Located on the outskirts of Paris' Pelouse de Reuilly park, the circus village is not as beautiful as you might expect: a wide long strip of tarmac like a runway, a few scrubby trees, the tents pitched on a clay roadside that muddies up something awful in the rain. But then the tents themselves are lovely – orange, blue, white and striped, and in the distance the great ridged peak of the Cirque Phenix (not a part of the festival, except scenically).
As you'd expect, there's a lot of French cirque in the programme, but international artists too, programmed in short overlapping runs. The festival is child friendly (for the family productions they have their own mini benches at the front), extremely localised, and intelligently (/compassionately) scheduled so that you don't wait too long between shows and don't have to slog through three back-to-back. The wood-decked food tent has the buzz of a community, decorated warmly with suspended squares of colour and furnished with unusual assemblages of benches and chairs and sofas like your favourite cafe.
Tents are expensive to run, expensive to tour, expensive to develop work in. The Village de Cirque isn't the only French festival working to preserve the chapiteau and its unique charms, but it's the most urban, and each year creates a residency for a company to explore work in the tent.