Building a reputation: Invisible Circus

Pulling off the successful temporary use of large empty spaces has lead to creative hubs, new artist networks, input into future use planning and has built reputations. This is particularly true of Invisible Circus - the driving force behind the Artspace Lifespace projects and Carny Ville - which has become even better known as a world-leading alternative circus through these projects.

"Taking on our spaces has made it more possible to do more of what we wanted to do," says Doug Francis, one of the founders of Invisible Circus.

"It would have been hard to find anyone to give us the opportunity to take on something at the scale of our vision, so we created it for ourselves and through that we've built a reputation. Also, to just do our own thing has a knock-on effect for the community, which is something we're keen on." 

Bringing different artists into large spaces provided a natural hatching ground for new ideas and collaborations.

"A lot of people on the site got involved with the Carny Villes and from there have developed other projects," says Doug Francis, who reiterates Ruth Essex's view that it is these incubative, collaborative values that have shaped the spaces and resulted in their success.

"The space is just a space, ultimately. Behind the success of our projects is a massive network of people and they got into it because of the values driving it, not because of the commercial possibilities. What I love about it most is turning a commercial space into a community base and then people coming and celebrating that.

"For example, with Carny Ville we work with a huge spectrum of people. A lot of people working on that event for fun have commercial 'day jobs' - riggers, television makers, electricians and production managers. They come here to make something that's part of a bigger scene and get a whole lot of inspiration and fulfilment out of it."

Filmmaker Naomi Singh has made a documentary about Invisible Circus. Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal is available on DVD.