Henri Kangas and Batist Van Baekel (Jam Shenanigans) will bring their playful contemporary circus show for families to London’s Jacksons Lane at the end of February. We asked Henri a few questions about his work and the mentoring programme he is currently taking part in.
The Finnish Institute partnered up with Circus & Dance Info Finland in 2023 and piloted a mentoring programme as part of the Performing HEL showcase that took place in Helsinki last August. Artists selected for the showcase could apply for the mentoring programme. We selected two artists, Henri Kangas who was paired with Adrian Berry, artistic director of Jacksons Lane Theatre and Maija Nurmio who is mentored by Reece McMahon, director of Chisenhale Dance Space.
Henri Kangas, a circus artist from Tampere, fell in love with circus as a child and started his career at Sorin Sirkus, a circus school in Tampere. After high school, the path led him to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where he graduated from Codarts Hogeschool voor de Kunsten with a Bachelor of Arts in Circus Arts in 2021. After graduation, Kangas, together with his Belgian colleague Batist Van Baekel, decided to set up an association with the aim of creating circus shows for audiences of all ages.
What made you apply for the mentoring programme?
I applied for the mentoring programme because I am interested in growing my network in the arts and because it can open doors to new networks. As I currently work mainly in English, the UK feels very familiar, even though it was a foreign country to me geographically. It takes a lot of time to build new networks and mentoring could help me speed up the process. I knew that my mentor, Adrian Berry, is well established on the UK scene and I was convinced that he could introduce me to many new people and different organisations. Moreover, we had already agreed that our show Shenanigans would be performed at Jacksons Lane.
It has been a few months since the mentoring programme started. What kind of impact has your participation had on your professional development?
Adrian has introduced me to a few new actors, through whom I have made new contacts. It has also given me a better understanding of how the art scene works in the UK. I feel that after just a few months I have broadened my view of the British art scene. I have realised that it is very important to know how things work in different countries. Through Adrian, I have gained a lot of information and tips on approaching different places in the UK. This has enabled faster and smoother communication. I currently work a lot in Belgium, where the art scene is very different.
What has been the best thing about participating in the mentoring programme?
Working with Adrian has been very smooth and easy, as we have been in contact before. It has been extremely helpful that Adrian himself has worked for a long time in the performing arts, specifically circus. He has a good understanding of the needs and challenges of this particular form of art and has been very good at pointing me in the right direction, especially in the UK.
How has it been working with a mentor?
We met for the first time in person in Helsinki. During that meeting, we set the objectives for the mentoring programme and discussed the timing of the Shenanigans performance at Jacksons Lane. We went through my own goals and discussed how Adrian could help me achieve them. We have since had discussions both by email and by phone. We have shared contacts with Adrian, and he has helped me to reach out to people I then have invited to see the performance. During our upcoming trip to London, we will have meetings and see a few shows.
What are your plans after the mentoring programme?
I hope that after the mentoring programme, I will be better equipped to approach British partners. Together with my Belgian colleague Batist Van Baekel and our Shenanigans show, I would like to tour the UK in as many cities as possible. I hope that the mentoring programme will help us to create a tour that is logistically reasonable. As an association, we always try to perform many times and in many different places, rather than doing one-off shows.
Shenanigans at Jacksons Lane (269a Archway Road, London N6 5AA) on Sunday 25 February, 11am and 2pm. Tickets £12. Please visit Jacksons Lane’s website for more info and tickets, and to watch the trailer of the performance.
Interview: Annika Pellonpää, photo: Wieba Photography