A visit to Montréal Complètement Cirque Festival

Here’s a surreal joke for you.

Question: What do you get if you cross 100 circus performers in a vintage yellow school bus with a violinist referee and a tornado.

Answer: Montréal Complètement Cirque Festival

A delegate name badge from micc. It reads: Adrian Berry Jacksons Lane Arts Centre Royaume Uni
Delegate name badges, to match the school bus

Ok, not my greatest gag ever, but a great summary of my recent Canadian and Quebec experience.

For the third year running, I flew to Montreal for one of the biggest circus showcase and festivals on the planet. Jacksons Lane has been steadily building its international circus programme over the last two years with festivals and seasons with artists from the six Nordic countries, Belgium, Holland and Catalunya. And now we turn our attention to Quebec.

To explain the opening ‘joke’: there were some 300 international delegates, literally from all over the globe, many of us staying at a downtown hotel. MICC was based mainly at the legendary Circus Arts City, home to organisers TOHU, plus neighbours Cirque Du Soleil and École Nationale de Cirque, a small town in itself in the Jarry area on the outskirts of the city. Each day we were picked up in the aforementioned vintage school bus (souped up for 2023 with electric power) to take us to venues for a range of talks, pitches and performance. And quite a few networking lunches.

A yellow school bus waits on the side of pavement slick with rain
The yellow school bus

The pitches on day two saw 30 companies presenting their work for a maximum of five minutes each, over four hours. How did MICC stop them from rambling and going over time? Well, of course, a violinist played a mournful sliding note at the four minute mark, and a little sonnet at five minutes. And it worked beautifully. The artists accordingly prepared well and the pitches were entertaining, informative and definitely concise. There were also some 15 or so full performances to choose in the evenings, from the huge to the tiny, big names like Circ La Putyka, Machine De Cirque, Cirque Eloize & Les 7 Doigts de la Main (Seven Fingers), right down to the L’Autre Cirque programme in a venue downtown with smaller scale work that was of huge interest to me as the programmer of work at Jacksons Lane.

A photo of a circus performance taking place on top of, and around, a converted van. On the roof, there are two artists performing a two-up, while another sits with his legs dangling over the side. Inside a performer carries a chair across the window
Cirque Kikasse

And the last day brought a huge and unexpected surprise, well… a first for me anyway. Whilst slurping some noodles before getting ready to take the bus to the airport, my phone (and the entire city’s phones) let off a siren to inform us all that a tornado was on the way and to get indoors. Taking shelter with many others in the hotel lobby we watched the tornado pass over us. Two hours later… it was gone. And then so was I, feeling my horizons had been truly expanded over four days, and that great things from Quebec would be coming our way to north London in the future.

What an explosive end to an explosive festival. See you next year Montreal!

A small orange badge, with text in white reading: Too many freaks... Too few circuses
A badge gifted by a circus company
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