built home base at the Circus Oz Collingwood headquarters, which includes large rehearsal spaces, music studios, various offices, outdoor performance areas as well as wardrobe and props-making facilities.

“We are in a very special position to actively impact the development and profile of Australian circus arts across the country and internationally,” said Miles. “Our approach should focus on nurturing and enabling the circus sector. As a major Australian arts company with so much knowledge and experience, this is our foundation – we need to give back.

“Circus at its very heart is about people doing extraordinary things. The sector needs access to space and permission to explore the next unbelievable as well as ongoing support for the next generation who dare to go beyond the imagined. New programs like our Circus Arts Incubator donates major resources to this artistic cause,” explained Miles.

Through consultation with 20 different circus artists and creative representatives from independent companies, the Circus Arts Incubator was designed in response to their feedback and the need for ongoing support and space.

Currently, the Circus Arts Incubator includes two aspects – a Fellowship program offering five $40K stipends to support circus artists to develop their artistic practice and leadership over 6 months; and an Associate program for performers to utilise the Collingwood headquarters for purposeful and accidental collaboration. Expressions of interest for these programs close on Monday 12 July 2021.

Since 2019, Circus Oz recognised it needed to respond with new artistic and programming development models that would draw on learnings from former artistic directors and address unresolved challenges of the past.

“Given the considerable uncertainty post COVID-19 and based on the significant shifts in the Australian circus sector since Circus Oz was established in the 1970s, we acknowledge we need a new operating model that is responsive, flexible and scalable,” said Miles.

“Circus Oz needs to look different. It is now a critical time to create and embrace the next era. We have reinvented before; have always been pioneers and innovators; and we will definitely harness the spirit of reinvention again.”

Throughout the pandemic, Circus Oz scrutinised the importance and priority to reform a logical artistic and program leadership framework. Following the appointment of Fellowships as part of the Circus Arts Incubator, Circus Oz will then move into the first phase of recruitment for a new artistic lead.

An expression of interest will seek responses to the company’s new strategic direction and also provide opportunity to shape what is required of the role to lead and support a thriving contemporary circus scene in Australia.

“Our aim is to lay a new cornerstone that will attract the right person to be part of our change and be open to what the future may hold,” concluded Miles.

Circus Oz will make future announcements as the rebuild process develops. For more information about the Circus Arts Incubator, visit: for details.

Image: Circus Oz Big Top – photo by Ponch Hawkes