A unique Congleton-based touring circus continues to provide memories that last a lifetime for disabled and disadvantaged children.
Circus Starr, which has been entertaining audiences across the country with feats of clowning, acrobatics and contortion for over 30 years, is a local Congleton cause under the Co-op Local Community Fund.
The fund helps pay for local projects that Co-op members care about. Every time members shop with the Co-op, 1% of what they spend on selected own-branded products and services goes to help fund community projects where they live.
Sarah Hall, Circus Starr’s, Communications & Engagement Manager, commented about their relationship with the Co-op: “I was lucky enough to meet some of the Co-op staff at Congleton’s Funeralcare and it was great to meet them.
“They were so friendly, welcoming and supportive, you can definitely tell how invested they are in helping their local community.”
Billed as the “circus with a purpose”, Circus Starr, a not-for-profit organisation, put on their shows free of charge to children with additional needs, from low income families and those facing challenging circumstances, it is not open to the general public.
It tours the country three times a year to an annual audience of over 60,000 people. However, due to the pandemic, they’re currently preparing as if all of this year’s Big Top shows are going to have to be unfortunately postponed.
Circus Starr are on a mission to be the UK’s most inclusive circus and despite Covid-19 having a major impact, Sarah said: “When this is all over, we will be getting back to it. For some children and parents, a visit to Circus Starr can be life-changing.”
Despite the pandemic, it hasn’t stopped Circus Starr doing what they do best and supporting children with disabilities and additional learning needs.
Sarah stated that one of the biggest problems Circus Starr’s families face is getting inside their magical starry big top tent.
For children on the autistic spectrum or those with profound and multiple learning difficulties attending a live event such as Circus Starr’s can cause anxiety due to the unknown.
However, for those who may feel this way, Circus Starr have developed innovative ways of helping them prepare for their event.
With the help of sensory specialist Joanna Grace, last year saw Circus Starr introduce their very own Sensory Story and pack. The pack was created to help those with profound and multiple learning difficulties experience some of the sensory changes they could encounter as they arrived at the circus event.
The sensory story, which is free, can be downloaded from Circus Starr’s website with guidance to help parents understand how a sensory story works, or a pack containing supporting resources can also be ordered to be delivered directly to families and schools.
Sarah continued: “The more time our audience have to prepare for their visit, the better, it gives them that opportunity to experience some of the sensory changes they may come across when they visit our show.”
Circus Starr also have a Show and Tell app, which has helped many autistic children come along to their events, and win an Autism Professional award.
The app helps prepare autistic children for their visit to the Big Show, it allows the user to personalise their journey and experience at the show, as well as displaying images and videos to give them an understanding of what to expect.
Show and Tell is available to download for free on all Android and iOS devices.
Circus Starr has been working alongside the Co-op since November last year and in that time £1,030, has been raised for the local cause, which will go towards providing tickets to the children for future events.
Sarah added: “Having the Co-op’s support is allowing children to come to the show, which is what it’s all about.”
For more information on Circus Starr click here.