Circus Symposium – Philip Astley and the Legacy of Modern Circus

The Philip Astley Project and the Van Buren Organisation collaborated with partners at Manchester Metropolitan University and the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) on a symposium to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of Modern Circus by Philip Astley. The Circus Symposium took place in September 2017 at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Crewe campus. The two-day event, combining academic and artistic research with hands-on workshops and masterclasses, was attended by artists, researchers and students from Brazil, Italy, France, Spain, Ireland and across the UK.

Speakers included Professor Eliene Benício Amancio Costa from the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA), Professor Vanessa Toulmin from Sheffield University, Professor Mario Bolognese from the State University of Sao Paulo and Andrew Van Buren of the Van Buren Organisation. Van Buren also worked with curators to present a Modern Circus Exhibition including contemporary and archive circus posters, footage and props.

Professor Christine Horrocks, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University’s Cheshire campus, described the symposium as

an informative, engaging and joyful event

“It was such a pleasure to welcome the various speakers and performers on campus and hear about their experiences and witness their knowledge, skills and talent.”

The Philip Astley Project will continue to collaborate with the event organisers, Dr Patrick Campbell from Manchester Metropolitan University and Professor Eliene Benício Amancio Costa from the Federal University of Bahia. Amancio Costa travelled from Brazil to Europe to research the links between Philip Astley and Brazilian circus. On the second day of the Symposium, Professor Mario Bolognese, also described how performers and traditions have crossed continents. In his Key Note speech, Bolognese described “Circus Astley” a small but dynamic circus based in the State of Sao Paulo, and named after Philip Astley, creator of the modern circus.


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