Circus breaks audience records in 2019 – performances reach over half a million spectators

Last year Finnish circus had more performances and spectators than ever before. Circus companies and Circo – The Centre for New Circus had a total of 1 666 performances which reached an audience of 343 627 spectators in Finland and abroad. The number of performances included in the statistics rose from the previous year by 43 percent and the number of spectators by as much as 79 percent.

When the statistical figures for traditional touring circus, i.e. Circus Finlandia are added, the total numbers for Finnish circus reaches 1 898 performances and 541 987 spectators.

Roughly half of the circus companies’ performances and well over half of the spectators come from companies and artists who do not receive operational subsidies from the state. This means that a large part of works is produced by artist-run companies, funded by their own activity and production-specific grants. On the other hand, even companies that do receive operational state subsidies fund a majority of their activity by themselves: ticket sales and performance fees combine to around two thirds of all income. Therefore, the state subsidy covers only one third of the funding for these companies.

In 2019 the state subsidies granted by the Arts Promotion Centre were reformed. For circus art this meant that the amount of granted subsidies was raised by about a third. However, when compared to the performance and audience numbers of circus and regarding its role as an important vehicle of cultural export, the state support is still very small. When grants are often production-specific, this means that the lifespan of works is too short. Sometimes companies must start creating their next work after as few as a couple of shows to secure their financial situation.

Two thirds of spectators from outside Finland

The international touring character of circus art is again evident in the statistics. In the companies’ numbers around one third of performances and as much as two thirds of spectators are from abroad. Two Finnish companies included in the statistics had no performances in Finland at all: Sisus Sirkus collected 39 050 spectators from foreign stages and Wise Fools, now included in the statistics for the first time, had 30 700 spectators. There is still a need in Finland to improve touring conditions and possibilities for circus companies.

Finnish circus was seen in 36 countries. Great Britain had the most spectators, with traditional circus country France coming in second. In addition to around twenty European countries, Finnish circus could be seen for example in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Korea and Japan – meaning that circus is still at the forefront of Finnish cultural exports.

In 2019 circus companies staged a total of 56 premieres, an impressive amount. 18 of these were produced by companies that receive operational state subsidies. The total number of premieres increased by 44 percent from the previous year.

The number of circus companies, solo artists and organizations included in the statistics was 42 plus 1 circus centre. In 2019 a total of 11 organizations received operational state subsidies.