Annabelle Holland is a circus, street theatre and cabaret performer as well as a producer and director. She programmes, curates and performs at Shambala’s venue The Social Club.
When I was a child my grandfather had a friend in Cottle’s Circus. Every time we went there I wished it could last forever: when it was time to leave I would cry and ask to stay. I dreamed of being part of it; the amazing people, smells, colour, sweat, hard work and family. As time went by we lost touch with him but I still begged to go to the circus.
As an adult my life didn’t quite go in that direction. I finished my degree in Business and decided that I didn’t want to go and work in a merchant bank like my friends. I started working in arts admin and this eventually led to becoming part of a circus company myself. I began performing with fire, amongst other things, and became an aerialist – hanging off cranes and on ropes and trapezes. All this came through hard work, luck, injuries, poverty, immense amounts of fun, camaraderie and amazing adventures.
One day I was walking along my street and realised that dreams can come true – my 4-year-old self had won after all. I feel extremely lucky to have found what I love. I am the first performing female knife thrower in the UK, I have my own street and circus company, I get to programme my favourite acts and I’m lucky enough to travel the world in the process. I will never be financially rich, but I feel rich in life. I’ve hung off cranes over the docks in Bristol with thousands of people watching, I’ve performed in the West End, and in many countries.
I believe that anything is possible if you want it enough and are prepared to work hard. Be true to your dreams and you will be rich in life and experience.
I try and bring this ethos into my programming. I want the audience to feel like they are, or can be, part of it all – and that anything is possible. We perform a lot of our shows in the round with the audience so close they can nearly touch the performers.
Without an audience the performer is nothing. Shambalans are the best audiences of all. People arrive to a show with open minds and are excited about what they are about to see. They are willing to lose themselves in the silly and wondrous worlds we create on stage. As a performer you don’t get more perfect than that.
Many of the things you see in The Social Club are the result of people trying and failing until they have honed their skills. These things don’t come easily, even though they appear easy on stage. Making most shows involves blisters, bruised egos and confidence knocks; but we get back up and try again. We show you, in the moment, the best bits and hope you enjoy them. It’s a personal exchange, and that’s what makes it so special. Each show is unique, each mistake and triumph pure – we share that together.
Thank you for being so special, Shambalans.