Muse performing in front of Cirque Bijou's Charles the Robot Image copyright
Hans Peter Van Velthoven

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Cirque Bijou made a giant robotic for rock band Muse.

The BBC’s weekly In charge series profiles various magnate from around the globe. This week we speak with Billy Alwen and Julian Bracey, founders of UK circus performance business Cirque Bijou.

Many of us imagine stopping our nine-to-five jobs, to, as the saying goes, “run away and join the circus”.

Billy Alwen did just that – actually – when he stopped a fledgling career in politics in 1992, aged 25, to become a full-time circus entertainer.

A few years later, in 1999, he established Bristol-based Cirque Bijou with his good friend Julian Bracey.

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Farrows Innovative

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Julian (left) and Billy have actually been running business for 21 years.

But in his extra time he had actually begun training as a trapeze artist, and in 1992 he strolled away from the day job to end up being a full-time expert circus performer.

” I understood my heart lay in performing,” states Billy, now 53.

He started to get work with circuses, and carried out at private parties and festivals.

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Kevin Mazur

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Cirque Bijou dancers carried out with Taylor Swift at the 2012 MTV Awards.

On the streets of the Canadian city he says he was exposed to a lot of circus and street performance.

” I would see individuals busking in a market, and think, ‘I can do that,'” says Julian, 50.

” Then I joined a French circus, working as a compere.

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Cirque Bijou

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The business utilizes a team of 200 performers.

To keep expenses down they made do with a couple of computers, and based themselves in Julian’s dad’s basement.

Billy says they chose to remain in Bristol because “it has a flourishing arts scene, and is a prominent centre for circus in the UK”.

However why the French name, which equates as “Sophisticated Circus”?

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Cirque Bijou

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The company’s employees typically need a head for heights.

The business then grew progressively over the years, thanks to word of mouth, and Julian’s exceptional contacts.

” I was quite protective of our contacts.

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Over the years they have produced eyeglasses such as the yearly Taiwan Lantern Festival, a global exhibit in Kazakhstan, and the opening events for the cruising occasions at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics in the UK.

The show for the Paralympics included 64 disabled and non-disabled entertainers.

When you add Cirque Bijou’s work with music artists, and the company is normally included in more than 100 reveals around the world each year.

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Jake Hancock

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The opening ceremony for the sailing occasions at the London 2012 Olympics.

Considered that these men and women are frequently playing with fire, or strolling tightropes, health and safety is a big element.

One year they dealt with Katy Perry at an awards reveal, where she wanted Catherine wheels attached to the knapsacks of all her dancers.

” We strapped the fireworks to their backs, and we ‘d accounted for all the health and wellness dangers,” says Julian. “However then this person from Sony came near us, and stated, ‘You understand that there’s this undetectable video screen behind you? It deserves ₤300,000, and if you burn it you are in difficulty!’

” That was a little scary, however in over 20 years we have never had any accidents, which is fantastic.”

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Rob Harris

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Cirque Bijou deals with handicapped performers, via a side job called Amazing Bodies.

Usually, Billy and Julian spend great deals of time travelling around the world for work, which both confess can take a toll on their individual lives.

Julian says it was especially hard when he invested five months on tour with Muse when his daughter was born. Presently however, all is on hold due to the coronavirus lockdown.

” We have had around 20 events cancelled or delayed,” says Julian. “The summertime season for live events is efficiently cancelled.”

The company is using the downtime to develop brand-new programs instead.

Ade Berry, artistic director at London arts and cultural place Jacksons Lane, says Cirque Bijou has “paved the way” for circus efficiency in the UK.

” It’s redefining circus, and pushing organisations like us to try to accomplish more, and reassess everything we know,” states Mr Berry. He includes that Cirque Bijou’s continuing deal with disabled individuals by means of Amazing Bodies is particularly inspiring.

As to the future of Cirque Bijou, Billy and Julian see it carrying on for a minimum of another 20 years. It does sound more fun than a common nine-to-five task.

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Marco Bitran
Husband and father of two children under age 5, Marco also enjoys walks in nature, squash, running road races, and photography. He regularly contributes significant time and resources to the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the MSPCA and other animal rights organizations, and the Bitran Charitable Foundation. Marco has also volunteered and consulted for public housing support organizations such as the Somerville Homeless Coalition, created by the local community’s grassroots response to the social crisis of homelessness.