The Circus250 Team
DR DEA BIRKETT – Director aka Ringmaster
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
Dea’s thoughts on circus and creativity:
TONYA LENHART – Producer
Tonya is a Galway-based anthropologist turned theatre maker originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She received her BA in Sociocultural Anthropology in 2016 and her MA in Theatre Practice and Production from University Galway in 2020. Her passion for anthropology has pushed her to explore humanity through a dramatic lens and she now works as an independent theatre practitioner who has crafted skills as a performer, writer, producer, and stage manager. But recently, Tonya has decided to run away with the circus as one of Circus250’s newest producers.
SARAH – Marketing Assistant
Sarah is Circus250’s Marketing Assistant. Starting her career at a marketing agency in London as a trainee copywriter, she moved through the ranks creating digital content for clients including Microsoft and HP. She then moved in-house to an education technology non-profit, creating and managing their website and digital content strategy. In 2018 she started offering marketing services to clients as a freelancer, and has been lucky enough to work with a range of businesses in the non-profit and arts sectors, from children’s theatre companies to women’s charities.
AOIFE RALEIGH – Performer
Aoife Raleigh received her bachelor in Electronic Engineering in 2009 and Master in Sonic Arts in 2010. She has over 4 years of working experience in a variety of engineering fields.
She discovered a special interest in small scale renewable energy, working with the NGO Snulabob in Laos PDR designing and maintaining small scale power generating systems for rural villages.
After training in a number of international circus schools including the Beijing International School of Art and Escola Rogheillo Rivel Barcelona, Aoife is now an emerging circus artist.
Aoife has a passion for fusing her engineering background with circus and street performance and is currently an Associate Artist with the Creative Climate Action Crumlin Project with which she has developed “What’s Watt”, an interactive roaming performance to engage people on the value of a Watt and how much power it take to make a cup of tea.
MARIA CORCORAN – Performer
Cast of StrongWomen Science
Maria is half of StrongWomen Science 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.
SELENE MURPHY – Performer and Workshop Tutor
Selene Murphy is an artist, an entertainer and a facilitator. She learnt to perform in theatre shows and while she was studying for a degree in Architecture in Dublin, she discovered the delights of the circus! When she isn’t teaching circus skills for Dublin Circus Project or entertaining at events, she’s designing ways to teach young people about the value of good design in their communities, through STEAM workshops, creative activities and interactive events. She’ll paint your face and at the same time tell you all about the science behind a rainbow! Selene loves illustration, handcrafts and everything about the natural world (except earwigs)!
EOIN HALPIN – Environmentalist and Nature’s Secret Circus Tutor
Eoin Halpin (MIAI MCIFA) is a fully qualified tour guide with over 25 years’ experience working as a professional archaeologist in both Ireland and previously in Scotland. One of Eoin’s strengths is his ability to weave together the different academic strands, geology, geomorphology, ecology, archaeology and history; to communicate in an easily accessible way the details of the development of the beautifully complex and varied landscapes of the island of Ireland. Eoin is a full member of both the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, the representative body for professional archaeologists in the UK and Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland, for which he had the honour to have served as Chairman.
MORAG PRUNTY – Performer and Costume Designer
Cast of Am I Irish Yet?
Morag is an all round creative dynamo with broad experience in the world of fashion, contemporary culture and the arts.
She began her working life as a hairdresser in 80s London on the Kings Road and can boast the honour of having touched up Cilla Black’s roots and neutralised Martin Shaw’s (The Professionals) perm.
She fell into writing in her late teens as a storyline deviser for Disney comic books and went on from there to become editor of bestselling UK magazines including more! and Just Seventeen – highlights include launching the career of fledging pop band, Take That.
Morag moved to Ireland in her late twenties to pursue her dream of becoming a writer, but got waylaid into relaunching Irish Tatler magazine. Over the following years she honed her visual skills in conceiving, art directing and styling countless fashion shoots for both publications and commercial clients such as L’Oréal and Toni&Guy.
Morag’s dream to become a writer came true, eventually, and she became New York Times bestselling author, Kate Kerrigan. As Kate, she has published ten novels and been translated into over 20 languages.
Am I Irish Yet? is a hilarious and biting one-woman play by award-winning novelist Kate Kerrigan.
However, after years locked in her shed, writing, Morag is back indulging her love of all things sparkly and gorgeous as Circus 250’s stylist, make-up artist, set designer, glitter-sprinkler, button-sewer, fashion-policeperson, leotard-sourcer and all around glamour-advisor.
ANGELICA SANTANDER – Performer
Cast of Juanita’s Big Problem
Angelica is Ireland’s leading female clown. She was the first artistic director of the Dublin Circus Project. She is originally from Chile but has been based in Dublin since 2002. She graduated from the FETAC Technical Theatre course, Inchicore College, 2005 and completed a master’s programme in Theatre Studies, St Patrick’s college Dublin, 2009. She started clowning in 2009 and since then she has participated in the courses Clown Through Mask, and Joey and Auguste, with the renowned teacher Sue Morrison.
Her artistic work combines theatrical, circus, and clowning elements; she strives to create original work that exposes and questions the essence of our humanity in a genuine and compassionate way. Her work explores themes that are relevant to our times, using these to create challenging and inspiring performances, such as Juanita’s Big Problem, an interactive environmental show.
She believes in the transformative power of a performance, where we can see and be seen, be acknowledged, and value our humanity with all its beauty and ridiculousness.
AISLING HAHESSY – Advisor for StrongWomen Science
Aisling Hahessy is a Senior Structural Engineer in the Buildings team at Arup, based in the Cork office. She has solid technical experience and a strong track record on international projects, having worked on a number of complexbuilding and infrastructure projectsin Ireland, Canada, the UK, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Peru, as well as development projects in Rwanda, Uganda and Bangladesh.
Aisling completed a three-year assignment in Arup’s Toronto office from 2017 to 2020, where she worked on large transportation projects including stations, deep underground shafts and maintenance facilities. An advocate for promoting engineering to underrepresented groups, Aisling was a key speak at I Wish STEM showcase in 2022 and organised an ongoing Mentoring Programme for secondary school students with Business in the Community Ireland.
In 2021, Aisling was awarded Engineer of the Year by Engineers Ireland.
BEANIE SKY – Performer and Nature’s Secret Circus Tutor
Beanie (aka Bruna) is originally from Brazil, now based in Mayo. She started her circus skills at the age of 4 with a broom, after realising she was also quite flexible she started contortion and aerials. With a love for social circus and bringing circus to people who don’t easily have access to it, she has brought circus skills workshops to the west of Ireland and to refugee children living in the camps in Greece.
SUZAN ARAL – Designer
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.
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.
DR JOANNA BUCKLEY – Scientific Advisor (Chemistry)
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
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.