Circus / coronavirus

Bringing the circus to Bristol’s streets

By kofo ajala, Wednesday Jul 15, 2020

On July 26 2020, dozens of performers will take to the streets of Bristol, entertaining the masses from the comfort of their homes.

In an event that organiser Gwen Hales has called Bristol Coddywomple, a wide range of entertainment will be brought to the streets, to provide enjoyment to the people of Bristol.

“I was trying to think of how to bring together all the buskers, musicians and performers that would usually be a part of the Harbourside festival and other events,” Gwen says.

“It makes it easy for the audiences. They don’t really have to go anywhere, it’s coming to them. And they can choose, they can choose the risk level that they’re willing take. They could stay inside and watch from their windows or come out just onto the street, but they stay at a distance.”

Coddywomple performers (top to bottom, left to right): Amy Ameila, Kat Collett, Claudia Collins and the Disco Litter Queens. Photos: Coddywomple

Gwen has worked as a circus director and choreographer for the past 20 years, working on projects including Bath Fridge, and wanted to support the performing arts at this difficult time.

Since lockdown was enforced at the end of March 2020, arts and culture has been brought to a standstill, leaving many performers out of work.

As venues and performers adapt through applying social distancing measures, both still find themselves in a difficult financial position. As a result, not only are performers losing their livelihoods, but also the community that comes with performing.

“For some performers, and artists that has a real effect on your mental health,” says Gwen.“If you don’t have that, and you’re sat at home consuming stuff through a computer, there’s going to be part of you that’s dying.”

Many people that would have jumped at the chance to see love shows have now been cooped up in their homes for months and, even though lockdown in the UK continues to ease, many are still hesitant to spend time in environments such as cultural venues.

Coddywomple performers (top to bottom, left to right): The Pigeons, Scarlett Smith, Sussan and the Doctor and Elena Maria. Photo: Coddywomple

Gwen, however, is hoping to bring at least one day for performance to the public again, all while being socially distanced.

Coddywomple will be taking place across Bristol as a circus on the move.

Performers will be moving through designated routes along the streets of their local area, each of them performing their individual skills as they go along. Some of the performances include acting, music and acrobatics.

The performer has called upon other organisations to help with the planning, including the National Association of Street Artists and Outdoor Arts UK.

There is a code of conduct for every volunteer to sign, ensuring their hands are regularly washed and that they keep social distancing boundaries in place.


Read more: South Bristol theatre could make almost three-quarters of staff redundant


Coddywomple is meant to serve as a creative outlet for the performers and artists that have lost out on work for 2020, but Gwen and her team know that Coddywomple’s current model isn’t a sustainable one, saying: “It’s not a replacement for the wages that they’d normally be earning at this time of year.”

With lockdown leaving many out of work, Coddywomple is creating an opportunity for communities together. Gwen sees this as another opportunity for people to give back.

“Some might say: I’ve got some time at home I’m furloughed I’ll so masks or I’ll make hospital gowns or I’ll see if my neighbours want food. Coddywomple is a way for the artists of going right”.

There are currently 30 artists planning to participate. If you’re interested in taking part, go to

Main photo: Coddywomple/Kat Collett

Read more: Bristol Improv Theatre: how one venue is coping during lockdown



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