Our Circus250 Team

Circus250 is a Community Interest Company dedicated to making circus with purpose and reaching new audiences in exciting and spectacular shows.

DEA BIRKETT – Director aka Ringmaster

Dea Birkett

Dea Birkett, a former circus artiste, founded and is Ringmaster of circus production company Circus250, a Community Interest Company. Circus250 co-ordinated the UK and Ireland-wide celebration of 250 years of circus in 2018. An established broadcaster, Dea made Who Killed the Circus? for BBC World Service, an hour-long documentary on the end of Ringling Brothers circus and Circus Days, Circus Nights, an hour-long documentary for Channel 4 on Dea’s experiences of circus work. Dea compiled, introduced and edited the Circus250 Souvenir Programme.

She is also an award-winning writer and journalist, author of seven books including Serpent in Paradise and Off the Beaten Track: Three Centuries of Women Travellers. She is a contributor to the Guardian, Mail on Sunday and a wide range of publications on circus, as well as a regular commentator for the BBC and Irish radio stations. She is Creative Director of ManyRiversFilms, a BAFTA-winning film company, making challenging dramas and documentaries. Dea also founded Kids in Museums, the UK-wide organisation working with museums, galleries and heritage sites to make them more welcoming of children and families – in particular those who have never visited before. She now runs CultureKids Ireland.

Read more: The joy of circus

VIVIEN TESSERAS – Administrator aka Juggler

Vivien Tessaras

Vivien is the administrator for Circus250. She previously worked with Dea at Kids in Museums, an independent charity dedicated to making museums open and welcoming to all families. Before that, she was with children’s publisher Piccadilly Press. Vivien has worked as a publishing freelance for many years, providing editorial and administrative services to a range of publishing and marketing professionals, including literary agents, picture researchers, publishers, authors and events management. Her first job after leaving university was at the Mermaid Theatre, London. Reading is her passion.

AOIFE RALEIGH – Performer

Aoife Raleigh

Aoife is half of StrongWomen Science and a performer in Frame, and a regular member of Circus250’s company. Aoife has loved maths and physics from a young age. She studied Electronic Engineering in Dublin and did a Masters in Belfast, before working as an engineer for four years. During this time she began stilt walking with a Samba band. This was the spark that ignited a love for circus. Aoife has since taken to hula hooping and acrobatics. She also has a hugely popular vintage strongwoman act Heavy Duty Dame. She is Youth Coordinator for Dublin Circus Project, a member of the acrobatic group Siolta, and performs internationally. She still has a soft spot for all things technical and logical.

MARIA CORCORAN – Performer

Maria Corcoran

Maria is half of StrongWomen Science and a performer in Frame, and a regular member of Circus250’s company. Maria has been teaching science and circus for seven years. It was during her studies as an environmental scientist that she discovered circus skills. Maria is an expert experienced unicyclist, juggler and acrobat, with a particular interest in clown. She has created a buffoon character called Beryl, who became a YouTube sensation.

Read more: We juggle custard and eat fire to make science fun

SUZAN ARAL – Designer

Suzan Aral

Suzan is responsible for the fabulous printed and on-line design and logos for Circus250. She is the Founder and Managing Director of ARAL ETC, a multidisciplinary design agency specialising in the heritage and culture sectors. Her work covers a broad spectrum of projects from limited edition books to logos, museum trails to exhibition design. Through imprint Crafty Crab, Suzan publishes entertaining, educational children’s activity books that encourage creative responses. Suzan is also a Visiting Lecturer at East Sussex College HE Art & Design Faculty and teaches the Gold Arts Award graphics module at Eastbourne College.

PETER REYNOLDS – Sound Designer

Peter wrote the music for StrongWomen Science and Frame, and advises Circus250 on their sound. He is a multi-instrumentalist whose work spans 30 years freelance as composer, performer, lyricist, dramaturge and teacher in the fields of circus, physical theatre, dance, film, choral works and outdoor performance. He spent his primary years in Scandinavia starting the MuZircus movement. He’s worked with NFS Circus, Bath Theatre Royal, Bristol Old Vic Youth Theatre, Moon Fool Theatre, Circo Crappo and Unga Teatern (Finland), Fairground Theatre, National Theatre of Wales, Welsh National Opera, Lyric Hammersmith, National Youth Theatre of England, Yeknøm and LIT Circus (UK). Peter has a passion for experimental film, silent movies, performance art and absurdist theatre.

REBECCA TRUMAN – Costume

Becky Truman with Phenomena 98 performer Claire Balswin

Becky designed the costume for The Secret Life of a Circus Caravan and acts as Circus250 costume consultant. In 1988, she launched Skinning the Cat – Circus of the Sky, the UK’s first outdoor aerial company, producing groundbreaking narrative and character-based shows. The company toured internationally until 2012, establishing a unique style, which brought together Rebecca’s skills as a performer, costumier, rig designer and artistic director. It was an important part of the company’s identity that it was an all-woman organisation. Skinning the Cat (which takes its name from a traditional trapeze move) is, by its inclusion in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s permanent collection and in the National Circus Archive at the University of Sheffield, recognised as a forerunner of the contemporary circus movement. Rebecca has recently published Aerialist – The colourful life of a trapeze artist. She sees costumes as central to a performance. Rebecca was one of the women featured in Circus250’s Women in Circus film.

CURTIS TAPPENDEN – Artist and Consultant for Frame

Curtis live draws Frame and acts as Circus250 art consultant. He has been drawing for magazines, books, advertising and newspapers for over 30 years. He is part of the design team at Mail On Sunday London. His watercolours are frequently exhibited in galleries and shows throughout the country, and many paintings are in international collections. Curtis also lectures in Further Education and Creative Writing at the University For The Creative Arts, and visits art clubs around the country with his unconventional presentations and is a performance poet and painter. His latest project involves drawing live in Britain’s circuses. He has illustrated this season’s brochure for Zippos Circus.

TOM BARRANCE – Film Consultant

Tom creates and edits our film and video, including our Women in Circus film. He works with all kinds of organisations, from small charities and arts organisations to big companies and the NHS. He makes films, teaches people to make their own films, runs the website learnaboutfilm.com, and creates fun, interactive film education resources.

ISABEL CAFFERKEY – Young Director

Isabel, aged 11, is the Young Director of StrongWomen Science. She advises and helps create the performance through her insights as a young person and member of a rural community. She is an important member of the team.

DR JOANNA BUCKLEY – Scientific Advisor (Chemistry)

Dr Joanna Buckley with the StrongWomen at National Railway Museum, York

Dr Buckley who has made films about the science of circus and fairground food, advises StrongWomen Science on the Chemistry content. Dr Buckley studied at the University of York for an MChem with a year in industry, where she spent her final year at Smith & Nephew studying biomaterials. In 2005, she then embarked on a PhD at the University of York in materials chemistry and developed a passion for science communication. After completing her PhD, she worked for the British Science Association, promoting STEM subjects to young people before her role at the University of Sheffield as RSC Regional Coordinator. In this role, she supports, promotes and coordinates chemistry-related education activities in the North East and Yorkshire and Humber as well as working with the Schools Liaison team at the University of Sheffield, inspiring the next generation of chemists. Watch Joanna’s Chemistry of Candyfloss and other circus science food films here: Edible Experiments.

PROFESSOR VANESSA TOULMIN – Historical Advisor

Vanessa Toulmin

Professor Vanessa is Director of City & Cultural Engagement, Partnerships and Regional Engagement and Chair of Early Film and Popular Entertainment at the University of Sheffield. She founded and was the first director of the National Fairground and Circus Archive. She is recognised as the leading expert of the history of circus worldwide, and authored several books and papers.

Vanessa was one of the women featured in Circus250’s Women in Circus film.

We are pleased to work in partnership with:

LOST IN TRANSLATION CIRCUS

Lost in Translation is one of the UK’s leading contemporary circus companies based in Norwich. They blend high-level, dynamic circus skills within a character driven theatrical context and trademark warm humour. They work in theatres and tour in a big top. Circus250 works with Lost in Translation on Victoria200 Circus.

LET’S CIRCUS

Let’s Circus is a performing circus, event programmer, educational facilitator and production company based in Newcastle upon Tyne. They are the only tented circus show to tour the Highlands. Circus250 works with Let’s Circus on the development of their geology performance Rock Showman.

REBECCA TRUMAN

Circus250 is working with performer and artist Rebecca Truman on developing Life Force, Becky’s exploration of the feelings that drive artists and performers to live extreme lives, following goals which are challenging and sometimes dangerous. Becky’s work will aim to express this passion through an installation which will include sculpture, text, special effects, costume and film.