Covid pandemic apparent in circus statistics – spectator numbers plummet in 2020

The number of performances was cut by half and the number of spectators was over 80 percent less than in record year 2019

Finnish circus companies and Cirko – The Centre for New Circus staged a total of 814 shows in 2020, and these performances gathered a total of 47 577 spectators in Finland and abroad. When the statistics for traditional touring circus, i.e. Circus Finlandia, are taken into account, the total number of shows is 922 and number of spectators 84 577. When compared to the previous year, the amount of performances was 51 percent smaller and spectator numbers dropped by a shocking 86 percent.

During the times it was even possible to stage shows, the audiences were smaller than before due to the audience limitations. In 2020 in both Finland and abroad the average number of spectators was 92, whereas during the previous five years the average has been 160–200.

The exceptional circumstances also caused circus artists to experiment with digital forms of performance more than before, so now for the first time Circusinfo Finland has also included online performances and audience development events in the statistics. Works presented online gathered a total of over 23 000 views.

Foreign touring wanes

Finnish circus companies have in the past gathered large audiences especially abroad, but during 2020 foreign touring activity ground to a halt almost completely when borders were closed. The amount of guest performances staged abroad declined by 81 percent from the previous year and audience numbers declined by as much as 95 percent. Of the combined amount of spectators only a quarter was outside Finland’s borders, when in previous years foreign audiences have made up well over a half of the total spectator numbers in the statistics.

Shows by Finnish circus companies were seen last year in only 17 countries, when in 2019 the companies visited a total of 34 countries. International touring activity was focused heavily on Europe in 2020. Sweden had the most visits, but largest audience numbers came from Australian festivals between January and March.

A total of 26 premieres were staged during the year 2020, meaning that the number of premieres also declined in comparison to the previous year. Companies receiving operational subsidies from the state produced 12 of the premieres.

The statistics for 2020 include a total of 36 companies, solo artists, and organizations and one circus centre. Many companies that do not receive operational state subsidies had to freeze their entire performing activity in 2020 and therefore are not included in the statistics.

A total of 14 circus organizations received operational state subsidies in 2020, and this somewhat increased the total amount of subsidies granted to circus.