Cirk Hes, the Cornish charity bringing young performers to Glastonbury Festival

Photo: Charles Gervais, Both Hemispheres Photography.

Cirk Hes, which means ‘shoal circus’ in Cornish, is a charity that uses Circus Arts and Physical Theatre to bring physical, mental and social to local communities. Previously known as ‘Cirque du Ciel,’ they’ve served the Cornish community since 2003 and have been a regular feature in Glastonbury Festival Circus Big Top and on the Outside Circus Stage.

One of this year’s younger performers is 14-year-old Edith who is part of the Cirk Hes contingent making its way to Glastonbury Festival this week for a series of performances across the weekend in the Theatre & Circus fields. “I am very excited to be performing at Glastonbury this year as it is my first time… ⁠I am doing a six-minute solo and a group act,” she says of the shows, adding, “We have been working very hard on them.”

Edith “got into live performance by going to circus classes at Cirk Hes in Devoran” and, despite the potential for the experience to be daunting, she is relaxed about the prospect of performing at the festival despite the pressure.

“I’ve never performed at such a big festival like this before but we have all been training really hard and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.  Compared to the smaller shows I’ve been doing it feels like there’s a lot more pressure but I am a lot more excited for the show.”

Rosenwyn started doing circus at just 6 years old before starting live performances at 11. “It’s been a roller-coaster ride of fun, adventures and challenges since then,” she says. “I started off at local student showcases for aerial students then my circus group had an incredible opportunity to perform at Glastonbury in 2022. We went again in 2023 and it was even better and even more fun!”

She’s looking forward to coming back to the festival for the third year in a row with Cirk Hes. “I can’t wait to perform at Glastonbury again this year! The atmosphere of the circus field is so friendly and exciting. I don’t get as nervous as I used to which means I can enjoy the environment so much more.”

Currently undertaking her GCSEs, Rosenwyn says returning to the Theatre & Circus fields will be “the best antidote to exams ever!” While much of her brain power has been dedicated to revision, she’s been given her act plenty of thought ahead of this year’s performances.

“My solo act is based around The Moon and the mystical beauty and peace of night-time. Our group act is mostly about the sea and beach, it’s quite a broad theme as that always seems to work better for our group.”

She takes a specific approach to developing her act, beginning with the soundtrack. “I always start by picking music and then my act can flow out from there. I use a very scientific approach to picking different themes and work out exactly which moves work well to particular parts of the music I have picked. Then I have to practice my routine a lot so that I know it inside out and don’t have to worry about remembering anything while I’m supposed to be engaging my audience.”

The key, though, is enjoying the performance. “When I’m actually performing, I try to just have fun. If I worry too much about what exactly I’m doing then it’s not doing the job of entertaining the audience.”

She’s hoping to draw inspiration from the other acts who’ll be performing in the Circus Big Top. “I hope to see plenty of other acts…I always get so many ideas from the other super-talented performers.”

Photo: Charles Gervais, Both Hemispheres Photography

Also back at the festival for the third year in a row is Malia. She started artistic gymnastics at just three years old and has seen much success since then. “I represented my county and was successful in many competitions,” she says. “I have performed in many stage theatre shows including performing with the RSC. I started Cirk Hes in 2021 and performed all over Cornwall, making my Glastonbury debut aged just 14 in the Circus Big Top.”

She says being back is “an honour and super exciting,” but like Rosenwyn she’s had exams to contend with and it’s been “stressful managing everything around my GCSE finals.”

Malia is involved in two shows at this year’s festival. “[There’s] a group piece with aerial umbrellas and cube, as well as ground-based acro and tumble showing a happy day at the beach and the strength of the sea.”

“I am also involved in a duet about the happy nature of a sleepover displayed through partner acro and the classic activities of a teenage sleepover which then, suddenly, is contrasted by solo aerial routines in the form of nightmares when the two fall asleep.”

Teamwork has been key in developing the shows. “We work collectively as a team sharing ideas and thoughts before trialing and testing them together to form routines with specialised props and costumes. We support each other through all the processes by making sure we are all comfortable and all understand. Then it’s just practice, practice, practice!”

When it comes to other acts across the weekend she plans “to see as much as possible” she says. “From my friends and fellow circus and theatre performers to some of the big main acts and events across the site. Exploring all of the surprises we come across.”

Members of Cirk Hes perform at Glastonbury Festival 2024, running from 26 to 30 June