JL Circus through the eyes of a participant

Candace Chan 05 August 2016

Here at Jacksons Lane our Participation Department delivers exciting projects for both old and young. Apart from Social Lunch for pensioners, another much-loved project is JL Circus which offers free circus and drama workshops to young people in Haringey. The scheme is a part of JL Youth, our arts programme dedicated to helping young people develop their confidence, gain new skills and build friendships in a supportive environment. We sat down with JL Circus participant Naylaa to find out more about her experience…

From JL Circus to JL Youth Board

Naylaa* joined JL Circus two years ago. At the age of 12, she has been an active member of JL Circus and a part of JL Youth Board, formed of our core participants interested in shaping the future of the scheme. Meeting twice a term, the Board is a place for members to share feedbacks and find ways to promote the scheme to the wider community. When asked why she wanted to join the Board, Naylaa said, "It’s nice to see how what we do is planned, and also have a little part of organising it. Because you’ll enjoy it more if it’s what you want to do and what you’ve influenced making."

The Youth Board not only gives our young participants a voice but also the chance to initiate projects of their own. Naylaa described the Board as a space to make things happen in a supportive manner, where ideas abound and no idea is ever terrible. One of the products of this circus think tank is the pop up circus, where members of the Youth Board created flash mob performances around Tottenham to promote JL Circus.

Our Participation Department highly values the input of the Youth Board. As Naylaa aptly pointed out, we are no longer teenagers and are therefore less sensitive to their needs and interests. Thanks to the Youth Board, we now know more about what teenagers like and as a result we have an Instagram account for JL Youth! 

"It’s nice to see how what we do is planned, and also have a little part of organising it."

What I learnt from JL Youth Board

JL Circus was first launched to introduce young people to circus with a creative and fun approach, and to help them develop essential life skills. To Naylaa the most important skill she has acquired is collaboration. Noting the challenge of making sure everyone's ideas are considered in Youth Board meetings, Naylaa told us that she has "become better at collaborating with people. Sometimes it’s really difficult to come away from just what you want...I’ve become better at taking ideas and then shaping them without changing them. So the persons who create them still gets what they want and I still get what I want."

To Naylaa this is a very big leap in how she communicates with people. “I’ve noticed that before I started at Jacksons Lane, I wasn’t very good at collaborating. I couldn’t get past my own idea - my idea was the idea! But then I started at JL and I saw the fault in my ideas, which meant that I can see the good bits and bad bits in other people’s ideas, and I combine them together into something amazing."

Circus Further Afield

JL Circus works with many other organisations in the borough and beyond to offer our participants a diverse range of circus experience. Through our scheme Naylaa has attended the National Youth Circus Event, become a part of Haringey Youth Arts Festival and London Youth Circus, and also recently finished her Bronze Arts Award. Isn't that impressive?

At the National Youth Circus Event, Naylaa got to try out various circus skills from the flying trapeze to acro-balance and silk. "Another JL Circus participant was standing on the platform of the flying trapeze. She’s stood there for 25 minutes and not got off,” Naylaa recalled an anecdote at the event. “And when it was my turn, I was there standing thinking about her and thinking about how I was crying. I stood up there for 20 seconds and just threw myself off, which probably wasn’t the best idea 'cause I was all wriggling around like a weird fish out of water! But when I got onto the swinging bit I started enjoying it, just watching everybody below doing all their other things. It was very nice."

To Naylaa joining the Haringey Arts Festival is an extension of her work at the Youth Board. As the festival is much larger in scale and run by a diverse team of volunteers, it involves an even greater degree of collaboration. When asked how this compares to working with the Youth Board, Naylaa said, "They each had to do what we do here and bring their people all together, to create one thing with loads of people in a huge space...that’s really good because it was when I really realise how Jacksons Lane tied into all these different things."

Naylaa also greatly enjoyed working towards the Bronze Arts Award. "When I first got the book it’s the satisfaction of holding the book and knowing that at some point it’ll be completed...I just got to write and write. We went to see Gandini juggling at the Udderbelly, and we got to speak to them after the show. It was really interesting – after watching them, I kind of got what they said but when I went back to write about it, I understood more and more. It’s just really fun!"

Looking Back, Looking Forward

It is amazing how much Naylaa has achieved in the past two years. Taking advantage of all the opportunities presented to her, she has developed a range of skills and helped make JL Circus a fun and interactive space. We asked her how the 10-year-old Naylaa would compare to her now, to which she replied:

"Shorter. With a lot less hand-leg coordination...A huge thing I’ve got is to drop things less and catch things better, just from juggling at JL Youth. That was just something I couldn’t do before, at all." As Naylaa explained earlier, she has also become more open to other people’s ideas and better at collaborating: “Now there’re gonna be more amazing ideas in this world because of JL Youth!"

In terms of future plans, Naylaa thinks she will carry on doing circus for a long time but will not pursue it professionally. She told us that "it’ll always be something that interests me and something I’ll do, but not something that’ll be my main thing."

And when asked what her "main thing" will be, she promptly replied: "winning the general election!"

You can find out more about JL circus and other youth projects here. If you would like to get involved email: [email protected]

*The participant's name has been changed to protect her privacy.

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