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Case study: Circus and support in East Sussex

A teenager girl sitting on a trapeze bar balancing horizontally
Trying out the trapeze bar
Young white girl with dark hair hanging upside down from a large suspended hoop
One of the young girls taing part in Sweet Circus

Case study: Circus and support in East Sussex

A circus club funded by Active Sussex has provided both physical exercise as well as emotional support for young people.

Sweet Circus is a small, non-profit circus organisation based in Eastbourne.

They work with all aspects of the community to improve physical, mental and social health through participation in circus and play.

After the covid lockdowns, instructors for the youth group noticed the struggles participants were having in re-establishing relationships and generally finding day-to-day life more difficult.

During discussions, the young people revealed they had lost both confidence and motivation and that feelings of not belonging or fitting in had increased.

For some, levels of anxiety were seriously impacting their lives.

Initially staff tried signposting participants to counselling services, but it soon became clear this was going to be too challenging at this time.

Thanks to funding from Active Sussex’s Children and Young People Investment Fund, Sweet Circus was able to set up a new group – “ Circus and Support”.

This new extended session provides supported social time along with their usual circus activities within the participants self declared safe space ‘Circus’.

Sweet Circus recognised the link between low activity levels, a lack of social connections and poor mental health.

This project was designed to break the cycle, supporting participants to become both physically and socially active.

In addition they were able to take on a youth counsellor to support the sessions through group activities, 1:2:1 ‘check-ins’ and information packs.

While it is still a challenge, the project has supported a number of young people to seek professional help, support and diagnoses.

Between 12 and 18 young people have consistently attended the weekly sessions.

The group has developed a code of conduct for the whole organisation, which incorporates values of inclusion, positivity and support.

The young people have built solid social connections, a support network and actively recruited new members.

They are more active, more confident, and a few have been supported into college placements and employment.

As the project nears the end, the young people have taken it upon themselves to start fundraising for the project’s continuation.

They have become active, physically, socially, and proactive in their futures.

You can find out more about Sweet Circus here.

One young girl hanging upside down with her legs wide holding on to a long red silk piece of material suspended t the ceiling
One young girl having fun with the aerial silks
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