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.
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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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.”
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.