Wigan lad’s classroom just like a circus!

A typical day at circus school and (below) - Michael Standen
A typical day at circus school and (below) - Michael Standen

NOT many people know that circus school exists yet alone want to take up such performing as a career, but one Wigan lad is finding out just how tough it is to learn the art of fooling around for a living.

Michael Standen from Ashton is in his third year of a BA Hons degree in Circus Arts - the only course of its kind in the country.

Michael Standen

Michael Standen

The 23-year-old former Winstanley College and Cansfield High pupil trains five days a week to perfect his talents, which he honed at Wigan Seagulls Acrobatic Gymnastics Club.

After studying A-levels in art, psychology, sociology and philosophy, Michael made the decision to pursue a career in circus performance and after a gruelling two-day audition was accepted onto the course.

Michael said: “It was really daunting going for the audition as they rigorously test you in every element of circus performance. As well as my gymnastics, I had to show I could act and dance too. I had to complete an obstacle course, movement class, theatre class and flexibility, strength and acrobatic assessments.

“I suppose I quickly learnt, like a lot of degree students, that any degree is hard work and this really is. There is no time for messing about at all as everything you do and learn ids critical to your success.

“It’s really hard work and some days you think, ‘I don’t want to go in today,’ because you are physically tired and your muscles are aching, but when you get in, the teachers really help.”

Circus Space is a registered charity and one of Europe’s leading providers of circus education. Based in a magnificent Victorian power station adjacent to Hoxton Square in the East End of London.

In the first year students are taught as a group and then before they start the second year they choose the discipline they will spend the next two years specialising in: tightwire, aerial straps, cloud swing, flying trapeze, vertical rope, juggling, hoops and many more.

It costs £17,000 a year to train as a circus artist. Students pay the same tuition fees they would if they were studying for a conventional degree: £9,000.

The shortfall is covered by specialist government funding via CDD and also income from fund-raising. Circus Space recently received a donation of $1m from the American philanthropist Aileen Getty.

Michael hopes to follow in the footsteps of Gidlow twins Andi and Kev Atherton who successfully auditioned for the Cirque de Soleil in 2000 and have gone on to work with some of the biggest pop and Hollywood stars in America.

He said: “There are lots of options once I graduate and I will hopefully get to travel the world performing which would be a dream come true.

“I’d love to perform in something like Cirque de Soleil or another famous show.

“Coming to Circus Arts is one of the best decisions I ever made and I’d recommend it to anybody who wants to perform - but only if they are serious as it is no easy course - it’s intense and you have to be committed.”

For more information visit www.circusspace.co.uk