Project information


To inspire, and enable those who are restricted by disability to find physical and creative freedom. We do this by teaching circus practice and performance – working those who lack the use of one or more of their senses, limbs or motor functions to help them exercise, participate, perform and excel

April 2012 - October 2012

Charity information: Hangar Arts Trust

Hangar Arts Trust logo
  • Need


    Exercise is vital therapy for the disabled and accessing similar creative opportunities as able-bodied people is a person’s right. Many physio-creative options are mundane or of a solitary nature and few offer chances to turn creative physical therapy into vocational skills. Those disabled from birth and those disabled later in life seek exciting experiences that offer learning, earning, performing and socialising opportunities but such creative, physical, and multi-outcome activities are rare.


    In our 2010/11pilot we worked with those living with cerebral palsy, to create a replicable circus course that helps those with CP to improve their physical abilities and enhance work opportunities - whilst socialising and having fun! It built self esteem, confidence and independence and met a range of needs in one exciting activity. In 2011/12 we'll repeat the CP courses and adapt them to create a new pilot in partnership with members of HM forces who have been disabled in the line of duty.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Work with members of HM forces to design and deliver bespoke circus learning/performance programmes.


    » Undertake initial marketing/outreach to explain our existing CP programme and work with disabled service people to modify the design and delivery
    » Hold open days for artistic, academic, healthcare and disibility-in-action specialists to create referral/support/delivery and marketing partnerships
    » Hold practice/rehearsal sessions with specialist observers to perfect the pilot so that it maximises outcomes, minimises risk and increases impact
    » Hold ‘taster’ days so potential participants can make suggestions and decide if the programme is for them, after which the participant list can be set

    Success will be: 80% of participants completing the programme; all stakeholders endorsing the programme and feedback that makes suggestions for clear and measurable improvements

    Aim 2

    Help disabled people, their families and mates rise up against disability and enjoy success


    » Create a safe, exciting environment for participants to improve their lives through exercise, creative expression, gaining new skills,and socialising
    » Create a place where families and carers can be with their loved ones in a relaxed fun environment where they are not expected to do any of the work
    » Create an opportunity for respite for families and carers, when they know that their loved one will be safe, respected, challenged and delighted
    » Offer participants the chance to reconsider their own view of their ability, help them explore new experiences and give them source for celebration

    Success will be: positive qualitative feedback from participants and carers and clear examples of how things have changed for them and a positive pattern of outcomes from the group

    Aim 3

    Ensure that participants can build upon the experiences they have had on the programme


    » A programme-end party show to bring together participants, carers, teachers, health professionals and influencers in a networking celebration event
    » Provide exit interviews and coaching to help the participants understand and plan their next steps and introduce them to mainstream circus activities
    » Create mainstream classes for participants to move into and work with programme partners to create the opportunities expressed at the exit interviews
    » Create a social networking site for a Circusability alumni and stage annual Circusability reunions for shared classes, partying and memories

    Success will be: participants know what they want next and feel confident enough to plan; 100% completed individual future plans and carers committing to supporting their plans

    Aim 4

    Contribute to changing the way that the disabled and the able-bodied community perceive disability


    » A programme-end party show to bring together participants, carers, teachers, health professionals and influencers in a networking celebration event
    » Produce a DVD of the programme, gather case studies of participant’s progress and measure the programme impacts on their lives and that of their carer
    » Produce an end of programme evaluation report that communicates its hard and soft results and the new found skills and abilities of the participants
    » Hold a conference at our premises for health workers and families to discuss programme learning on how circus can help the disabled community

    Success will be: participants feeling they can achieve more than was believed possible, joining some mainstream circus activities and improving and advancing their life plans

    Aim 5

    Create and pilot successful, replicable circus programmes for the disabled community


    » Process map everything that we do; gain end of programme feedback from participants, carers and health workers, make modifications and improvements
    » Work with art and sport disability and mainstream agencies, user groups and NGO’s to extend the pilot opportunities to other and disability groups
    » Work with the Arts Council, NHS, PCTs and GPO surgeries to develop the programme into an ongoing supplementary therapy and personal development tool
    » Work on reducing the cost of the programme to ensure its potential for financial accessibility for all and the opportunity for replication

    Success will be: medical, psychological, social improvements that participants and professionals agree can be replicated and an alumni who will help drive and deliver the programme

  • Impact


    The project will challenge pre-conceptions about what disabled people can achieve. It will show that people who may be restricted in some way can participate, achieve and excel. It will encourage those who have disabilities to ‘aim high’ and will offer disabled role models to the able-bodied. It will do this in a way that is practical, physical, and inclusive. The programme will create a new way of delivering on a range of physical, psychological, creative, social, and vocational outcomes


    Segregation is designed to create an early focus and sense of security to allow for longer term integration in mixed ability groups. Early consultation and partnership working with participants, carers and heath professionals will help us undertake a rigorous individual risk management analysis. We have built in costs of participants and carers transportation to reduce financial exclusion risks. Our taster days and consultation interviews will reduce drop risk via self selection


    Hard and soft data will be captured pre and post programme, then formally evaluated. Donors will be invited to the networking show and to the practitioner conference. HAT’s website will stream the video and publish the evaluation to celebrate project achievements and share its learning and legacy.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £40,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £2,500 Marketing and outreach Marketing and outreach to interview and secure participants
      £2,000 Risk analysis Individual risk analysis work and travel costs for participants
      £3,500 Training and Insurance Full staff training and supplementary Insurance
      £4,000 Space costs, facilities and fu Space costs, facilities and full catering
      £15,000 Teaching Teacher and coach delivery costs
      £2,500 Show and Confrence End of Programme show with party and conferance
      £2,500 Video Ttracking the programme, case studies, and show
      £5,000 Staff costs Admin, programme management, data gathering and results measuremen
      £3,000 Evaluation Exit interviews, progression planning, case studies, funder/doner feed back and evaluation

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Hangar Arts Trust Trustees £5,000 Guaranteed
    Aircraft Circus £5,000 Guaranteed
  • Background


    We are located in Woolwich Riverside, South East London, an inner city working class area of tower blocks and social housing (70% council owned), in England’s 10% most deprived boroughs. Transport is poor. Over 1200 people claim severe disability allowance and some 2000 local children are living with disability. Our pilot is inspired by a local youngster with cerebral palsy who cannot walk; he came to our local open day and was the first young person from the community to learn to fly


    The taxpayer will benefit via ‘best value’ because our project will deliver a range of outcomes inside one project. The disabled community will benefit as we challenge attitudes and position disabled people as positive role models. Participants will benefit as they become physically fitter, psychologically stronger, better connected socially, more confident and better prepared for seeking out and securing meaningful work, and their family and friends will benefit as they all share in the fun

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    We own fully rigged circus premises. We are experienced, sensitive, circus-skill teachers and health professionals. We are passionate about bringing the physical, artistic, vocational and social opportunity of circus to all. Our youth circus program tapped into the accepted benefits of engaging mind and body through sport and creative expression. We will mirror that success by creating programmes that are disability–specific and those where disabled and able-bodied people succeed together

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Katharine Ford

    CEO of HAT, psychologist, trained counsellor, ex-gymnast, fundraiser and business advisers to social enterprises, creative industries and charities

    Alex Frith

    Chair of HAT, dyslexic, ballet dancer, circus performer, creative director with 20 yrs experience of creating shows and teaching the young & disabled

    Anna Duncan

    HAT Project manager, dyslexic, BA (Hons) Theatre and Performance, performer, artist, events manager and film maker

    Nick Litton

    Director of Aircraft Circus, diabetic, father, BA (Hons) Circus, health & safety specialist, professional rigger, teacher and circus performer