Partners from nine countries have developed a European program for basic circus training. Why and how did it happen?


Circus culture is vibrant and by its very nature inclusive. Within Europe, the knowledge and expertise with regard to circus training for adults, young people and children is growing. This has been accompanied by an increasing interest across different sectors (social work, schools, pedagogy and leisure time activities) in relation to the value and relevance of circus arts and training.

These days the culture amongst the various European countries differs strongly. Circus training programmes exist in Belgium, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany; however, there is currently no such programme in the other European countries. And these are only national programmes that tend to be exclusive by language barriers or different cultural norms.

A European-wide course, accessible to all Europeans in a transnational cooperation would be the key to a strong pedagogic foundation and curriculum.

During the annual European NICE meetings for circus trainers representatives of different countries have repeatedly asked for help to create and organise training courses for their countries. With the CATE Project EYCO has taken it upon itself to create a European model for a basic circus trainer course which will hopefully meet the demands and the quest for European added value.


Ten European circus organisations work together with EYCO in the project, made possible by an EU Grundtvig Grant.

The CATE Project (2012 – 2014) consisted of ten meetings, bringing together experienced trainers, learners and experts from all partners. Sharing there – circus specific and general – pedagogical knowledge, expertise and experiences, they created a European model for a basic circus training course: the Circus Adults Training in Europe, or CATE!

List of participants in the CATE Project:

Germany : Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Zirkuspädagogik e.V. – Berlin
Belgium : Vlaams Centrum Voor Circuskunsten Vzw – Gent
Switzerland : Swiss Federation of Circus Schools (FSEC/SZSV/FSSC) – Monthey
Denmark : Cirkus Tværs af 1990 – Brabrand
Finland : Suomen Nuorisosirkusliitto ry – Helsinki
France : Fédération Française des Ecoles de Cirque – Paris
Great Britain : Albert & Friends Instant Circus – London
Netherlands : Circomundo – Amsterdam
Italy : Associazione Giocolieri e Dintorni – Civitavecchia
Spain : Plataforma Española de Escuelas de Circo Socioeducativo, Barcelona


The general aim of the CATE project has been to develop tools and new perspectives for circus pedagogy in the diverse field of adult education. These tools will give circus groups and other organisations in the different regions the skills to present individual training programmes, incorporating shared methodologies for circus skills, pedagogies, artistic education, and health and safety.


  • the intensive exchange with different European circus institutions on the topic of general adult education
  • the development of a training for trainers curriculum with shared standards, applicable to the circus arts for the adult education sector
  • the development of a circus training program for adults paying special attention to the different ways it can be applied – both in terms of duration and context


Based on the job level descriptions developed by a former EYCO working group it was decided to concentrate on a training programme at the basic level.

The next step was to clearly define the competencies of a basic circus trainer. Small working groups discussed different teaching manners, pedagogical methods and shared experience and it became clear that there were many possible ways of nurturing a learner towards gaining these competencies.

So obviously it would be difficult to create a standard trainer programme format, suitable for the specific needs of every European country and to be tailored to their needs. Therefore, two different formats were developed: a ready-made, day-to-day programme and a modular programme. Please read all about this in the CATE Handbook.


The CATE Handbook represents the first manual adressing adult circus training and the training of trainers. The CATE Handbook can be found on the individual websites of the project partners and ofcourseon the EYCO website.

Most of the partners have a good relations with different institutions, so that the CATE HANDBOOK will be multiplied and reviewed.

The impact of this project opens new perspectives and approaches

  • for trans-disciplinary circus training
  • to guarantee easier access to circus tools, methods and techniques for different branches and for individuals striving for a work-life balance
  • will support a vibrant circus culture and a stronger circus network in Europe
  • will build a stronger (institutionalised) cooperation of circuses at a European level

For the future we aim to find funding to offer assistance by sending trainers for trainers to those countries that could use some more help in understanding and running the CATE Project locally.

Another future project is the organisation of an international basic circus trainer course, to be held in a European country, inviting trainers-participants from different countries to engage in or jobshadow the basic training course. So when returning home, they would be able to organise a training course and become ‘Trainer for Trainers’ in their own right.


This was the first meeting of all partners involved in the CATE Project, having pre-discussions to create a common understanding of the project and to set first steps towards a common agreement of the work-flow. Further, an EYCO Management-Committee meeting was held to strengthen the European Circus scene in general.

Accompanying the international Youth Circus Meeting (NICE), all partners took the opportunity to come to a formal agreement of responsibilities and created a financial plan that implements all national requirements. First agreements were discussed with representatives from the European Youth Circus Organisation (EYCO).

The meeting in London was the first meeting of the proposed delegates bringing the expertise from each country to develop a basic circus trainers course. Getting to know each other, designing a first general overview of the goals and road map, agreeing on responsibilities. First models were discussed and thought of as possibilities and personal opinions where shared. Another important meeting of managing delegates from each country was conducted to foster the international youth circus relations and strengthen the European circus scene and EYCO agreed to play a major role to support the CATE project in administration and financial supervision. A contract for an organisation of the CATE was set up from EYCO and finalised in April.

The meeting in Switzerland consisted of a general discussion on the roadmap and structures of the CATE project, redistributing and clarifying both personal roles and areas of commitment as well as resetting milestones of the project. Existing Training programs were collected and compares, an overview of needed skills for basic circus trainers were developed.

The experts group had a break-through in shaping a first common paradigm and created a first approach for a training system.

The meeting in Aarhus was an in depth-meeting sharpening the approach of circus training program for adults. Decisions were made on the framework and two formats and a general guideline where created that complement each other.

Here, the Experts group is planning to get the learning details more detailed, collect practical examples for trainings. The entering conditions to the course has to be defined for participants & amount of hours expected in present and practical home practise, as much as the methods for monitoring, direct feedback and evaluation will be developed.

While further practical training examples will be worked out, general guidelines to accompany the course will be assessed. The evaluation methods will be finalised and both the formats and precise modules will be finalised for a final feedback-loop from the ground. (You are a circus expert who wants get a first grasp and give feedback?