Circability: building a strong organisation


Collage of Circability images Photos: Red PhotographyCircability: building a strong organisation

16 December 2019
“Over the past couple of years, Circability has expanded its programmes, collaborations and engagement throughout Auckland and Northland,” says Jenny Hutchings, Creative Spaces Advisor at Arts Access Aotearoa. “It’s achieved this through the vision, leadership, courage and hard work of its director.”

Circability celebrates difference by providing circus arts classes, community events and workshops for all ages and abilities across the Auckland region and Northland. It uses circus as a tool for developing personal confidence and physical literacy, for connecting people and sharing joy. 

Just one sign that the Auckland community circus is flourishing is the fact that it got a $35,763 grant from Creative New Zealand towards curating, developing and presenting a Youth Circus Festival in 2020.

Its Director Thomas Hinz has more than 30 years' experience delivering social circus in both Germany and New Zealand. Thomas talks to Antoinette Spicer at Arts Access Aotearoa about rebuilding Circability.

1. How did you go about building a strong organisation?

We rebuilt Circability by:

  • working out a clear picture of who we are as an organisation, the core business focus of our organisation and what we are most passionate about
  • figuring out what roles are needed, who can do these roles best, and what their clear responsibilities are. This especially applies to me as the leader on the management side.
  • learning where and how to delegate responsibilities in a small team. In the past, we worked too much by ourselves and did not delegate roles and responsibilities enough.
  • forming an advisory panel to support our organisation at a board and management level.

2. What are three things in 2019 that you are particularly proud of? 

  • We have contracted the first circus tutor to our team from our group that works with people with disabilities. Over the past six months, we have worked with Morgaina, a young woman in a wheelchair, to train and transition into this paid position. In the past, she has participated in our Circability performances.
  • We reconnected with the Northland sector and Circus Kumarani. When I first moved to New Zealand from Germany, we set up Circus Kumarani in Dargaville and developed the Northland Circus Network. However, in the past ten years my focus has been on Auckland. This year, the Ministry of Youth Development asked us to provide our service in Northland as well as in Auckland. We are now providing this service, which was an important challenge and step to future developments. I am very proud that we are reconnecting with the Northland sector.
  • Celebrate Together - Kanohi Kitea event was held on 3 December, the UN International Day for Persons with Disabilities. This event brought together a wide range of people and organisations working in our sector here in Auckland. Normally, the organisations in our sector struggle along by themselves, dealing with a lack of funding and other challenges. I noticed we were missing the need to celebrate together, acknowledge each other’s achievements and proudly show them to the wider public.  

3. Was there a moment or specific time when you decided things had to change?

Yes. At the beginning of 2018, we were in a situation where everyone was telling us what amazing work we were doing. However, some staff members were burned out and had left. And as always, our financial situation was relying on a small amount of funding that was not very secure.

I realised this had to change, so we regrouped and brainstormed to figure out who we were and find that drive again.

Now, in 2019 we are step by step building our team, goals and partnerships with a focus on sustainability.                                           

4. Where do you see Circability in three years’ time?

Right now, there is a real emphasis on applied circus, which is about the social outcomes of our work. We are very focused on social inclusion, mental health and community wellbeing.

In the future, I would like to balance this with artistic outcomes with more focus on the artistic side of our work. In three years, we would like to be working at a national level, contributing to national development and building partnerships across the country.

Circability: building a strong organisation


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