A Year in the Life of Silver Circus!

Well, 2018 been a massive year for our Silver Circus project! Our Monday morning drop in class now stands at 20 members and goes from strength to strength, whilst our staff have worked with residents and day care attendees at three different dementia care settings. The outreach sessions have been specifically designed to benefit those living with any stage of dementia, and work on exploring circus equipment and skills alongside our staff, carers and occasionally a family member who is visiting when the session happens. On many occasions members of our regular Monday class have attended as volunteers and are invaluable in their help and ability to interact with participants. It even gives those who are keen to and opportunity to show off their skills!


Our staff and care setting staff have noticed that this type of activity not only enhances the day of the individual taking part, through fun and active activities, but can help participants in expressing themselves more clearly and allowing for new ideas to enter their mind. Occasionally our activities bring back a fond memory of childhood and our staff enjoy listening to stories and songs from the participants – a kind of exchange with the performative nature of the session. Our staff love to show off and be very silly during sessions, which is often met with laughter and enjoyment.


Feedback from our outreach sessions suggests that participants:

“…are supported and encouraged to participate at their learned levels, therefore initiating positive feelings and self gratification.”

“…have participated with hand and eye coordination activities to maintain fine motor skills and help maintain everyday life skills. Excellent group participation – a great fun and learning session!”

“…have easily expressed themselves, learned new skills, confidence booster from doing well in a fun activity. Excellent group social activity.”

“…have shown easier participation in sessions. Fun and happy activities helping wellbeing and emotional support.”

“…have experienced increased social interaction, widening their friendship circle and increased confidence in group setting.”

Weekly Drop-in

Our Monday morning class is full of enthusiastic and adventurous over 55s – some of whom really enjoy showing off their skills, and others who just enjoy coming along on a Monday and improving theirs! Every member though, speaks of how they enjoy the social aspect of the group – meeting new people, having a giggle and staying on a bit longer for a brew and a piece of cake.

“Learning juggling and the diabolo has taxed my manual dexterity and brain!!”

“I’ve been challenged physically and feel my balance has improved hugely since coming to Silver Circus”

“Achieved more than was possible a few years ago”

“Have impressed myself and friends with the skills I have learned. Would like to be the oldest performing aerialist!!”


In Spring 2018 Skylight embarked upon a performance project with Grania Pickard of Oddly Moving. Many of the Silver Circus participants took part in this and were given the opportunity not only to work with a professional circus theatre director, but to collaborate with Skylight’s youth circus to create a beautiful and personal performance based around telling stories about journeys. The show “Generations” was met with great positivity and reviews – and the group were asked to perform it again at The Lowry community studio.

“I told my granddaughter we’re going on tour! What a way to celebrate your 70th birthday!”

Alongside the rehearsal process Skylight received a visit from the Royal Exchange Elder’s Company who were showcasing their show Moments That Changed Our World. The company came to Skylight’s studio space to share their work and in a really lovely exchange, many of the Elder’s Company members returned to see Generations. This sparked the Royal Exchange to invite Silver Circus members to be a part of their Elders Exchange Day in October. The group were delighted to be able to share a short performance that included a couple of sections form the Generations show as well as some new material – including an attempted ‘world record’ of hula hooping whilst plate spinning – including members of the audience! Following the performance, Skylight staff led a ‘Have a Go’ workshop for event attendees – ably assisted by Silver Circus members and Silver Circus project co-ordinator Gil and two Silver Circus participants were interviewed by Sonder Radio for a show broadcast live from the event.

Mr Kite

Another performance opportunity arose for Silver Circus in the later part of 2018 in the form of Mr Kite. The show was inspired by a research project carried out by Silver Circus and Youth Circus members on the history of circus in Rochdale. Again at the helm was director Grania Pickard and the company spent rehearsals devising acts inspired by the research. The performance was met with great enthusiasm by sell out audiences!

silver circus on trapeze and cocoon
circus jim juggling hats
silver circus juggling in mr kite

The group’s first engagement of 2019 was to attend the Greater Manchester Older People’s Networking Event to share a short performance and talk to delegates about what goes on in the sessions on a Monday morning. Since the event a few new members have joined and continue to attend. The evn also offered our participants an opportunity to network and find out about issues arising in Greater Manchester for older people. And one lucky Silver Circus member won a bottle of rum on the raffle – wins all round!

If you’d like to join Silver Circus, or would like any more information about Skylight’s work with older people please call or email project co-ordinator Gil on 01706 650676 / gil.b@skylightcircusarts.com