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Health & Safety

The Circus Arts Forum is committed to promoting and supporting circus, in all its diverse manifestations, as a viable industry. Part of that commitment is to raise awareness of the importance of a good and safe working environment for anyone using circus skills in their work, and to encourage anyone working with circus performers to be aware of the specific needs of those performers.

1. A few common sense tips

Performers - know your own abilities and limitations. Work with people you trust and don't let anyone persuade you to perform, train or teach in any situation that you feel is unsafe. In traditional touring circuses this vital knowledge is acquired on the job, young performers learning from their elders.

Zippo Circus

For independent artists and new circus companies, the situation may be more complicated - particularly for those working outside of the big top environment. Be aware that you know what is safe for you - the artistic director, choreographer or producer doesn't necessarily. Be prepared to do a risk assessment on your act that could be shown to venues or local authority health and safety officers.

Directors, Choreographers and Producers - If you are a 'non-circus' person working with circus performers - trust their knowledge and experience. Be aware of their need to train - and to rest - as well as to rehearse. Plan accordingly. Do not touch equipment, change lighting states or do anything else to distract someone training or performing. Rigging and other technical matters should always be left to those with the expertise to create a safe working environment. See the entry on rigging and technical below.

2. Insurance

Anyone working with members of the public - for example running circus classes for kids or performing in a street theatre festival - will need Public liability insurance. Check requirements with the relevant local authority. If you join Equity then you get free Public Liability insurance.

Personal insurance for circus performers is available - but expensive. Contact an insurance company that specialises in entertainment insurance - for example
Performers e mail [email protected]
Tel 01708 860999
Torribles Tel 0117 921 1806

3 Rigging and Technical

Rigging and technical matters should be left to those with the skills and knowledge to create a safe working environment. There are currently no universally agreed guidelines or codes of practice in the UK for circus riggers and technicians, but a number of different groups and individuals are working to protect and improve safety standards and develop training programmes.

RICSAT (Rigging in Circus Standards and Training) is an organisation for circus professionals that promotes an improvement in knowledge about rigging and the development of training and recognized qualifications for riggers. They can be contacted c/o Circomedia Tel 0117 947 7288
E mail [email protected]

Metier is the national training organisation for the arts and entertainment sector. They are hoping to establish training programmes in Technical Theatre and Arena and are working with members of the circus industry to develop a qualification in rigging. Contact Pauline Gibson Tel 01274 738800 [email protected]

The Circus Space Professional Development Centre is setting up courses in rigging and technical training, and also in health and safety and legal issues for circus performers. E mail [email protected]
Tel 020 7613 4141 ex 250

4 Animal Welfare

The Circus Arts Forum has adopted a neutral position on the use of animals in circus. We represent all of the circus community - those that use animals in their work and those that choose not to. We are aware of the role that animal performance has played in the development of circus, but also aware that many people feel strongly opposed to the use of animals in performance. Whilst this is a matter for individual conscience, we feel that the maintaining of animal welfare standards is crucial.

The Association of Circus Proprietors are currently working with government agencies to set up guidelines for animal welfare in UK circus. They can be contacted at P.O Box 131, Blackburn, Lancashire.BB1 9DT

The International League for the Protection of Horses has established a code of conduct with Zippos to ensure the well-being of the horses used in their circus. Anyone with an interest in the care and management of horses can visit their site at

A book entitled Animals in Circuses and Zoos by Dr. Marthe Kiley-Worthington is published by Aardvark and available from:
Circus Friends Association, Fir Tree Cottage, Little Hormead, Buntingford, Herts SG9 OLU

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