Circus Performer
Nofitstate Circus

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 James R

0:00:05 Hi there. I’m James R. I’m a circus performer and I’m based in Cardiff but I work all over the world. I think what I enjoy most is I’ve now moved into a role where I’m putting projects on and I’m starting to write shows and direct them and produce them. And I really enjoy giving people a chance to bring their ideas into a show format that I’ve got. But certainly beforehand, I mean, come on, who wouldn’t get a buzz out of jumping out of an arena roof at 19 meters with a pair of bungee ropes attached to your waist. And I get paid to do it. It’s fantastic.

00:00:37 I didn’t start doing circus skills until I was about twenty-five. Before then I’d done some acting as, as a kid and I was a break-dancer when I was thirteen. So, I was always interested in, in doing tricks and probably showing off but I certainly hadn’t considered circus as a, as a career choice. At lunch times in school we used to sneak into the drama hall and practice our moves and, and learn how to windmill and that kind of thing. Then one afternoon the Head Master caught us in there and we really thought (unintelligible) for the high jump and he told us that he’d been watching us and he was very impressed with what we were doing.

00:01:10 He hadn’t seen it before but loved the fact that we were dedicating all of our spare time to it. And he actually hooked us up with a local community dance company and that was the, that was probably the best thing that could happen to me at that time in the school. I wasn’t interested in much of the academic stuff. I was going through that, that phase that all 13-year-old boys do. So, that was really great to be put into a position where something that I was doing off my own back was validated in quite a good way.

00:01:36 I got into university to study television and radio production. Then towards the end of that I actually left my course and I found that I wasn’t very inspired by it. And it’s around about that time I discovered and started working with a pyrotechnic company and I ended working with those guys just as a crewmember and absolutely fell in love with it. So, I, I left my degree course without much, without very long to go towards the end of it. I went into performance and that’s when I rediscovered circus and then went on to audition for circus school.

00:02:08 The audition for the Millennium Dome Show was for people to go onto a two-year training course to eventually perform for a year at the Millennium Dome and it just sounded fantastic. And the fact that we’d be paid to train for two years just sounded too good to be true. So, I applied to be auditioned and I’ve been told since that I applied along with three and a half thousand other people and somehow got through the audition process to get one of 40 places.

00:02:35 So, once, once we’d been told I had to get back on a train to Manchester and I remember sitting on the train on my own realizing that my life had completely changed. And also with that comes the idea that I had to accept the responsibility to make the most of the opportunity as well. I think the biggest inspiration when I look back now is a friend of mine that I was in circus school with, a girl called Emma, who, the best way I can describe her is that she always took the work seriously but never herself. And I think it was her humour and her, her approach to the work that really made me realize how much I enjoyed it.

00:03:15 Emma, sadly, was killed in an accident in September this year and that was, as part of a performance, well, they were actually rehearsing, and one thing that really astounded me about that was at her funeral there was hundreds and hundreds of people from all over the UK. Some people travelled from France and Germany. Some people were on tour in America and came over for Emma’s funeral. And there was this huge gathering of people. Just this big circus community that were all there to kind of be there for Emma and be there for her boyfriend Joe, who she performed with for 12 years I think.

00:03:54 At the moment my spare time when I’m not doing paid work has been taken up completely with my mission to set up my own company and to start to write, direct and produce my own shows. But it’s paying off. I put on my first show that I wrote, directed and produced. I put that on in September. That went down really well. So, it’s, I feel quite a responsibility to try and take that further.


John Roberts is a performer with Nofitstate Circus. At school he used to sneak into the drama hall to practise break dancing with his friends. When the head caught them he was impressed and put them in touch with the local community dance company. “That was probably the best thing that could happen to me at that time in school.”

More information about Actors, entertainers and presenters

average salary

The UK average salary is £29,813

average weekly hours

There are 37.5 hours in the average working week

53%  male 
47%  female 

The UK workforce is 47% female and 53% male

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? Actors, entertainers and presenters sing, portray roles in dramatic productions, perform comedy routines, gymnastic feats and tricks of illusion, train animals to perform and perform with them, and introduce and present radio and television programmes.
Entry does not depend on academic qualifications although some drama schools require candidates to have GCSEs/S grades or A levels/H grades or a degree. Entry can be based upon an audition. Membership of the appropriate trade union is usually required. NVQs/SVQs in performing arts are available.
  • Studies script, play or book and prepares and rehearses interpretation;
  • Assumes character created by a playwright or author and communicates this to an audience;
  • Performs singing, comedy, acrobatic, illusion and conjuring routines;
  • Trains animals to perform entertaining routines and may perform with them;
  • Introduces and presents radio and television programmes, reads news bulletins and makes announcements;
  • Conducts interviews and prepares reports for news broadcasts, current affairs programmes and documentaries;
  • Plays pre-recorded music at nightclubs, discotheques, and private functions.
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