Wanted: one big top tent

SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR
Last updated 05:00 17/12/2013
Arya Davis
Joseph Johnson

CIRCUS STAR: Arya Davis, 9, practices before the Christchurch Circus Trust's end-of-year show at the Opawa Baptist Church.

Noah Ireland
Joseph Johnson
ACROBAT: Noah Ireland, 10, practices prior to his performance in the Christchurch Circus Trust's end-of-year show.

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Wanted: one big top tent. A local circus school is looking for a new home after its Opawa headquarters failed to meet earthquake code.

The Christchurch Circus Centre moved into the Opawa Baptist Church two years ago, and gets about 100 children a week through the church doors to learn skills including juggling, balancing, acrobatics and aerial work.

Started by the Christchurch Circus Trust, the centre aimed to complement the CPIT circus school, which catered to adults and has been closed since the February 2011 earthquake.

Trustee Chris Carrow said he wanted to provide a space for "future circus students" to find a love for the art.

Searching for a suitable building, he looked at several warehouses, but was shocked by "how much rent people wanted". He knew the trust would struggle to get enough kids through the door to cover the rent.

Then the trust found the Opawa church. With a wooden floor to absorb impact, an A-frame roof that permitted aerial work, and shared use with church groups to cut down on rent, the building suited the needs of the trust.

But a recent assessment by structural engineers found one of the walls did not meet the new earthquake code, so the troupe has been asked to move out. Though there was a "glimmer" of hope the group could return to the Opawa site, Carrow was investigating other options.

December 18 will be the last day in the Opawa building, when the crew will round out the year with a gala for children to showcase their circus skills for proud parents. Then there will be a Christmas hiatus while other options are deliberated.

Temporary plans include a holiday programme for six to 13 year-olds at North New Brighton hall in mid-January. Carrow is investigating options for using school halls for after-school programmes, allowing classes to hop between different venues and perhaps reach a new range of children.

With kids "these days" so pre-occupied with gadgets and the like, Carrow said it was important to provide a fun way of exercising and learning. Circus provided a combo of art and sport and taught children the value of practice.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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