We spoke to Cowes based circus performer Thorne Bailey about life in lockdown and transforming your driveway into a training space, as part of our interview series with Island creatives.
Interview by Megan Stisted
Hi Thorne, how are you coping with this strange new world?
Coping? Some days it’s not a matter of coping at all. I’m in a very privileged position, living with my parents, so definitely, some days are great. In fact a lot of days are. But I definitely struggle with the endlessness of the situation. I think that and being quarantined away from my partner. But we keep each other sane from afar. I would say my main coping mechanism has been ‘keep busy’. I started running regularly, and cycling on days I don’t run. I’ve also recently set up my driveway as a space where I can train cyr wheel. So I’ve been putting in the hours out there recently. Reading books. Gardening. Video editing. There’s always things to do. Just sometimes not the motivation to do them.
Can you tell us a bit about what you do?
What do I do? I perform circus, I guess. My main discipline is cyr wheel (a metal ring that I spin around in) but I’m also a juggler and acrobat. I’ve made a couple of short solo shows that use comedy, narrative and wheel to draw a crowd. I’m not sure there’s much more to say.
“…thankfully we have a driveway. So I told my parents to park elsewhere, cause I wanted to train!”
Where do you normally practice? Has the lockdown impacted this – have you had to improvise?
I normally practice up at Gurnard Pines, which has been amazing. But obviously Covid-19 has knocked that plan aside. I looked into building a stage in my garden, but after pricing it up, I decided that it wasn’t really financially feasible. But thankfully we have a driveway. So I told my parents to park elsewhere, cause I wanted to train! Thankfully, they’re very supportive of what I do, and happily helped me turn the driveway into a space I can use. It’s not ideal. Really, it’s very, very, far from ideal, but it’s relatively flat, and only has one drain I need to avoid. So I guess it could be worse.
How are you keeping yourself motivated to practice with so much time on your hands?
Honestly, I struggle with this. Motivation comes and goes for me. I was asked to be part of an online Pandemic Party which is a cabaret that’s going out live on Thursday. So creating and filming an act for that has definitely given me a huge boost of motivation. I think it also reminded me that, yes, my training space isn’t ideal, but it is usable. So I think I’ll be out there more, once the weather dries up again. I also think keeping realistic aims for a day is a good way to stay motivated. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Set a few things to do, and if you get more done, then great! But remember it’s a strange time. Not everyday (or anyday) do you have to be learning a new skill or pushing yourself harder than before. But if you feel up to it, then definitely do, because often accomplishing things helps too. So I guess this. I try to keep it real. If I get stuff done, sweet. If I don’t? Well, I just try to enjoy binge watching Tiger King and Normal People, ya know?
How did you first get into circus skills?
For my 10th birthday party my parents asked Ryde Extreme Performer’s Nat Splatt if she could come and do a circus workshop for me. So I guess it all started there. I did a few courses with Ryde Extreme before starting to perform with them. We performed at carnivals and festivals, a highlight being the Isle of Wight festival. I took a break from circus when I started my GCSE’s and A’levels. But once I’d aced those, I decided I wasn’t sure on academia. So I did a BTEC in Performing Arts and Circus in London at the National Centre for Circus Arts. I went on to do the Foundation degree there and then finished my Bachelors at Bristol’s Circomedia. If anyone is interested, definitely look these two places up, and go and have a look around – once we’re allowed, obviously.
“I try to keep it real. If I get stuff done, sweet. If I don’t? Well, I just try to enjoy binge watching Tiger King and Normal People, ya know? “
You performed at Ventnor Fringe last year, do you have any plans for more shows in future?
I did yeah! I do indeed. In fact I had an act go out as part of a live compered Pandemic Party on Thursday (You can still view the show @groundedcircus on instagram and facebook). I have also begun making a show with a juggler and acrobat based in Bristol. We’re currently at the early stages, with 10 minutes of material. We had plans to be creating a full 50 minute show now, but due to the current situation, that had to be put on hold. But we’re still creating some material through video calls and online creative tasks. So it’s still moving forwards. We hope to have the show ready to be performed and toured in Spring 2021, but we’ll have to see how this crazy time unfolds.
I have also been talking and planning with my mum (a storyteller) about creating a circus/storytelling show. It’s still in the idea phase, but we’re eager to make it into something. It really depends if there’s anything to make it for. With nowhere to perform it’s hard to feel motivated to make a show!
You can also see me perform at Butlins as part of the Electric Circus throughout 2020. Once the parks reopen!
If there is one artist that more people should know about, who is it for you?
It’s really hard to pick just one! I am constantly discovering new and amazing work on instagram , most recently Katrina Haffner and Phillip Harris and Icelandic artist Kristjana S Williams. Sometimes it’s a drawing style or method they are using or how they create their beautiful compositions that inspire me.
If you would like someone to talk to just for support about creative projects and financial difficulty we are on hand to chat please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01983 716767 If we are not in leave a message and we will get back to you.
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