Stratford Circus: Newham’s hottest arts destination
Having recently sponsored Stratford Circus on their Family Circlets Day last weekend, we decided it was high time we got to know our neighbours.
We had a chat with Clare Connor, the company’s CEO, who told us some of the exciting performances and events that are coming to this fantastic community destination, which is sure to be a huge hit with the future residents of East Village.
Firstly, what have you made of the glorious summer we’ve just witnessed in Stratford? Are you excited for what the future holds for the area?
This summer Stratford felt like a utopian world – it was everything I had dreamt of and more. I was thrilled to be part of the whole experience; as a mother whose daughter performed in the opening ceremony, as a local person celebrating friends working and performing, as a former teacher and arts manager seeing local artists take the lead in the ceremonies: and at Stratford Circus we were the “support house” for Team Japan, where over 4,200 visits were made by the Japanese athletes.
I have worked and lived in this area now for over 20 years and I have always been passionate about the people and future of the area. It is now all our responsibilities to seize this opportunity to work together and move forward with great momentum to build on all this great achievement. I believe there will be a spiritual and moral legacy as well as a physical one.
Theatre and the performing arts is a wonderful way for the youth of today to get involved in extra-curricular activity – what status does Stratford Circus hold in the wider Stratford Community?
Our fantastic audience and community is the reason we do what we do! We offer community classes on a weekly basis during term time including youth theatre on Saturday and we work closely with local schools to create opportunities for year-round work experience, as well as working in collaboration with different organisations to create showcases for young people to perform. The venue has its own artistic programme, but as a professional space is available to hire and there are preferential rates for Newham and community-based organisations. 70% of our audiences are local and Newham residents are able to access concessionary rates on our shows and we work closely with the London Borough of Newham to offer subsidised tickets to local schools on a regular basis so that they can see world-class work on their doorstep.
Tell us a little bit about some of your most memorable shows and performances. Have you nurtured or are you nurturing any young talents who have the potential to be big stars on stage?
Last year we presented 293 productions, 444 different shows and employed 880 artists and so that is a very difficult question! One of the most memorable shows in 2011 was the Race Horse Company’s show Petit Mal which sparked two spontaneous standing ovations. It was a high risk, edgy, riotous circus performance with great appeal. The other great show was Oily Cart’s production of Shakespeare’s Tempest for 2-4 year olds. I loved watching both the children’s and the teacher’s faces when they saw they could join in and participate in the how. It was something to behold!
This autumn, two of our artistic ambassadors from east London, Quincy B and Andi Osho, will be performing in the West End and we are thrilled that they have become stars in their own right after multiple appearances at Stratford Circus. We are always keen to support the next generation of artists from east London and in July this year Paloma Faith ( a former student of mine) came and interviewed some local emerging artists for a Radio 4 programme, Musical Map of East London.
How can people reading this get involved with Stratford Circus?
Firstly make sure you are on our mailing list, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, come and see a show, book into a class, ask your local community organisation to arrange a trip. Hang out in our cafe: if you are a parent we run parent consultation workshops every season. If you have a specific questions send us an email on info@stratford-circus or call 0208 279 1080 or come in and speak to us.
What are your favourite aspects of life in Stratford?
Change is the constant in east London and people who have lived here know it. It’s like a secret script and once you understand it you feel like you belong. We have a number of fabulous artistic ambassadors who support us and their hearts are firmly rooted in east London soil. I enjoy being able to cycle from place to place in Stratford. I believe culture however small or large, is also at the heart of regeneration I love that Stratford has embraced that.
We’d love to know, where is your favourite London:
- Art gallery/exhibition space? There is The Nunnery at Bow Arts trust – a vibrant and exciting gallery, or Tate Modern, and Stratford Circus has started curating exhibitions of local artists like Steve Lewis and David Apps.
- Theatre? Sadler’s Wells – as a professional dancer it was always my ambition to perform on the stage Sadler’s Wells and I managed to achieve this on several occasions.
- Cinema? – Stratford Picture House because it’s a great local venue and I also enjoy the BFI IMAX for the experience of feeling like you are inside the film