Amelia’s Magazine | London Fashion Week S/S 2012 Catwalk Review: Georgia Hardinge

Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 by Jane Young
Georgia Hardinge S/S 2012 by Jane Young.

Former One to Watch and Merit Award winner Georgia Hardinge presented her S/S 2012 to an eager audience at Fashion Scout. Cubed was ‘inspired by the dark nature of cubo-futurism‘ – obvious in the multi-layered geometric lines that followed the contours of the female models on sheer blouses, this tight bodycon dresses and swirling capes.

Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
LFW Georgia Hardinge S/S 2012 by Celine Choo
Georgia Hardinge S/S 2012 by Celine Choo.

A predominant colour palette of soft grey was broken with luscious tangerine orange, recipe summery yellow and stark white. With Georgia Hardinge the question has always been how to combine her more avante garde sculptural creations with commercial wearability and if Cubed was anything to go by she has figured this out with the utmost panache: a conversation with an eager buyer confirmed my feelings that this was her most saleable collection yet, especially now that Mary Katrantzou has paved the way for a new generation of extravagantly shaped garments. Even boxy mini skirts with sharpened edges and fold down details on chests were eminently wearable without losing anything of the signature Georgia Hardinge aesthetic.

Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
georgia_hardinge_by_ada_jusic
Georgia Hardinge S/S 2012 by Ada Jusic.

Digital printing has allowed for a revolution in textile design that simply wasn’t possible when I was studying the old methods of screenprinting at university in the 90s. I can’t deny that I sometimes miss the limitations that screenprinting enforced on design but when digital printing is done well the results are wholly unique, as in Georgia Hardinge‘s stunning new collection. In Cubed the complexity and cleverness of Georgia’s print techniques reached its apotheosis in the last dress to float away in a cloud of cubist wonder. A beautiful collection.

Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Georgia Hardinge S/S 2012. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Categories ,Ada Jusic, ,bodycon, ,Capes, ,Celine Choo, ,Cubism, ,Cubo-Futurism, ,Digital Printing, ,Fashion Scout, ,Futurism, ,geometric, ,Georgia Hardinge, ,Grey, ,Jane Young, ,London Kills Me, ,Merit Award, ,Ones To Watch, ,Orange, ,screenprinting, ,Sculptural, ,Sheer

Similar Posts:






Amelia’s Magazine | London Fashion Week S/S 2012 Catwalk Review: Inbar Spector

Inbar Spector SS12 by Gilly Rochester
Inbar Spector S/S 2012 by Gilly Rochester.

I was entirely new to Inbar Spector this London Fashion Week, advice having heard of the Israeli born designer from devotee Gabby Young just a day before the show. Gabby frequently wears Inbar Spector on stage and was of course in attendance on the front row.

Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 by Jane Young
Inbar Spector S/S 2012 by Jane Young.

The fabulously named Inbar Spector has become well known for complex constructions and rich fabrics, and this seasons collection was no different. It featured a strong gothic 80s feel in favoured materials such as zips, chains, lace and faux leather (in line with her strict vegetarian beliefs). For her S/S 2012 collection Inbar Spector was inspired by a great fire which destroyed the majority of her home town in Israel: visions of violence, fire and terrifying medical situations were all fed into the mix. She writes on the press release about the anticipation and excitement that is tinged with fear when Israelis go to any big public event or party in Israel. Hence a certain spikiness in the styling.

Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory

The show opened with a lacy garment over which was worn a loose patchwork metallic embossed jacket. Models were styled with scary haystack hair, a line of grips stacking up behind their ears. It was certainly a break with current hair styling trends.

Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
LFW Inbar Spector S/S 2012 by Celine Choo
Inbar Spector S/S 2012 by Celine Choo.

Severe catwalk lighting meant that models gained a beautiful backlit halo as they neared the photographers’ pit, with every contour highlighted. Luckily the models also stopped right in front of me to allow the audience a closer look at the garments. An oversized silvery coat was my favourite of the outerwear but the faux leather worked just as well in a short golden dress. Delicate materials wrapped around the body in tangled layers, melding with the metallics.

Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory

Then out strode a model wearing the most breath-taking bubble dress made out of gossamer light material as if to resemble a wonky christmas fold out paper decoration. Another shorter tutu style dress in palest peach was paired with gold leather and yet another version entirely encased the body in intricate folds. I have no idea how Inbar Spector achieved these looks but they were quite staggering. The final two dresses were even more spectacular – the first in heaped tiers of frothy cream that wrapped around the model’s neck. The second showstopper would have been fit to dress a fairy atop the christmas tree – a vast concertina-ed dress made entirely in laser cut gold fabric. Astonishing and very unique.

Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory
Inbar Spector S/S 2012. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Inbar Spector SS 2012 review-photo by Amelia Gregory gabby young
The beautiful Gabby Young.

Categories ,80s, ,Celine Choo, ,Fashion Scout, ,Faux Leather, ,gabby young, ,Gilly Rochester, ,gothic, ,Inbar Spector, ,Israel, ,Jane Young, ,lace, ,leather, ,lfw, ,London Fashion Week, ,London Kills Me, ,review, ,S/S 2012, ,Task PR, ,vegetarian, ,Violence

Similar Posts:






Amelia’s Magazine | London Fashion Week A/W 2011 Catwalk Review: Olivia Rubin (by Amelia)


Illustration by Gareth A Hopkins

After being amazed by Masha Ma, cialis 40mg I had a short break before heading back into the Freemasons Hall to see Jazzkatze’s A/W 2011 collection. I had collected my ticket from Matt only a couple of hours earlier that morning and was eager to see what was on offer, price not being familiar with Ayumi Sufu’s designs.

Jazzkatze was founded by Central Saint Martins graduate Ayumi Sufu who began her career working for Vivienne Westwood, here Shelley Fox and Bernhard Willhelm. After returning to her native Japan she set up Jazzkatze, influenced by her surroundings whilst growing up; the old and the new, mixtures of traditional and westernisation and the chaos and energy of Tokyo.


Illustrations by YesGo!

Her A/W 2011 collection is named ‘The Name of the Rose’ and is inspired by the intellectual mystery novel of the same name written by Umberto Eco. The novel is said to reflect ‘the paradoxical relationship of existence made by you and your memories’.

Sufu introduced two signature prints in a selection of tones: one featuring scarlet and charcoal roses and another using snow covered ground in shades of grey strewn with blood-splattered roses.


Illustration by Stéphanie Thieullent

The palette also covered burgundy, nude beige and navy in a wide array of fabrics including sheer mohair knits, satin, chiffon and Melton wool. Tights were beautifully embellished with clusters of pearls, giving cohesion to the eclectic mix of looks.

Hair was woven with electric blue and white strands and swept into futuristic towering piles held in place by tightly wrapped ribbons. Prominent pieces in the collection included a lambskin skirt, a synthetic fur panelled half skirt worn over print trousers, a medieval-inspired hooded dress and a print jumpsuit.

The looks in the collection were diverse and a brave sense of of experimentation was evident Sufu’s wide-ranging field of influences working playfully alongside eachother. Opposing textures and shapes were paired boldly with no fear of eccentricity; her experience gained working with Wilhelm has clearly given her the confidence to have fun with her work.


Illustration by Gareth A Hopkins

She is described in her press release as “undeniably Tokyo, eccentrically London, creatively Antwerp, femininely Paris” which initially sounds like the usual give-or-take blurb you can find on handouts at London Fashion Week, but on reflection I think this is spot on. Sufu is clearly unafraid to take on several diverse ideas and see them through, rather than trying to force them to fuse together and lose the initial inspiration in the process. The collection offered a refreshing and individual aesthetic and I look forward to seeing what she has in store for us next season…!

All photography by Naomi Law

See more of Gareth A Hopkins’ illustrations in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration.

There is something slightly uneasy about Zoë Barker’s ‘Values’ series. Not the art itself, for sale as taken in isolation the images are beautifully, meticulously drawn. I’m talking about meaning behind them, which leave you walking away feeling a little awkward. We know that we trade personality for convenience every time time we go to Tesco instead of an independent shop, but we do it anyway. But we know we are contributing in a small way to a change that we’re not entirely happy about.

Zoë Barker grew up in a small Suffolk village which was Tesco-free for a long time, before one day she came back to visit family and found a Superstore rudely whacked down right on the high street. This is what prompted the artist and illustrator (and Amelia’s Magazine contributor!) to start her ‘Values’ series.

McDonald’s, Ikea, block housing and packaged holidays are all part of Zoë’s artwork, dramatically juxtaposed against local restaurants, carpenters, classic houses and the English seaside. The pictures are from Zoë’s family albums, but what they represent are things that are local, giving way to brands that lack identity in the sense they could be anywhere. While there is something quite sad about the images, Zoë has been careful to avoid too much nostalgia by making it funny as well; ‘Special things for special friends’ is the tagline for the elderly couple pasted onto the Ann Summers image.

Zoë Barker

The artwork is now on display at the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, a coffee shop on Leather Lane Market in London’s Holborn area. The coffee house has only been open about ten weeks, located in an old ironmongers shop. The rooms are light and airy with plenty of seats, and the coffee is gunpowder strong, sourced from East London coffee masters Climpson & Sons. Hanging in white frames on white walls, Zoë’s pencil-drawn art is the perfect accompaniment to the space, dominated by the rough brick and wood interior which has been preserved from the old shop. It’s the perfect reminder that not all changes are bad – the ironmongers didn’t make it, but out of the ashes has come something beautiful.

The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs (Note the water tap to the left!)

Zoë Barker’s ‘Values’ runs until 16th May at the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, 14-16 Leather Lane, EC1N 7SU. For more information see our listing.

Illustration by Gareth A Hopkins

After being amazed by Masha Ma, see I had a short break before heading back into the Freemasons Hall to see Jazzkatze’s A/W 2011 collection. I had collected my ticket from Matt only a couple of hours earlier that morning and was eager to see what was on offer, not being familiar with Ayumi Sufu’s designs.

Jazzkatze was founded by Central Saint Martins graduate Ayumi Sufu who began her career working for Vivienne Westwood, Shelley Fox and Bernhard Willhelm. After returning to her native Japan she set up Jazzkatze, influenced by her surroundings whilst growing up; the old and the new, mixtures of traditional and westernisation and the chaos and energy of Tokyo.


Illustrations by YesGo!

Her A/W 2011 collection is named ‘The Name of the Rose’ and is inspired by the intellectual mystery novel of the same name written by Umberto Eco. The novel is said to reflect ‘the paradoxical relationship of existence made by you and your memories’.

Sufu introduced two signature prints in a selection of tones: one featuring scarlet and charcoal roses and another using snow covered ground in shades of grey strewn with blood-splattered roses.


Illustration by Stéphanie Thieullent

The palette also covered burgundy, nude beige and navy in a wide array of fabrics including sheer mohair knits, satin, chiffon and Melton wool. Tights were beautifully embellished with clusters of pearls, giving cohesion to the eclectic mix of looks.

Hair was woven with electric blue and white strands and swept into futuristic towering piles held in place by tightly wrapped ribbons. Prominent pieces in the collection included a lambskin skirt, a synthetic fur panelled half skirt worn over print trousers, a medieval-inspired hooded dress and a print jumpsuit.

The looks in the collection were diverse and a brave sense of of experimentation was evident Sufu’s wide-ranging field of influences working playfully alongside eachother. Opposing textures and shapes were paired boldly with no fear of eccentricity; her experience gained working with Wilhelm has clearly given her the confidence to have fun with her work.


Illustration by Gareth A Hopkins

She is described in her press release as “undeniably Tokyo, eccentrically London, creatively Antwerp, femininely Paris” which initially sounds like the usual give-or-take blurb you can find on handouts at London Fashion Week, but on reflection I think this is spot on. Sufu is clearly unafraid to take on several diverse ideas and see them through, rather than trying to force them to fuse together and lose the initial inspiration in the process. The collection offered a refreshing and individual aesthetic and I look forward to seeing what she has in store for us next season…!

All photography by Naomi Law

See more of Gareth A Hopkins’ illustrations in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration.
Olivia Rubin A/W 2011 by Jane Young
Olivia Rubin A/W 2011 by Jane Young.

Every now and again London Fashion Week throws out a curveball and you end up in the most random of places with the most ridiculous collection of people, information pills wondering what the hell is going on. The Olivia Rubin show was just such an occasion.

I was very early to this show – a confluence of circumstances that left me standing at the front of a line outside the Jalouse nightclub in central London until I was completely numb with cold. From my prime vantage point I was able to ogle as the paps pounced on a series of D-Z list celebrities. I recognised Konnie Huq and footballer’s wife Danielle Lloyd but after that it was anyone’s guess. In my mind it’s never a good idea for the guests to overshadow a fashion show, there and especially not if I haven’t got a clue who they are.

Olivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryOlivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryOlivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Olivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

Once the celebs had been swept into the hallowed basement of Jalouse I too was invited in. I picked up a drink and swiftly headed towards the sunken seating area, ignoring the protestations of the press girl to wait and see if there was space later on. As if! We’ve run an extensive interview with Olivia Rubin on this website and I didn’t much feel like standing around on my own anymore, so I plonked myself down next to a friendly looking bunch of people on a curved sofa. I soon discovered that the lad next to me was on work experience at a fashion magazine and somewhat in thrall to his first fashion week. Herein is revealed the ridiculousness of seating arrangements at fashion shows – at the end of the day they are completely arbitrary. Depending on who you know and whether you’re bolshy enough you can sit wherever you want, be you intern or editor.

Olivia Rubin by Karolina Burdon
Olivia Rubin by Karolina Burdon.

As guests slowly filled the club celebrities stepped up on to the catwalk at my head height to pose for the paps. First Danielle, swishing her hair this way and that like a prime racehorse. Then, to my delight, Laura Goodger and friends from The Only Way is Essex. Don’t worry, I had to look up her full name. I did watch a few episodes, but I’m not THAT SAD. By this point I was gobsmacked by the stunning level of celeb-dom in attendance. I later discovered that another fashion PR had been approached for tickets by the *cast* of The Only Way is Essex, but had rapidly turned them down as way too tacky. I must say, I don’t really understand the logic. Rather than making me think, way-hey, this must mean Olivia Rubin is really cool… it made me utterly distracted… anthropologically fascinated by these strange creatures.

Olivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryOlivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryOlivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Olivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

The result? I spent the entire catwalk show trying to capture Lauren pouting and preening, rather than concentrating on the clothes – which in any case were hard to see against the glare of flashbulbs. Famous model Olivia Inge certainly enjoyed herself too; gurning at friends in the audience as she pranced down the catwalk.

Olivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryOlivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryOlivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryOlivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryOlivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryOlivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryOlivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Olivia Rubin A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

In a way it’s a shame that there was so much flimshaw surrounding this show because Olivia Rubin makes very cute clothes that feature colourful, fun prints and simple 80s styling. This collection encompassed giant splodgy animal prints, flowery brick designs and lacey goodness. To my mind not at all Essex.

As soon as the show was done the music leapt up to dancing volume, and yet more Essex girls headed to the toilets to touch up wondrously over-wrought hair and make-up that must surely have taken all day to perfect. I could happily have stayed next to the basins all night with my camera, but Matt and I instead drank free cocktails and put the world to rights.

You can read Matt Bramford’s fabby review here. Read our interview with Olivia Rubin here.

Categories ,80s, ,Danielle Lloyd, ,Essex, ,Jalouse, ,Jane Young, ,Karolina Burdon, ,Konnie Huq, ,Laura Goodger, ,lfw, ,London Kills Me, ,Matt Bramford, ,Nightclub, ,Olivia Inge, ,Olivia Rubin, ,The Only Way is Essex

Similar Posts:






Amelia’s Magazine | London Fashion Week A/W 2011 Catwalk Review: Ones to Watch Men

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, visit order set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, viagra 100mg visit mind and soul, visit it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can.


Here follows a fascinating interview with Naomi.
Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography from Neat Studios

It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?

The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!
Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, patient set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, website like this mind and soul, it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography from Neat Studios

It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?

The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!
Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, decease set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, mind and soul, it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography by Paul Blakemore from Neat Studios

It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?

The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!
Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, dosage set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, viagra buy mind and soul, mind it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?

The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!
Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, clinic set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, more about mind and soul, more about it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?

The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!
Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, link set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, stuff mind and soul, viagra it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?

The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!
Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, sales set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, mind and soul, it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?

The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!
Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, this set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, story mind and soul, and it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow – from squatters to ‘legit’ workers. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?

The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!
Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, order set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, ask mind and soul, it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow – from squatters to ‘legit’ workers. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?

The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!
Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, remedy set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, prostate mind and soul, it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow – from squatters to ‘legit’ workers. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?

The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!
Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, sildenafil set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, pharmacy mind and soul, it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow – from squatters to ‘legit’ workers. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?

The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!
Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, link set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, web mind and soul, tadalafil it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow – from squatters to ‘legit’ workers. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?

The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!
Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, check set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, viagra sale mind and soul, it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow – from squatters to ‘legit’ workers. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?

The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!
Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

Gemma Milly-Invisible Circus
Illustration by Gemma Milly

I’m reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen at the moment. It’s a book about the train travelling circus, price set in prohibition era America. The story flits from the 1930s to the present day. Whilst highlighting the protagonist’s age and the unavoidable changes to his body, mind and soul, it also mutters under its breath of the stark changes within the circus world. The book depicts the ‘old’ circus as full of hardship – pure blood, sweat and tears stuff. The modern circuses are seen as refined pieces of machinery, in a factory made of satin. Is the magic lost within this? A touch of the romanticism? The circus’s underground beginnings would never have seen itself hovering pleasantly next to the Sherif’s house, yet now they are as above board as the Queen… aren’t they? I digress, the circus is glorious! Of course it is! BUT, there within the drama, a snatch of a risk, a missed heartbeat, a creative explosion, that’s the kind of circus I want to see.

There is one circus, The Invisible Circus, who hold all and more of the magic that comes with the old and new; from the hard graft and creativity, to the luxury/despairs of liberation. I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to Bristol, where they’re based. The group squat in various disused buildings, clean them up and use the spaces for creative expression; for The Invisible Circus. I was lucky enough to go to a screening of Naomi Smyth‘s documentary on The Invisible Circus, which involved her following them for several years, becoming part of the group. She saw them change, inspire, shrink and grow – from squatters to ‘legit’ workers. Ultimately becoming something huge and recognised as beautiful and vital for a city’s inner beating, expression. It’s truly inspiring from a whole host of angles; those that influence our daily lives and the future of truly free art. And free people. DO try and watch the film if you can. Here follows the trailer to the film and a fascinating interview with Naomi Smyth.

Could you introduce yourself please?
I’m Naomi Smyth, I’m a filmmaker, performer and theatre writer/deviser.
How long have you been a film maker?
I’ve been freelancing as a director, camera op and editor on shorts, corporates, showreels, community films and some TV for 8 years. ‘Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal’ is my first feature and the first film I created totally to my own brief.
How did you get into film making?
After my Theatre degree I did a Film and TV Production MA at Bristol Uni, more in order to get the technical skills to make my ideas happen than to get a job in TV. After that I did lots of free showreel building stuff in Bristol and became good enough to be paid.
Are you Bristol born yourself?
I was born in Portsmouth, a great place for an offbeat arty teenager to stare out to sea or in at the concrete and moan that nobody understands. Thankfully that isn’t true! My partner Sam was born in Bristol and wanted to come back here, so I came with him after my degree.
And who are The Invisible Circus?
They make groundbreaking, mindbending shows that combine site-specific, promenade, circus, spectacle and interactive theatre. They’re a large knot of very close, very creative people with a massive range of skills. Over the past four years they have emerged from the squat scene in Bristol and become professionals- both at being a circus and at managing huge derelict buildings as sister co-op Artspace Lifepace. Some crew members had lived outside the system for years , so there were lots of challenges along the way.
What initially interested you about them?
They were squatting a derelict 4-storey garage round the corner from my house. It was pretty manky but they had transformed parts of it with red draping and lighting and created this dark Victoriana aesthetic around the shows there. There was such creative energy about them and a real determination to create beauty out of waste and nothingness with their bare hands.
What made you want to film a documentary such as this; and over such a long period?
If I had known it would take four years I would never have begun! I just felt that this was an intriguing assortment of people who were going somewhere together, and they didn’t all feel the same way about where that was or should be. I thought that was interesting and there must be a story in it! It took about a year to really be sure what the thread was. I did a lot of sitting around with the camera running, wondering why I was there. When I did find the thread it took four years before I really felt the story had developed enough to be finished. CarnyVille is the Masterpiece of the circus so far, and the show that has involved the biggest part of Bristol’s creative community so I’m very glad I ended it with that. People still tell me there is more to film. They’re right, but I’m not doing it!

invisible circus by rebecca lewis
Illustration by Rebecca Lewis

Is it a social, economic and political statement/commentary?
The circus in the film is a group of very passionate creative people who start out underground, slightly flaky and disorganised and get successful, professional and popular. That process is socially interesting, and also political. It is tied into the way our economy and the power structures in our society work, but also the ones in our heads. Tough choices come up as they move further into dealing with the hierarchies of capitalism. They have a leader in Doug too, which is obvious from the outside- but for self proclaimed anarchists which many of them are, that’s a very uncomfortable idea. At the same time they are doing it all for no money, just for the love of making art together, for the sake of beauty and inspiration. That underpins the whole mission and really saves it from the traps along the way.
How did you end up getting involved in the circus yourself? What is your own act?
I don’t have a circus act- but The Invisible Circus has always been about blending theatre, circus and spectacle. It took me a while to get up the courage but now I’ve been in nearly every IC show since November 2007, so I’m pretty used to it! I work on the character and story aspects of the shows. On the night I either act and sing in stage shows, or improvise in character with audience members in our weird imaginary worlds. I’ve helped create Jobcentres, Zoos, Haunted Houses, weddings, reality TV shows, family Christmases… all with a ‘wrong’ twist.
How did you feel performing? What did you wear? How nervous were you?
The first time I performed with the circus was in a cabaret in a squatted pub in 2006. There were 200 odd people there and I sang a Tori Amos song and A Paul Simon song a capella. I was incredibly nervous- even then I was fairly confident with acting but I’d never sung in public before in my life. I had written this monologue and created a whole 20′s Southern Belle character- Tallulah La Moolah- basically as a ruse to convince myself it wasn’t ‘me’ singing.
Were you received well?
I got a great round of applause from a very generous audience. The monologue was definitely too long though!

Ringmaster by Madi
Illustration by Madi Illustration

What do you think about the ethics behind the group?
I think it is very hard to live ethically in our society. It’s much easier to accuse others of hypocrisy for falling short of perfection than it is to make whatever effort possible in your own life to act on your deep-down beliefs. The ethics and beliefs in the circus vary massively. I do feel everyone there is in some way critical of our wasteful consumer culture and is trying in whatever way they can to act on that feeling. Some avoid, some confront, some imagine other ways and some create them for themselves and others.
Did you ever live in one of the buildings the collective were residing in?
I’ve never lived with the circus. I think that made the film possible. Getting the distance to ask questions and edit footage of people I genuinely care about was hard enough. If I’d been waking up in that community every morning with all the internal politics and closeness and mix of work and friendship, then having to translate that into a film, I might have gone nuts.
How did you feel about the legality of what they were doing?
Squatting is legal and I hope it remains so, though the Tories are trying to change that. It’s a loophole that provides housing for people who need it and who take the initiative to sort a building out. Most of these places have lain derelict for ages and can be really nasty inside. It’s not for everyone but the squatters I know are responsible, self-reliant people who hate waste. It can take a lot of hard work to squat- and if they don’t trash the place they’re not costing anyone a penny. Most will do some renovations in order to make a property habitable for themselves so they can actually add value. As Nick says in the film, most squatters in the UK will move on when evicted. The stereotype of the squatters who nick an old lady’s flat while she’s on holiday is based on tabloid tales of a few isolated cases.

There are some pretty rampantly greedy property owners out there who think nothing of the effects a derelict property can have on the community around it. Look at Westmoreland House- it’s full of asbestos, a big rotted hole in Stokes Croft for the last few decades and when the council try to compulsory purchase it, the owners hike the price to way above its value. That’s perfectly legal because they own it. I think that’s a real crime.

The game changes when it comes to running events out of a squat because you can fall foul of licensing laws, health and safety etc. Personally I would like to see people having more freedom to use space and make things happen without all these costly hoops to jump through. I like to see people just doing stuff without asking for permission, and that was what attracted me to the circus in the first place. But the choice Doug and the circus made over the years was to learn what the hoops are and how to jump through them, and rise to that challenge of ‘going legit’. I respect that too because it means they now reach a wider audience and they’ve flown the flag for similar projects and showed the Council and local developers that grassroots arts organisations can be trusted with huge buildings and large scale projects.

INVISIBLE CIRCUS
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

It must have been tiring to make the film! How did you manage your days/workload?
It was pretty hard to balance my life and sanity with the hours I had to put in on the film. At first the money side was OK because I had a well paid part-time job- something I’d recommend for any struggling artist! But about halfway through when they got the huge Police Station building, the crew offered me a free space to edit in and I got possessed by enthusiasm and quit my job to go full time freelance. That was quite tough because although I was getting work, it was harder to make time for the unpaid work on my film. At one point I ‘microfunded’ a 2-month period off all other work for me to crack the edit. I raised about £1400 from friends, family and internet supporters- about 80 people chipped in. I basically lived in my studio on flapjacks and energy drink. I stopped sleeping and life got very strange for a while there.
How was your partner affected – he helped I saw on the film…?
One of the ways my partner Sam was affected was that he learned how to be a damn fine camera operator! I couldn’t always make shoots because of my job, so I trained him up on my camera and sent him out if there was something important happening. Obviously it wasn’t all roses- when I was doing my hardest stints of editing he was the one to pick up the pieces when I stumbled in all sleep deprived and teary-eyed and lay twitching on the sofa. He was also the first person to feed back on my edit, and he always said if he didn’t like something. I did go a bit mad around that time so I wasn’t always grateful for his advice shall we say! But I always made the changes in the end so I guess he was usually right.
Did your own opinion of The Invisible Circus change as the years passed?
The circus itself changed, and my friendships with them did too, so yes- but in too many ways to go into!

Invisible C
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

What about your opinions on Bristol?
What do you think about Bristol, how it has developed and how it supports creative communities?
I absolutely love Bristol. In terms of its creative output and variety of stuff happening here, it is world class. The issue it has is that it’s sometimes a bit introverted- we all just bimble about enjoying each other’s talent and not spreading the word beyond the city. So much of the best stuff happens on the level of the grassroots, where people aren’t as good at putting themselves out there or don’t have access to a world stage. There is probably stuff that the Council or arts agencies could have done better in years past but now that there is no funding, we artists have to put ourselves out there in DIY fashion! Which should mean we’re on the turf we know best.
Did the group alter your own opinions on life, art, Bristol, consumerism etc?
The biggest way the circus has changed me is to introduce me to literally hundreds of people, each with a different set of skills to bring, and thrown me into making exciting, exhausting shows with them. I’ve gained a whole new understanding of collaboration, friendship, art and my own priorities.
After that the biggest change has been the discipline required to create the whole film without anybody but me pushing me to do it. I always said that even if nobody ever wanted to see it, it was still worth making. Now to show it to people and have them respond to it, is incredible. I can’t wait to release it properly.
As filming progressed did you become, and are you still part of the group?
I am definitely part of the group now. That happened as I was making the film, and is partially documented in the story. Loads of new people have got involved over the past four years, so I’m kind of an old hand now. Though the real old hands are Dougie and Wim, who founded it 16 years ago when they were busking in Europe.
Do you still perform now?
I did theatre throughout my childhood and being in a company making new work was my big dream. I love documentary too, but yes I still perform and will continue for the rest of my life now. I get something from it that I can’t get anywhere else. I let my demons and dreams out for a run onstage. Bliss.

iCircus
Photography by Paul Blakemore of Neat Studios

How important do you think collectives like The Invisible Circus are for Bristol/the country?
Over a thousand people have worked on Invisible Circus shows in the past few years, and many thousands have been to them. And I’ve seen that nearly all those people have at some point been delighted, transported , or pushed to somewhere they’ve never seen or thought they could be. And I think people need that and I like being a part of it. So I think there should be more of it.
In their case the breadth of the imaginative worlds created is borne on the back of a very solid community who support each other in ways most people don’t with their workmates. I think that’s really positive too and I think it’s necessary to have a close community you can rely on- especially in tough economic times.
Do you have another project lined up?
I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but after wondering about pitching to broadcasters and making a few plans, I still think I’ll probably just have to start shooting it in earnest to find out what it is. I want a bit more time with it before I give it to anybody else to play with.
What do you see for the future of The Invisible Circus?
The Invisible Circus are going to be big. We’ve already had some exciting offers for this year. It’s still the old struggle of trying to financially sustain a large crew who like making elaborate sets and huge spectacles- but we are unstoppable! As the past few years have shown.
What do you hope to do with the film? Travel around the country/world with it?
I’ve had a great offer from transmedia co-op Future Artists to distribute the film. They are working on new ways of releasing films that are fairer for the artist and less expensive for everybody, and they are great people so I’m sure with them it will go far. Hopefully to some festivals first and then to screenings throughout the UK. We are talking about screening in unusual venues and ‘recycled’ spaces like the ones in the film, as well as normal cinemas. Tomorrow, the world!
And how would you like people to leave feeling?
I’d like people to leave uplifted, and inspired to do something about the idea at the back of their mind.
When and where can we next see the FILM?!
I’m not sure at the moment as I’ve just started working with Future Artists, but it shouldn’t be too long. You can keep up to date by following me on twitter: @InvisibleCFilm or visiting the website and subscribing to the mailing list.

C/Bruerberg A/W 2011 by Karla Pérez Manrique
C/Bruerberg A/W 2011 by Karla Pérez Manrique.

Four menswear designers in one fell swoop: Fashion Scout’s Ones to Watch Men was the first of its kind and my last fashion show of the A/W 2011 season.

C/Bruerberg A/W 2011 by Karla Pérez Manrique
C/Bruerberg A/W 2011 by Karla Pérez Manrique.

C/Bruerberg A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryC/Bruerberg A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryC/Bruerberg A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryC/Bruerberg A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryC/Bruerberg A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryC/Bruerberg A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryC/Bruerberg A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryC/Bruerberg A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryC/Bruerberg A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryC/Bruerberg A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryC/Bruerberg A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory

C/Bruerberg A/W 2011 by Rebecca Strickson
C/Bruerberg A/W 2011 by Rebecca Strickson.

My favourite was undoubtedly the first one out and the one collection designed by a girl. C/Bruerberg produces wonderful knitwear – a raggle-taggle collection of clashing materials, viagra dosage finely executed lace and draped shapes with sheer panels. Her colour palette was a confident mix of browns and greys with bright green and reds. I loved the playful accessorising of dangling head and neckpieces and the digital prints were equally strong. Camilla Bruerberg graduated from the Oslo National Academy of the Arts in 2008 and has collaborated with Royksopp and the Norwegian theatre.

A.Hallucination A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryA.Hallucination A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryA.Hallucination A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryA.Hallucination A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryA.Hallucination A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryA.Hallucination A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryA.Hallucination A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryA.Hallucination A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryA.Hallucination A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryA.Hallucination A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryA.Hallucination A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryA.Hallucination A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryA.Hallucination A/W 2011 by Alison Day
A.Hallucination A/W 2011 by Alison Day.

This season A.Hallucination by Hwan Sun Park and Chung Chung Lee showed their usual blend of well tailored suits and fine detailing, search focusing on contrasting quilted panels and sweet little touches such as bowties and ruffles. Jacket sleeves were rolled up, cure boots slouched. There was also a range of large bags slung across the back – rucksacks are a big emerging trend for men.

Mr Lipop A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryMr Lipop A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryMr Lipop A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryMr Lipop A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryMr Lipop A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryMr Lipop A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryMr Lipop A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryMr Lipop A/W 2011 by Jane Young
Mr Lipop A/W 2011 by Jane Young.

Aside from having a rather wonderful/silly name, Mr Lipop produced what was surely the most commercial collection of Ones to Watch, rife with wearable items. Hoods, tailored leather backpacks, loose sheepskin and relaxed suiting was the order of the day. He’s worked as a tailor for Nathan Jenden for several seasons, but maybe a relaxed approach comes from his love of football – not the most obvious choice of hobby for a fashion designer. Bit concerned that was real fur trim though. Naughty step for Mr Pop if so.

Asger Juel Larson A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryAsger Juel Larson A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryAsger Juel Larson A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryAsger Juel Larson A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryAsger Juel Larson A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryAsger Juel Larson A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryAsger Juel Larson A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryAsger Juel Larson A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryAsger Juel Larson A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Asger Juel Larson A/W 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

With his Uncle Sam collection Asger Juel Larson drew the most surprised looks from big retail buyers in the front row – maybe because of the crucifix encrusted top hat? Or the feathered headdress made from two entire wings? Or the amazing holey knitwear encrusted with what looked like deflated balloons, worn over leather hot pants and not much else? Surely these are highly sellable items, non? Asger is a London College of Fashion graduate with some considerable hype to his name since being involved with Turkish luxe label Tween. According to the press release he’s inspired by historic events to create a sharp structured silhouette, though I’d say he owes more to the fantasy of High Gothic films.

Asger Juel Larson A/W 2011 by Sam Parr
Asger Juel Larson A/W 2011 by Sam Parr.

When I worked as a stylist I loved styling men far more than women, but because I struggled to find good menswear I invariably ended up using the same brands all the time. So it’s great that the much talked about renaissance in menswear design is finally happening and is getting such great support from Fashion Scout director Martyn Roberts. I look forward to next season with anticipation.

Categories ,A.Hallucination, ,Asger Juel Larson, ,C/Bruerberg, ,Camilla Bruerberg, ,Chung Chung Lee, ,Fashion Scout, ,Freemasons’ Hall, ,High Gothic, ,Hwan Sung Park, ,Jane Young, ,Karla Pérez Manrique, ,lfw, ,London College of Fashion, ,London Kills Me, ,Martyn Robert, ,menswear, ,Mr Lipop, ,Nathan Jenden, ,Norwegian, ,Ones To Watch, ,Ones to Watch Men, ,Oslo National Academy of the Arts, ,Rebecca Strickson, ,Royksopp, ,Sam Parr, ,tailoring, ,Tween, ,Uncle Sam

Similar Posts:






Amelia’s Magazine | London Fashion Week A/W 2011 Catwalk Review: Samantha Cole

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi Koko was undoubtedly one of my best chance discoveries of last season, this web so it was with great anticipation that I sat down for this show, right, as it happened, next to Lucy Jones – director of Fashion Textiles at the University of East London – who I recognised from the FAD awards last year. Designer Bunmi Olaye is one of her star pupils and in fact still operates out of a studio that the university provides for her. Definitely a big boon for a young designer.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Bunmi prides herself on her business acumen, which was thoroughly present and correct with the large fabric goodie bag stashed under front row seats. Inside mine was a beautifully presented cupcake (soon to be thoughtlessly squashed) as well as an incredibly thorough press pack that included a lovely set of postcards with fashion illustrations of her S/S collection, an explanatory foldout detailing Bunmi’s achievements and inspirations behind Kaleidoscopia, and then to top it all off a mini newspaper: The Bunmi Koko Times. This girl sure knows how to market herself!

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi’s show began with a short movie – a great idea in theory but a bit odd in practice – involving as it did some clubby graphics and James Bond-ish silhouettes. I wasn’t really sure what it contributed to the whole. Then the show was off with a run – and when I say run I really do mean run. The models were moving quickly at most shows, but at Bunmi’s they were moving at such a lick that it was nigh on impossible to capture them through a lens. It’s a good thing I like to capture models on the hop rather than front on like the paps. The clubby graphics – inspired by rainbows, supernovas and mirages – splashed across wide tutus, wrap dresses and clutch bags. I particularly liked the clever of use of futuristic ruching over shoulders and across breastbones. I loved the elegant purple suit and an eye-popping orange woolly dress, which bounced down the catwalk in a spray of moth-orgasmic fluff. I wasn’t so keen on the metallic leather pieces, which looked cheap by comparison.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Despite the clever styling with diamante encrusted visors, this felt far less cohesive than her last collection and left me wondering what exactly the Bunmi aesthetic is. It was all over so quickly that I hardly had time to digest it before Bunmi herself spilled out onto the catwalk, grinning broadly and sporting a t-shirt for Fill The Cup – a fashion range that will send profits to feed hungry children across the world.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi Koko was undoubtedly one of my best chance discoveries of last season, web so it was with great anticipation that I sat down for this show, mind right, information pills as it happened, next to Lucy Jones – director of Fashion Textiles at the University of East London – who I recognised from the FAD awards last year. Designer Bunmi Olaye is one of her star pupils and in fact still operates out of a studio that the university provides for her. Definitely a big boon for a young designer.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Bunmi prides herself on her business acumen, which was thoroughly present and correct with the large fabric goodie bag stashed under front row seats. Inside mine was a beautifully presented cupcake (soon to be thoughtlessly squashed) as well as an incredibly thorough press pack that included a lovely set of postcards with fashion illustrations of her S/S collection, an explanatory foldout detailing Bunmi’s achievements and inspirations behind Kaleidoscopia, and then to top it all off a mini newspaper: The Bunmi Koko Times. This girl sure knows how to market herself!

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi’s show began with a short movie – a great idea in theory but a bit odd in practice – involving as it did some clubby graphics and James Bond-ish silhouettes. I wasn’t really sure what it contributed to the whole. Then the show was off with a run – and when I say run I really do mean run. The models were moving quickly at most shows, but at Bunmi’s they were moving at such a lick that it was nigh on impossible to capture them through a lens.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

It’s a good thing I like to capture models on the hop rather than front on like the paps. The clubby graphics – inspired by rainbows, supernovas and mirages – splashed across wide tutus, wrap dresses and clutch bags. I particularly liked the clever of use of futuristic ruching over shoulders and across breastbones.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

I loved the elegant purple suit and an eye-popping orange woolly dress, which bounced down the catwalk in a spray of moth-orgasmic fluff. I wasn’t so keen on the metallic leather pieces, which looked cheap by comparison.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Despite the clever styling with diamante encrusted visors, this felt far less cohesive than her last collection and left me wondering what exactly the Bunmi aesthetic is. It was all over so quickly that I hardly had time to digest it before Bunmi herself spilled out onto the catwalk, grinning broadly and sporting a t-shirt for Fill The Cup – a fashion range that will send profits to feed hungry children across the world.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi Koko was undoubtedly one of my best chance discoveries of last season, healing so it was with great anticipation that I sat down for this show, right, as it happened, next to Lucy Jones – director of Fashion Textiles at the University of East London – who I recognised from the FAD awards last year. Designer Bunmi Olaye is one of her star pupils and in fact still operates out of a studio that the university provides for her. Definitely a big boon for a young designer.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Bunmi prides herself on her business acumen, which was thoroughly present and correct with the large fabric goodie bag stashed under front row seats. Inside mine was a beautifully presented cupcake (soon to be thoughtlessly squashed) as well as an incredibly thorough press pack that included a lovely set of postcards with fashion illustrations of her S/S collection, an explanatory foldout detailing Bunmi’s achievements and inspirations behind Kaleidoscopia, and then to top it all off a mini newspaper: The Bunmi Koko Times. This girl sure knows how to market herself!

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi’s show began with a short movie – a great idea in theory but a bit odd in practice – involving as it did some clubby graphics and James Bond-ish silhouettes. I wasn’t really sure what it contributed to the whole. Then the show was off with a run – and when I say run I really do mean run. The models were moving quickly at most shows, but at Bunmi’s they were moving at such a lick that it was nigh on impossible to capture them through a lens.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

It’s a good thing I like to capture models on the hop rather than front on like the paps. The clubby graphics – inspired by rainbows, supernovas and mirages – splashed across wide tutus, wrap dresses and clutch bags. I particularly liked the clever of use of futuristic ruching over shoulders and across breastbones.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

I loved the elegant purple suit and an eye-popping orange woolly dress, which bounced down the catwalk in a spray of moth-orgasmic fluff. I wasn’t so keen on the metallic leather pieces, which looked cheap by comparison.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Despite the clever styling with diamante encrusted visors, this felt far less cohesive than her last collection and left me wondering what exactly the Bunmi aesthetic is. It was all over so quickly that I hardly had time to digest it before Bunmi herself spilled out onto the catwalk, grinning broadly and sporting a t-shirt for Fill The Cup – a fashion range that will send profits to feed hungry children across the world.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi Koko was undoubtedly one of my best new discoveries of last season, malady so it was with great anticipation that I sat down for this show next to Lucy Jones – director of Fashion Textiles at the University of East London – who I recognised from the FAD awards last year. Designer Bunmi Olaye is one of her star pupils and in fact still operates out of a studio that the university provides for her. Definitely a big boon for a young designer.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Bunmi prides herself on her business acumen, recipe which was thoroughly present and correct with the large fabric goodie bag stashed under front row seats. Inside mine was a beautifully presented cupcake (soon to be thoughtlessly squashed) as well as an incredibly thorough press pack that included a lovely set of postcards with fashion illustrations of her S/S collection, an explanatory foldout detailing Bunmi’s achievements and inspirations behind Kaleidoscopia, and then to top it all off a mini newspaper: The Bunmi Koko Times. This girl sure knows how to market herself!

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi’s show began with a short movie – a great idea in theory but a bit odd in practice – involving as it did some clubby graphics and James Bond-ish silhouettes. I wasn’t really sure what it contributed to the whole. Then the show was off with a run – and when I say run I really do mean run. The models were moving quickly at most shows, but at Bunmi’s they were moving at such a lick that it was nigh on impossible to capture them through a lens.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

It’s a good thing I like to capture models on the hop rather than front on like the paps. The clubby graphics – inspired by rainbows, supernovas and mirages – splashed across wide tutus, wrap dresses and clutch bags. I particularly liked the clever of use of futuristic ruching over shoulders and across breastbones.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

I loved the elegant purple suit and an eye-popping orange woolly dress, which bounced down the catwalk in a spray of moth-orgasmic fluff. I wasn’t so keen on the metallic leather pieces, which looked cheap by comparison.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Despite the clever styling with diamante encrusted visors, Kaleidoscopia felt far less cohesive than her last collection and left me wondering what exactly the Bunmi aesthetic is. It was all over so quickly that I hardly had time to digest it before Bunmi herself spilled out onto the catwalk, grinning broadly and sporting a t-shirt for Fill The Cup – a fashion range that will send profits to feed hungry children across the world.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi Koko was undoubtedly one of my best new discoveries of last season, buy information pills so it was with great anticipation that I sat down for this show next to Lucy Jones – director of Fashion Textiles at the University of East London – who I recognised from the FAD awards last year. Designer Bunmi Olaye is one of her star pupils and in fact still operates out of a studio that the university provides for her. Definitely a big boon for a young designer.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Bunmi prides herself on her business acumen, prescription which was thoroughly present and correct with the large fabric goodie bag stashed under front row seats. Inside mine was a beautifully presented cupcake (soon to be thoughtlessly squashed) as well as an incredibly thorough press pack that included a lovely set of postcards with fashion illustrations of her S/S collection, an explanatory foldout detailing Bunmi’s achievements and inspirations behind Kaleidoscopia, and then to top it all off a mini newspaper: The Bunmi Koko Times. This girl sure knows how to market herself!

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi’s show began with a short movie – a great idea in theory but a bit odd in practice – involving as it did some clubby graphics and James Bond-ish silhouettes. I wasn’t really sure what it contributed to the whole. Then the show was off with a run – and when I say run I really do mean run. The models were moving quickly at most shows, but at Bunmi’s they were moving at such a lick that it was nigh on impossible to capture them through a lens.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

It’s a good thing I like to capture models on the hop rather than front on like the paps. The clubby graphics – inspired by rainbows, supernovas and mirages – splashed across wide tutus, wrap dresses and clutch bags. I particularly liked the clever of use of futuristic ruching over shoulders and across breastbones.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

I loved the elegant purple suit and an eye-popping orange woolly dress, which bounced down the catwalk in a spray of moth-orgasmic fluff. I wasn’t so keen on the metallic leather pieces, which looked cheap by comparison.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Despite the clever styling with diamante encrusted visors, Kaleidoscopia felt far less cohesive than her last collection and left me wondering what exactly the Bunmi aesthetic is. It was all over so quickly that I hardly had time to digest it before Bunmi herself spilled out onto the catwalk, grinning broadly and sporting a t-shirt for Fill The Cup – a fashion range that will send profits to feed hungry children across the world.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi Koko was undoubtedly one of my best new discoveries of last season, buy so it was with great anticipation that I sat down for this show next to Lucy Jones – director of Fashion Textiles at the University of East London – who I recognised from the FAD awards last year. Designer Bunmi Olaye is one of her star pupils and in fact still operates out of a studio that the university provides for her. Definitely a big boon for a young designer.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Bunmi prides herself on her business acumen, which was thoroughly present and correct with the large fabric goodie bag stashed under front row seats. Inside mine was a beautifully presented cupcake (soon to be thoughtlessly squashed) as well as an incredibly thorough press pack that included a lovely set of postcards with fashion illustrations of her S/S collection, an explanatory foldout detailing Bunmi’s achievements and inspirations behind Kaleidoscopia, and then to top it all off a mini newspaper: The Bunmi Koko Times. This girl sure knows how to market herself!

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi’s show began with a short movie – a great idea in theory but a bit odd in practice – involving as it did some clubby graphics and James Bond-ish silhouettes. I wasn’t really sure what it contributed to the whole. Then the show was off with a run – and when I say run I really do mean run. The models were moving quickly at most shows, but at Bunmi’s they were moving at such a lick that it was nigh on impossible to capture them through a lens.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

It’s a good thing I like to capture models on the hop rather than front on like the paps. The clubby graphics – inspired by rainbows, supernovas and mirages – splashed across wide tutus, wrap dresses and clutch bags. I particularly liked the clever of use of futuristic ruching over shoulders and across breastbones.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

I loved the elegant purple suit and an eye-popping orange woolly dress, which bounced down the catwalk in a spray of moth-orgasmic fluff. I wasn’t so keen on the metallic leather pieces, which looked cheap by comparison.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Despite the clever styling with diamante encrusted visors, Kaleidoscopia felt far less cohesive than her last collection and left me wondering what exactly the Bunmi aesthetic is. It was all over so quickly that I hardly had time to digest it before Bunmi herself spilled out onto the catwalk, grinning broadly and sporting a t-shirt for Fill The Cup – a fashion range that will send profits to feed hungry children across the world.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi Koko was undoubtedly one of my best new discoveries of last season, stomach so it was with great anticipation that I sat down for this show next to Lucy Jones – director of Fashion Textiles at the University of East London – who I recognised from the FAD awards last year. Designer Bunmi Olaye is one of her star pupils and in fact still operates out of a studio that the university provides for her. Definitely a big boon for a young designer.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Bunmi prides herself on her business acumen, purchase which was thoroughly present and correct with the large fabric goodie bag stashed under front row seats. Inside mine was a beautifully presented cupcake (soon to be thoughtlessly squashed) as well as an incredibly thorough press pack that included a lovely set of postcards with fashion illustrations of her S/S collection, order an explanatory foldout detailing Bunmi’s achievements and inspirations behind Kaleidoscopia, and then to top it all off a mini newspaper: The Bunmi Koko Times. This girl sure knows how to market herself!

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi’s show began with a short movie – a great idea in theory but a bit odd in practice – involving as it did some clubby graphics and James Bond-ish silhouettes. I wasn’t really sure what it contributed to the whole. Then the show was off with a run – and when I say run I really do mean run. The models were moving quickly at most shows, but at Bunmi’s they were moving at such a lick that it was nigh on impossible to capture them through a lens.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

It’s a good thing I like to capture models on the hop rather than front on like the paps. The clubby graphics – inspired by rainbows, supernovas and mirages – splashed across wide tutus, wrap dresses and clutch bags. I particularly liked the clever of use of futuristic ruching over shoulders and across breastbones.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

I loved the elegant purple suit and an eye-popping orange woolly dress, which bounced down the catwalk in a spray of moth-orgasmic fluff. I wasn’t so keen on the metallic leather pieces, which looked cheap by comparison.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Despite the clever styling with diamante encrusted visors, Kaleidoscopia felt far less cohesive than her last collection and left me wondering what exactly the Bunmi aesthetic is. It was all over so quickly that I hardly had time to digest it before Bunmi herself spilled out onto the catwalk, grinning broadly and sporting a t-shirt for Fill The Cup – a fashion range that will send profits to feed hungry children across the world. Promising stuff, but needs refining.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi Koko was undoubtedly one of my best new discoveries of last season, ed so it was with great anticipation that I sat down for this show next to Lucy Jones – director of Fashion Textiles at the University of East London – who I recognised from the FAD awards last year. Designer Bunmi Olaye is one of her star pupils and in fact still operates out of a studio that the university provides for her. Definitely a big boon for a young designer.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Bunmi prides herself on her business acumen, prostate which was thoroughly present and correct with the large fabric goodie bag stashed under front row seats. Inside mine was a beautifully presented cupcake (soon to be thoughtlessly squashed) as well as an incredibly thorough press pack that included a lovely set of postcards with fashion illustrations of her S/S collection, an explanatory foldout detailing Bunmi’s achievements and inspirations behind Kaleidoscopia, and then to top it all off a mini newspaper: The Bunmi Koko Times. This girl sure knows how to market herself!

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Toni Bowater.

Bunmi’s show began with a short movie – a great idea in theory but a bit odd in practice – involving as it did some clubby graphics and James Bond-ish silhouettes. I wasn’t really sure what it contributed to the whole. Then the show was off with a run – and when I say run I really do mean run. The models were moving quickly at most shows, but at Bunmi’s they were moving at such a lick that it was nigh on impossible to capture them through a lens.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

It’s a good thing I like to capture models on the hop rather than front on like the paps. The clubby graphics – inspired by rainbows, supernovas and mirages – splashed across wide tutus, wrap dresses and clutch bags. I particularly liked the clever of use of futuristic ruching over shoulders and across breastbones.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Liam McMahon.

I loved the elegant purple suit and an eye-popping orange woolly dress, which bounced down the catwalk in a spray of moth-orgasmic fluff. I wasn’t so keen on the metallic leather pieces, which looked cheap by comparison.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011 by Andy Bumpus.

Despite the clever styling with diamante encrusted visors, Kaleidoscopia felt far less cohesive than her last collection and left me wondering what exactly the Bunmi aesthetic is. It was all over so quickly that I hardly had time to digest it before Bunmi herself spilled out onto the catwalk, grinning broadly and sporting a t-shirt for Fill The Cup – a fashion range that will send profits to feed hungry children across the world. Good work from a promising young designer, but still needs refining.

Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryBunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Bunmi Koko A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Samantha Cole A/W 2011 by Avril Kelly
Samantha Cole A/W 2011 by Avril Kelly.

I am not a big fan of all black outfits so a show entirely consisting of unrelenting black is unlikely to be a winner with me. The Samantha Cole A/W 2011 collection Above and Beneath the Definitive Structure was all about black, recipe black, prostate black. Black in differing fabrics with differing reactions to light, but nevertheless black.

A succession of models – sporting futuristic up-dos and violent black eye make-up that stretched from lash to eyebrow – slowly filtered past us in the upstairs salon of Freemasons Hall. This might not have been so noticeable had the majority of us not just come from the Bunmi Koko show, where models had been sent down the catwalk at breakneck speed. People could be seen shifting in their seats, checking their watches, unused to this sudden slow down in a season of warp speed catwalking.

Samantha Cole A/W 2011 by Jane Young
Samantha Cole A/W 2011 by Jane Young.

The first models wore abstract linear prints etched onto squared off one-shoulder minidresses and boxy shapes that stood proud of the body. Leather crunched unforgivingly in all the wrong places and harsh catwalk lighting rendered black leather a pallid grey against the darkness of light absorbing black velvet. This had the air of clever ideas lost in translation.

Samantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Samantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

Much more successful and flattering were form-hugging knitwear and velvet fabrics that wrapped sexily around bosoms and hips, a giant head-swallowing Elizabethan ruffled neckbrace and the last outfit of the show – an intriguingly cut maxi length dress, draped skirt swinging from a high waistline shaped away from the body.

Samantha Cole A/W 2011 by Madi
Samantha Cole A/W 2011 by Madi.

Strangely, she only showed one dress that featured her unique signature shape – exaggerated 3D hips.

Samantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Samantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

Samantha Cole is known for her desire to clothe the strong and empowered female, and we’ve previously interviewed her about some stunning work, and Matt Bramford was rightly impressed with her her show as part of On/Off a year ago. It’s clear that despite the copious use of black Samantha has some wonderful ideas, but sadly this collection was not as fabulous as it could have been.

Samantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregorySamantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Samantha Cole A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

As our applause died down we could hear loud whooping as the models headed backstage. Three giggling ladies popped out to take a bow, followed by another lady on her own. Which one, I wondered, was the real Samantha Cole?

Categories ,Avril Kelly, ,Bunmi Koko, ,Freemasons’ Hall, ,Jane Young, ,lfw, ,London Fashion Week, ,London Kills Me, ,Madi, ,Madi Illustrates, ,onoff, ,Samantha Cole

Similar Posts:






Amelia’s Magazine | London Fashion Week A/W 2011 Presentation Review: Cooperative Designs (by Amelia)


Illustration by Oliver John Quinn

After hanging out with contributor Nick for lunch during Menswear Day, information pills I hot-footed it up to Vauxhall Fashion Scout to check out D.GNAK‘s latest offerings. It was the only menswear show I’d see at the Freemasons’ Hall and it was fairly quiet. I’d enjoyed his outing last season and was looking forward to seeing how his quirky Japanese aesthetic would translate for A/W.

I bumped into contributor Georgiahttp://www.ameliasmagazine.com/?s=Georgia%20Takacs there and we headed into the venue, here sitting on opposite sides so not to get the same pictures. As we sat down, sales she started FREAKING OUT. ‘Is that Paul Weller? IS THAT PAUL WELLER?!’ she began yelling. It turns out it was, and he was nestled on the front row with his missus and two children. Georgia immediately went over to chat to him and I took a few pictures of them together, grinned nervously at him and thought to myself that his haircut has a lot to answer for.

On with the show. In a bold move from last season’s classic tailoring with contemporary twists, Kang D (the designer behind D.GNAK) had injected strong colours, interesting knits and enormous rucksacks.

The show opened with utilitarian tailoring that you might expect George Orwell’s Winston Smith to wear dark grey baggy trousers with an apron-like upper half was teamed with a luxurious floor-length cable knit cardigan. Next, a rich pea-coat with over-sized lapels and plaid-detail shoulders.

D.GNAK as a label is quickly establishing itself as an expert in materials and textures. Wools, corduroy, tweed and cotton were all on display, spiced up using colours like mustard and burgundy.

There’s also an eye for the unfinished – that’ll be the Japanese ma influence then – with fraid hems that look a bit like a Saville Row tailor has had the day off – but teamed with polished blazers and expensive-looking coats, this works really well.

Every man is pretty much catered for here. There’s sartorial tailoring in the form of suits and Sherlock Holmes-esque coats for the sharpest dresser; wool blazers with contrasting buttons and vibrant trousers work well for casuals; corduroy onesies will have the more fashion-forward males racing to the shops.

Ace accessories were on offer – oversized patent leather rucksacks with suede details were worn on both shoulders, buckle straps revealed helpful features like an umbrella carrier. I like.

This was a much fresher collection than last time – the same level of craftsmanship was on offer, but it’s interesting to see D-GNAK explore different pieces, experiment with colours and toy with the traditions of sartorial menswear.

See more of Joana Faria’s illustrations in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration!

Illustration by Oliver John Quinn

After hanging out with contributor Nick for lunch during Menswear Day, illness I hot-footed it up to Vauxhall Fashion Scout to check out D.GNAK‘s latest offerings. It was the only menswear show I’d see at the Freemasons’ Hall and it was fairly quiet. I’d enjoyed his outing last season and was looking forward to seeing how his quirky Japanese aesthetic would translate for A/W.


Contributor Georgia with Paul Weller

I bumped into contributor Georgiahttp://www.ameliasmagazine.com/?s=Georgia%20Takacs there and we headed into the venue, recipe sitting on opposite sides so not to get the same pictures. As we sat down, she started FREAKING OUT. ‘Is that Paul Weller? IS THAT PAUL WELLER?!’ she began yelling. It turns out it was, and he was nestled on the front row with his missus and two children. Georgia immediately went over to chat to him and I took a few pictures of them together, grinned nervously at him and thought to myself that his haircut has a lot to answer for.


Illustration by Joana Faria

On with the show. In a bold move from last season’s classic tailoring with contemporary twists, Kang D (the designer behind D.GNAK) had injected strong colours, interesting knits and enormous rucksacks.

The show opened with utilitarian tailoring that you might expect George Orwell’s Winston Smith to wear dark grey baggy trousers with an apron-like upper half was teamed with a luxurious floor-length cable knit cardigan. Next, a rich pea-coat with over-sized lapels and plaid-detail shoulders.

D.GNAK as a label is quickly establishing itself as an expert in materials and textures. Wools, corduroy, tweed and cotton were all on display, spiced up using colours like mustard and burgundy.


Illustration by Rob Wallace

There’s also an eye for the unfinished – that’ll be the Japanese ma influence then – with fraid hems that look a bit like a Saville Row tailor has had the day off – but teamed with polished blazers and expensive-looking coats, this works really well.

Every man is pretty much catered for here. There’s sartorial tailoring in the form of suits and Sherlock Holmes-esque coats for the sharpest dresser; wool blazers with contrasting buttons and vibrant trousers work well for casuals; corduroy onesies will have the more fashion-forward males racing to the shops.

Ace accessories were on offer – oversized patent leather rucksacks with suede details were worn on both shoulders, buckle straps revealed helpful features like an umbrella carrier. I like.

This was a much fresher collection than last time – the same level of craftsmanship was on offer, but it’s interesting to see D-GNAK explore different pieces, experiment with colours and toy with the traditions of sartorial menswear.

See more of Joana Faria’s illustrations in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration!

Illustration by Oliver John Quinn

After hanging out with contributor Nick for lunch during Menswear Day, visit this I hot-footed it up to Vauxhall Fashion Scout to check out D.GNAK‘s latest offerings. It was the only menswear show I’d see at the Freemasons’ Hall and it was fairly quiet. I’d enjoyed his outing last season and was looking forward to seeing how his quirky Japanese aesthetic would translate for A/W.


Contributor Georgia with Paul Weller

I bumped into contributor Georgiahttp://www.ameliasmagazine.com/?s=Georgia%20Takacs there and we headed into the venue, pharm sitting on opposite sides so not to get the same pictures. As we sat down, she started FREAKING OUT. ‘Is that Paul Weller? IS THAT PAUL WELLER?!’ she began yelling. It turns out it was, and he was nestled on the front row with his missus and two children. Georgia immediately went over to chat to him and I took a few pictures of them together, grinned nervously at him and thought to myself that his haircut has a lot to answer for.


Illustration by Joana Faria

On with the show. In a bold move from last season’s classic tailoring with contemporary twists, Kang D (the designer behind D.GNAK) had injected strong colours, interesting knits and enormous rucksacks.


All photography by Matt Bramford

The show opened with utilitarian tailoring that you might expect George Orwell’s Winston Smith to wear dark grey baggy trousers with an apron-like upper half was teamed with a luxurious floor-length cable knit cardigan. Next, a rich pea-coat with over-sized lapels and plaid-detail shoulders.

D.GNAK as a label is quickly establishing itself as an expert in materials and textures. Wools, corduroy, tweed and cotton were all on display, spiced up using colours like mustard and burgundy.


Illustration by Rob Wallace

There’s also an eye for the unfinished – that’ll be the Japanese ma influence then – with fraid hems that look a bit like a Saville Row tailor has had the day off – but teamed with polished blazers and expensive-looking coats, this works really well.

Every man is pretty much catered for here. There’s sartorial tailoring in the form of suits and Sherlock Holmes-esque coats for the sharpest dresser; wool blazers with contrasting buttons and vibrant trousers work well for casuals; corduroy onesies will have the more fashion-forward males racing to the shops.

Ace accessories were on offer – oversized patent leather rucksacks with suede details were worn on both shoulders, buckle straps revealed helpful features like an umbrella carrier. I like.

This was a much fresher collection than last time – the same level of craftsmanship was on offer, but it’s interesting to see D-GNAK explore different pieces, experiment with colours and toy with the traditions of sartorial menswear.

See more of Joana Faria’s illustrations in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration!

Illustration by Oliver John Quinn

After hanging out with contributor Nick for lunch during Menswear Day, abortion I hot-footed it up to Vauxhall Fashion Scout to check out D.GNAK‘s latest offerings. It was the only menswear show I’d see at the Freemasons’ Hall and it was fairly quiet. I’d enjoyed his outing last season and was looking forward to seeing how his quirky Japanese aesthetic would translate for A/W.


Contributor Georgia with Paul Weller

I bumped into contributor Georgiahttp://www.ameliasmagazine.com/?s=Georgia%20Takacs there and we headed into the venue, medications sitting on opposite sides so not to get the same pictures. As we sat down, she started FREAKING OUT. ‘Is that Paul Weller? IS THAT PAUL WELLER?!’ she began yelling. It turns out it was, and he was nestled on the front row with his missus and two children. Georgia immediately went over to chat to him and I took a few pictures of them together, grinned nervously at him and thought to myself that his haircut has a lot to answer for.


Illustration by Joana Faria

On with the show. In a bold move from last season’s classic tailoring with contemporary twists, Kang D (the designer behind D.GNAK) had injected strong colours, interesting knits and enormous rucksacks.


All photography by Matt Bramford

The show opened with utilitarian tailoring that you might expect George Orwell’s Winston Smith to wear dark grey baggy trousers with an apron-like upper half was teamed with a luxurious floor-length cable knit cardigan. Next, a rich pea-coat with over-sized lapels and plaid-detail shoulders.

D.GNAK as a label is quickly establishing itself as an expert in materials and textures. Wools, corduroy, tweed and cotton were all on display, spiced up using colours like mustard and burgundy.


Illustration by Rob Wallace

There’s also an eye for the unfinished – that’ll be the Japanese ma influence then – with fraid hems that look a bit like a Saville Row tailor has had the day off – but teamed with polished blazers and expensive-looking coats, this works really well.

Every man is pretty much catered for here. There’s sartorial tailoring in the form of suits and Sherlock Holmes-esque coats for the sharpest dresser; wool blazers with contrasting buttons and vibrant trousers work well for casuals; corduroy onesies will have the more fashion-forward males racing to the shops.

Ace accessories were on offer – oversized patent leather rucksacks with suede details were worn on both shoulders, buckle straps revealed helpful features like an umbrella carrier. I like.

This was a much fresher collection than last time – the same level of craftsmanship was on offer, but it’s interesting to see D-GNAK explore different pieces, experiment with colours and toy with the traditions of sartorial menswear.

See more of Joana Faria’s illustrations in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration!

Illustration by Oliver John Quinn

After hanging out with contributor Nick for lunch during Menswear Day, doctor I hot-footed it up to Vauxhall Fashion Scout to check out D.GNAK‘s latest offerings. It was the only menswear show I’d see at the Freemasons’ Hall and it was fairly quiet. I’d enjoyed his outing last season and was looking forward to seeing how his quirky Japanese aesthetic would translate for A/W.


Contributor Georgia with Paul Weller

I bumped into contributor Georgiahttp://www.ameliasmagazine.com/?s=Georgia%20Takacs there and we headed into the venue, sitting on opposite sides so not to get the same pictures. As we sat down, she started FREAKING OUT. ‘Is that Paul Weller? IS THAT PAUL WELLER?!’ she began yelling. It turns out it was, and he was nestled on the front row with his missus and two children. Georgia immediately went over to chat to him and I took a few pictures of them together, grinned nervously at him and thought to myself that his haircut has a lot to answer for.


Illustration by Joana Faria

On with the show. In a bold move from last season’s classic tailoring with contemporary twists, Kang D (the designer behind D.GNAK) had injected strong colours, interesting knits and enormous rucksacks.


All photography by Matt Bramford

The show opened with utilitarian tailoring that you might expect George Orwell’s Winston Smith to wear dark grey baggy trousers with an apron-like upper half was teamed with a luxurious floor-length cable knit cardigan. Next, a rich pea-coat with over-sized lapels and plaid-detail shoulders.

D.GNAK as a label is quickly establishing itself as an expert in materials and textures. Wools, corduroy, tweed and cotton were all on display, spiced up using colours like mustard and burgundy.


Illustration by Rob Wallace

There’s also an eye for the unfinished – that’ll be the Japanese ma influence then – with fraid hems that look a bit like a Savile Row tailor has had the day off – but teamed with polished blazers and expensive-looking coats, this works really well.

Every man is pretty much catered for here. There’s sartorial tailoring in the form of suits and Sherlock Holmes-esque coats for the sharpest dresser; wool blazers with contrasting buttons and vibrant trousers work well for casuals; corduroy onesies will have the more fashion-forward males racing to the shops.

Ace accessories were on offer – oversized patent leather rucksacks with suede details were worn on both shoulders, buckle straps revealed helpful features like an umbrella carrier. I like.

This was a much fresher collection than last time – the same level of craftsmanship was on offer, but it’s interesting to see D-GNAK explore different pieces, experiment with colours and toy with the traditions of sartorial menswear.

See more of Joana Faria’s illustrations in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration!
Cooperative Designs A/W 2011 by Natsuki Otani
Cooperative Designs A/W 2011 by Natsuki Otani.

Last season I was incredibly gutted to miss the Cooperative Designs presentation – such were the glowing reports on our website. But in my enthusiasm I actually turned up too early this time, treatment got turned away, medications ate a Pret sandwich… and then missed most of what turned out to actually be a catwalk show on repeat.


Cooperative Designs A/W 2011. Photography by Tim Adey.

Descending some stairs we were asked to sit in a darkened vault but my photographer’s sixth sense directed me instead to stand in a separate photographers box, healing where the models paused for a few seconds in somewhat brighter conditions.

Cooperative Designs A/W 2011 by Jane Young
Cooperative Designs A/W 2011 by Jane Young.

This was a collection inspired by 90s rave culture, Drum n Bass and the contemplative industrial photography of Thomas Struth, which meant that the oversized silhouette of Cooperative Designs came in industrial tones of grey and beige stripes combined with fluoro highlights in tie detailing, visors and threaded hair accessories.

Cooperative Designs A/W 2011. Photography by Tim Adey.
Cooperative Designs A/W 2011. Photography by Tim Adey.

Cooperative Designs A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryCooperative Designs A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Cooperative Designs A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

There was lots of asymmetrical patterning, floppy hooded jumpers, boxy baggy tops and knit dresses tiered with baggy pouches. Lacy see through knitwear recalled the combat trouser shapes so beloved of 90s dancers. Hats by Noel Stewart were tall and floppy like a gnome’s or featured ear flaps and visors – questionable styles that were somehow rendered infinitely desirable. A wide knitted skirt was particularly cute, as were the little boots by Flip Flop, customised by Cooperative Designs with extravagant orange soles.

Cooperative Designs A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryCooperative Designs A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryCooperative Designs A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Cooperative Designs A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

Of any designers that I love I can actually imagine myself wearing Cooperative Designs. Their clever knitwear is by it’s very nature supremely flattering to the shape of a real women. Thankfully, they make a point of picking their models to reflect their customer.

Cooperative Designs 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Plywood jewellery by Corrie Williamson for Cooperative Designs 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

On my way out I was given a brilliant press release: informative, well written and protected in a cardboard envelope that even I would struggle to lose. Best of all, it came with my very own piece of painted plywood jewellery by Corrie Williamson, as featured in the collection. More designers could learn from such professionalism on the press release frontier.

You can read Naomi Law’s excellent review here and you can see more of Natsuki Otani’s work in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration.

Categories ,90s, ,ACOFI, ,Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, ,Cooperative Designs, ,Corrie Williamson, ,Drum n Bass, ,East 17, ,Flip Flop, ,Industrial, ,It’s Alright, ,Jane Young, ,jewellery, ,knitwear, ,London Kills Me, ,Natsuki Otani, ,Noel Stewart, ,Rave Culture, ,rsa, ,Thomas Struth, ,Tim Adey

Similar Posts:






Amelia’s Magazine | London Fashion Week A/W 2014: Fashion Illustrations from the Catwalk

Burberry A/W 2014 by Emma Farrarons

Burberry A/W 2014 by Emma Farrarons.

Since I was unable to attend many of my favourite designer’s shows this season, and indeed had no help in covering the shows (apart from this post, written by the fabulous Maria Papadimitriou) I thought it would be a nice idea to do an open callout for illustrators to depict their favourite outfit from any of the London Fashion Week shows. Here are the results, in no particular order: I am sure you will agree that they are fabulous. Long live fashion illustration!

Michael Van Der Ham A/W 2014 by Antonia Parker

Michael Van Der Ham A/W 2014 by Antonia Parker.

Erdem A/W 2014 by xplusyequals

Erdem A/W 2014 by xplusyequals.

Ashish A/W 2014 by Rebecca May Illustration

Ashish A/W 2014 by Rebecca May Illustration.

Eudon Choi A/W 2014 by Mark Goss

Eudon Choi A/W 2014 by Mark Goss

Eudon Choi A/W 2014 by Mark Goss.

KTZ A/W 2014 by xplusyequals

KTZ A/W 2014 by xplusyequals.

Emilio de la Morena A/W 2014 by Carol Kearns

Emilio de la Morena A/W 2014 by Carol Kearns.

Mary Katrantzou A/W 2014 by Maelle Rajoelisolo

Mary Katrantzou A/W 2014 by Maelle Rajoelisolo

Mary Katrantzou A/W 2014 by Maelle Rajoelisolo.

Daks A/W 2014 by Jenny Robins

Daks A/W 2014 by Jenny Robins.

Sibling A/W 2014 by Calamusyychan

Sibling A/W 2014 by Calamus Ying Ying Chan.

House Of Holland A/W 2014 by Antonia Parker

House Of Holland A/W 2014 by Antonia Parker.

Erdem A/W 2014 by Jane Young

Erdem A/W 2014 by Jane Young.

Burberry A/W 2014 by Mitika Suri

Burberry A/W 2014 by Mitika Suri.

Vivetta A/W 2014 by Briony Jose

Vivetta A/W 2014 by Briony Jose.

Tata Naka A/W 2014 by Isher Dhiman

Tata Naka A/W 2014 by Isher Dhiman.

David Koma A/W 2014 by Gaarte

David Koma A/W 2014 by Gaarte.

Categories ,Antonia Parker, ,Ashish, ,Briony Jose, ,Burberry, ,Calamus Ying Ying Chan, ,Carol Kearns, ,daks, ,Emilio de la Morena, ,Emma Farrarons, ,Erdem, ,Eudon Choi, ,Gaarte, ,House of Holland, ,Isher Dhiman, ,Jane Young, ,Jenny Robins, ,KTZ, ,Maelle Rajoelisolo, ,Maria Papadimitriou, ,Mark Goss, ,Mary Katrantzou, ,Michael van der Ham, ,Mitika Suri, ,Rebecca May Illustration, ,Sibling, ,Tata Naka, ,xplusyequals

Similar Posts:






Amelia’s Magazine | London Fashion Week A/W 2011 Catwalk Review: Jean-Pierre Braganza (by Amelia)

thumb emilio
Emilio de la Morena by Faye West
Emilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Collection: Illustration by Faye West

Apparently Emilio de la Morena has lengthened his silhouette. His pieces are now touching, viagra sale or over the knee, prostate ‘signalling a new direction that is stricter and more refined.’ The body con is still there of course, order remaining tighter than a wetsuit, and both wigglier and feistier than Mad Men’s, Joan. That’s exactly what the collection made me think of: Joan and Jessica Rabbit. This translates to: HOT… but sophisticated.

Red Charlotte Olympia shoes featured throughout the show. Now, I’ve always been a fan of red shoes. From ballet to sky scraping, red shoes are sweet vixens, minxes, all playful and naughty. But less; “stop it Roger” and more; “Roger I want champagne, oysters and Chanel. Get them!” She needs a man, not a wimp. She will wear her shoes in the bath, and probably won’t speak to Roger much before or after – whatever happens between them. She’s an old school dressed WOMAN, not a girl, and she expects to be treated with respect. Like the stroppier ones in James Bond films, this woman can kick some ass. And answer back with cutting looks and witty, snappy words.

Emilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Amelia GregoryEmilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Amelia GregoryEmilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Amelia GregoryEmilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Amelia GregoryEmilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Amelia GregoryEmilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Amelia Gregory
Emilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Collection: Photography by Amelia Gregory

Other Charlotte Olympia shoes included a suede ankle boot and platform sandals in three colours, black, red, powder pink and ivory. All utterly lust-worthy. Heaven. The colour palette mirrors Emilio de la Morena Autumn/Winter collection, which focuses on black, dark purple and RED. The sombre tones of this show, inspired by the work of the American photographer Francesca Woodman and the circumstances surrounding her suicide in New York, in 1981, aged just 22. Her photographs are hauntingly beautiful and predominantly black and white. Emilio de la Morena wanted to reflect these sad circumstances, with his use of passionate, bruised and mourning colours. These give way however, to ivory and powder pink, making for delicate prettiness, next to the block melancholy. Together, the designs look classy, serious and fantastic. I see these beautiful women by the graves of Italian gangsters, weeping. They are hard, stunning and controlled, but what they love – they adore with all their hearts.

Emilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Amelia GregoryEmilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Amelia GregoryEmilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Amelia GregoryEmilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Amelia GregoryEmilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Amelia GregoryEmilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Amelia Gregory
Emilio de la Morena LFW A/W 2011 Collection: Photography by Amelia Gregory

Victoriana also featured within Emilio de la Morena’s collection, but with a modern, sheer twist. Bib decoration and high necklines created from sheer, frayed and tufted organza, make it lighter, sexier and contemporary. The longer length, wool pencil skirts also featured sheer organza. With panels, embroidered in swirling, zig zagging ribbon, created in the material, as well as silk inserts. The additions allowing for fluidity of movement.

The collection felt serious and respectfully attractive. Not flirty, terribly young, overly romantic or precocious. Instead very sensual and confident. The red stole the show. However, like red lipstick on a make up less face, it looked the most alluring, when it was paired with the other other colours. The eyes and lips are too much – alone they are beautiful. Such a bright red needed the other colours to avoid being lost, and to stand out as a solitary statement. And you know, if the three women were sobbing by the grave, each with an accent of red, just imagine… scandalous, stylish, powerful and mysterious RED.
Jean-Pierre Braganza by Catherine Askew
Jean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011 by Catherine Askew.

Ponytails, cure red eye make up, pharm close fitting suits, black, lots of black. A male model with razor sharp cheekbones and a hilarious female model with superlative head throwing posing skills. This is what Jean-Pierre Braganza showed at the Northumberland House, a new grandiose LFW location.

Jean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011 by Jane Young
Jean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011 by Jane Young.

Northumberland House
Northumberland House.

After loitering in the magnificent reception area we were ushered into the huge ballroom, passing by the backstage area which looked suspiciously like the back of a Hollywood film lot.

Jean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Jean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011 by Kerri-Ann Hulme
Jean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011 by Kerri-Ann Hulme.

Positronyx was a sexily provocative collection dominated by sharp tailoring and beautiful pattern cutting in a predominantly monochrome palette, bar a nod to that boldest of colours, pillar box red. This cropped up in a dashing geometric tiger-like striped print and on bam bam look-at-me suits for both men and women, but it was across the breast and curving around the hips of a particularly stunning embroidered dress that it enthralled me most.

Jean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Jean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011 by Emmi Ojala
Jean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011 by Emmi Ojala.

A quick scan of the show press release reveals that when designing Jean-Pierre Braganza had in mind strong female warrior leaders, perhaps existing in a future world where “tribal affiliation has replaced the current societal controls, and clothing becomes even more imperative for identity, security and culture.” He certainly designs for the bold and assertive lady – creating sexy armour that wouldn’t look out of place on the prowl at a cocktail party.

Jean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory

I was less keen on the sponsored fur elements. But let’s not mention those, eh? It was an otherwise fabulous collection.

Jean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia GregoryJean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Jean-Pierre Braganza A/W 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

You can read Matt Bramford’s superb review here, and view more of Emmi Ojala’s work in Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration.

Categories ,Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration, ,black, ,Catherine Askew, ,Emmi Ojala, ,Fur, ,Jane Young, ,Jean Pierre Braganza, ,Kerri-Ann Hulme, ,lfw, ,London Kills Me, ,Matt Bramford, ,Northumberland House, ,Positronyx

Similar Posts:






Amelia’s Magazine | Lazy Summer Days with Handmade Ethical Clothing from Lowie

Lowie by Emma Jardine
Lowie by Emma Jardine.

Lowie was set up by Bronwyn Lowenthal – born in the UK, site raised in Tanzania, with Jewish roots and a Welsh name. She was trained in marketing and went on to become brand manager for Ben Sherman before setting up Lowie nine years ago, which she started by importing Turkish made hats and socks to sell in Portobello Market. She quickly realised that there was a niche for brightly coloured handmade knitwear and found a supplier to produce larger quantities for her in Hong Kong.

I Love Lowie handmade ethical clothing, Kathryn Edwards
I Love Lowie handmade ethical clothing by Kathryn Edwards.

Lowie Playsuit by Alejandra Espino
Lowie Playsuit by Alejandra Espino.

Lowie Parlour Dress
The Lowie Parlour Dress.

Lowie has now expanded into ‘wovens’ – pretty cotton fabrics that feature darling floral sprig prints, all printed in a fair-trade factory in India. These are made into flirty dresses with full skirts and nipped in waists and cute little playsuits. The brand is sold in Heals, Anthropologie and ASOS to name but a few.

Lowie by Avril Kelly
Lowie by Avril Kelly.

Lowie Crochet Bow Dress by Michalis Christodoulou
Lowie Crochet Bow Dress by Michalis Christodoulou.

Lowie didn’t start life as a specifically eco brand but has gradually moved in that direction over the years. At one point Lowie was the only brand producing eco knitwear in jewel bright colours, so they have helped to lead the market away from boring ethical neutrals, opening the door for some of the much more exciting eco fashions that are around today.

Lowie by Jane Young
Lowie by Jane Young.

Lowie culotte playsuit
The Lowie Culotte Playsuit.

All wool jumpers and accessories are now made in China from wool that is produced in Australia. Although all Lowie cotton products are organic the wool is not, so they are currently looking into new types of eco yarns, for example those made from bamboo, which can feel as good or even nicer than wool.

Press Days March 2011-Lowie red bow
A close up of the bow detailing at press days.

Press Days March 2011-Lowie
A couple of the Lowie girls looking pretty in Lowie dresses. Hannah on the left manages the studio.

In the meantime Bronwyn travels overseas a few times a year to overlook factories and ensure production fits ethical fair-trade standards – all clothes are manufactured by home workers who run small domestic workshops in their living space.

Press Days March 2011-cupcakes Forward PR
A totally self indulgent photo of cupcakes at the Lowie press day. Just because they were so pretty.

You can find the new Lowie collection on their website. I absolutely adore the breezy Lowie style, especially for summer.

Categories ,Alejandra Espino, ,Anthropologie, ,ASOS, ,australia, ,Avril Kelly, ,Bamboo, ,Ben Sherman, ,China, ,cotton, ,cupcakes, ,Dresses, ,eco, ,Eco fashion, ,Emma Jardine, ,ethical, ,fairtrade, ,florals, ,Forward PR, ,handmade, ,Hannah, ,Heals, ,Hong Kong, ,India, ,Jane Young, ,Kathryn Edwards, ,knitwear, ,London Kills Me, ,Lowie, ,Michalis Christodoulou, ,Playsuits, ,Portobello Market, ,Press days, ,print, ,Turkey, ,Welsh, ,wool

Similar Posts:






Amelia’s Magazine | Lazy Summer Days with Handmade Ethical Clothing from Lowie

Lowie by Emma Jardine
Lowie by Emma Jardine.

Lowie was set up by Bronwyn Lowenthal – born in the UK, site raised in Tanzania, with Jewish roots and a Welsh name. She was trained in marketing and went on to become brand manager for Ben Sherman before setting up Lowie nine years ago, which she started by importing Turkish made hats and socks to sell in Portobello Market. She quickly realised that there was a niche for brightly coloured handmade knitwear and found a supplier to produce larger quantities for her in Hong Kong.

I Love Lowie handmade ethical clothing, Kathryn Edwards
I Love Lowie handmade ethical clothing by Kathryn Edwards.

Lowie Playsuit by Alejandra Espino
Lowie Playsuit by Alejandra Espino.

Lowie Parlour Dress
The Lowie Parlour Dress.

Lowie has now expanded into ‘wovens’ – pretty cotton fabrics that feature darling floral sprig prints, all printed in a fair-trade factory in India. These are made into flirty dresses with full skirts and nipped in waists and cute little playsuits. The brand is sold in Heals, Anthropologie and ASOS to name but a few.

Lowie by Avril Kelly
Lowie by Avril Kelly.

Lowie Crochet Bow Dress by Michalis Christodoulou
Lowie Crochet Bow Dress by Michalis Christodoulou.

Lowie didn’t start life as a specifically eco brand but has gradually moved in that direction over the years. At one point Lowie was the only brand producing eco knitwear in jewel bright colours, so they have helped to lead the market away from boring ethical neutrals, opening the door for some of the much more exciting eco fashions that are around today.

Lowie by Jane Young
Lowie by Jane Young.

Lowie culotte playsuit
The Lowie Culotte Playsuit.

All wool jumpers and accessories are now made in China from wool that is produced in Australia. Although all Lowie cotton products are organic the wool is not, so they are currently looking into new types of eco yarns, for example those made from bamboo, which can feel as good or even nicer than wool.

Press Days March 2011-Lowie red bow
A close up of the bow detailing at press days.

Press Days March 2011-Lowie
A couple of the Lowie girls looking pretty in Lowie dresses. Hannah on the left manages the studio.

In the meantime Bronwyn travels overseas a few times a year to overlook factories and ensure production fits ethical fair-trade standards – all clothes are manufactured by home workers who run small domestic workshops in their living space.

Press Days March 2011-cupcakes Forward PR
A totally self indulgent photo of cupcakes at the Lowie press day. Just because they were so pretty.

You can find the new Lowie collection on their website. I absolutely adore the breezy Lowie style, especially for summer.

Categories ,Alejandra Espino, ,Anthropologie, ,ASOS, ,australia, ,Avril Kelly, ,Bamboo, ,Ben Sherman, ,China, ,cotton, ,cupcakes, ,Dresses, ,eco, ,Eco fashion, ,Emma Jardine, ,ethical, ,fairtrade, ,florals, ,Forward PR, ,handmade, ,Hannah, ,Heals, ,Hong Kong, ,India, ,Jane Young, ,Kathryn Edwards, ,knitwear, ,London Kills Me, ,Lowie, ,Michalis Christodoulou, ,Playsuits, ,Portobello Market, ,Press days, ,print, ,Turkey, ,Welsh, ,wool

Similar Posts: