Team Academy Newcastle and Circus Central!


circus-central-oct-2016On Wednesday 2nd November 2016, Team Academy Newcastle were delighted to welcome Helen Averley, Chief Executive of Circus Central to the Northern Design Centre to take part in an external Generator Session.

Officially the North East Circus Development Trust, Circus Central is a registered charity (1136254) and hub for the circus arts in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Situated near the city centre in Christ Church Buildings on Shieldfield Green, their core aims are to develop the youth, community and professional circus sectors in the North East of England through the provision of regular, project-based activities, and to continue expanding their hub into a significant circus training facility.

As well as offering courses to the public on everything from aerial to tumbling, they house a regular youth troupe – The Five Ring Circus, they carry out extensive research projects into circus history, and are key players in developing several UK and European circus networks.

Students on the radically innovative EBM programme have the opportunity to participate in two Generator Sessions a year in teams as an entire programme group.  It is a chance to show off what they are good at, what they have learnt and to apply it to a real business situation.  It is a combination of brainstorming, problem solving and presentation.

For our external Generator Sessions, we invite local organisations in, to set our students real life business challenges.  The students (across all three years), work on the challenge in teams, bringing all their learning and ideas to bear in an intensive, short session.  The Generator Session closes with all the teams presenting their responses to the challenge and the Client determining the winning output.  The sessions normally last 4 hours in total.

The official name of Circus Central is the North East Circus Development Trust. As one of their key charitable aims, they are committed to developing and expanding the circus sector – both in the North East and further afield. This means offering opportunities to emerging artists, promoting networks between companies and regions, holding workshops covering artist development, reaching as diverse an audience as possible and by being a beacon for circus in the North East. They are passionate about showing the region’s richness and diversity in terms of circus output to the world.

Since Circus Central was established in 2010 they have achieved some amazing things:

  • They have seen lots of young people flourish through circus, some of whom are moving into the industry.
  • They have sent 80 people to train in circus skills – as artists and teachers via EU projects.
  • They have started a work based learning BTEC programme, (currently in year 2).
  • They regularly stage large scale shows with youth and community, for festivals and performance projects.
  • They have run and are running a number of heritage and research projects (successfully accessing HLF funding)
  • They run 23 regular classes per week form Circus Central in Newcastle (there was maybe 1 prior to this)
  • They are seeing circus become more prominent in NE cultural map – when previously it was almost invisible.

However, the funding climate has changed and they now need to look at new ways to ensure a sustainable future without funding.  Helen challenged the EBM students to:

  • Generate ideas around possible new activities we could lead, partner or be involved with, in line with our mission; to continue and accelerate the journey towards achieving our vision
  • Generate ideas to ensure a sustainable future without funding.

Some of the student ideas included

  • children’s’ holiday camps,
  • collaborating with Fenwick’s and using their shop window,
  • partnering with other Charities,
  • launching a profit making business line (personalised photos superimposing acrobatic poses onto exotic backgrounds using a green screen),
  • moving into the health and keep fit markets,
  • offering more team building workshops to schools, Universities and businesses,
  • working with business students on a consultancy basis focusing on the Business Model Canvas,
  • and focusing on a single “Cash Cow” to stabilise income generation for the organisation

Helen was very pleased with the outputs on the day and felt that several were worth pursuing.  Instead of picking one winning team, as she felt all the teams offered different and equally strong ideas, she generously offered a Circus Workshop to all of the Generator Session participants.

The EBM students enjoyed the session and one commented, “It was really interesting to see how a not-for-profit business operated.” Another said, “It was really valuable to try and solve a problem for someone where we could see the whole organisation.  It was hard but fun to break it down and identify the key organisational issues.  It gave us real life experience of a complicated operating environment.”

Lucy Hatt, EBM Programme Leader added, “We’ve used Circus Central for a number of years to provide team building workshops as part of the EBM programme induction.  These are fabulous and it’s amazing what Steve Cousins and Helen Averley can achieve in a half day workshop.  From spinning toothbrushes, to juggling to building human pyramids!  So we were delighted to have the opportunity to offer them some ideas in return that might support the work of the organisation going forward.  The students found the session very useful and I’m hopeful our relationship with Circus Central will continue to grow.”

Lucy Hatt 2016