(Note that much of the below is Sideshow's own summarised and unratified translation of the source French document. The original PDF is here.)
Following 13 meetings, conducted between industry professionals, elected officials and policy-makers between April and December 2011 in 13 different regions, Territoires de Cirque has published a list of ten propositions, essentially policy recommendations, for the strategic development of contemporary circus in France. The publication of the document comes 10 years after the Year of Circus announced by the French Ministry of Culture, and is aimed at laying the foundations for another decade of support.
In drawing up its recommendations, Territoires de Cirque identified four key points/problems to be considered in planning the sustainable development of circus arts:
(i) Specific Economic Needs - Circus is underfunded compared to other artforms, but also typically has a longer creation process and requires specific facilities/equipment.
(ii) A Sector on Alert - In the light of (i), circus needs to work to raise awareness among policy-makers and to ensure the formation of legal and administrative frameworks that are sensitive to its needs.
(iii) Consider the Tent - There are fewer and fewer sites available for circus tents, both in cities and the countryside; greater dialogue is needed between cultural operators and representatives of local authorities to recognise the chapiteaux as a tool for artistic representation and mediation.
(iv) A Circus Policy that is Active and Forward-Looking - The members of Territoires de Cirque recognise that a progressive circus policy must take into account the specificities of circus, but also that it must be realised at all levels (creation, production and dissemination); that it is necessary to strengthen existing networks and relationships; and that there needs to be a clear division of the responsibilities concerning cultural creation/dissemination between municipalities, municipal associations, cities, county councils and regional bodies.
The propositions, then, in summary, are:
1. Establish a New Balance Between Training and Production/Diffusion
An increase in the means of production is needed to redress the current imbalance in favour of training. The creation of a Jeune Cirque
National fund (similar to a fund currently offered to young theatre-makers) is recommended to increase the employability of young circus artists.
2. Strengthen Career Paths for Companies
Companies must have viable career paths that support artistic risk and creative development. The proposition recommends the establishment of a circus equivalent to the Centre Dramatique National or the Centre Chorégraphique National.
3. Consolidate the Means of Production
Existing structures supporting the circus arts need greater resources, secure operational budgets, and multi-year funding agreements in order to have the flexibility to support circus creation. These existing bodies should support the emergence of new talent and set an example of good production practice by focusing on the needs of artists.
4. Strengthen and Continue Existing Regional Leadership
The twelve national circus 'poles' do essential work in supporting and disseminating the circus arts, but are underfunded given their level of activity. Currently only half of France's regions have a circus pole, and Territoires de Cirque proposes that there should, eventually, be 24 in total.
5. Expand the Diffusion of Circus Arts
Circus is a precarious sector. To support artists and give them good working conditions, venues, and particularly festivals, must be given greater resources to support and host shows.
6. Conceive a National Plan to Support the Tent
Tented circus has a unique relationship with its audience, and brings circus to places where performance facilities are otherwise absent. Working in a theatre should be a choice and not a concession to necessity. Territoires de Cirque recommends the implementation of a regional, interconnected plan to specifically support tented circus creation and performance.
7. Reaffirm the Need for Finances Across the State
The circus sector needs greater clarification of the division of power/responsibility between the state and local/regional authorities. The state needs to formalise a specific departmental policy to address circus' development.
8. Respect the Creative/Artistic Process and Prevent Instrumentalisation
Territoires de Cirque identifies and warns against the instrumentalisation of culture, and advocates for the individual creative process over the needs of institutions.
9. Pursue Larger Audiences and Refresh Existing Audiences
A policy for achieving larger audiences for circus must meet the following requirements: trained staff forming permanent teams; attractive ticket prices; educative tools provided by the ministries of culture or education; a national statistical study of contemporary circus audiences; the inclusion of circus in specialist schemes teaching performance art.
10. Ensure the Development of a Dynamic and Sustainable Circus of Tomorrow
To support circus' development it is necessary to conduct research into the environmental impact of touring, particularly touring tented work, and to openly work to develop structures that are more energy efficient, better insulated, etcetera.
The full document produced by Territoires de Cirque is available in French here [PDF]. The ten propositions were published May 2012 and presented at Festival Circa on 28 October 2012.