Circus artist Sakari Männistö from Agit-Cirk produces Birch Festival, a new mixed arts festival with both a local and international reach. Birch will take place in London in the beginning of October. It is organised with the local community and St. Mary’s Secret Garden in Hoxton. In this interview Männistö shares his thoughts about Birch and circus art.
How did you come up with the idea for Birch?
“We worked together with St. Mary’s Secret Garden already in 2018. The cooperation was so nice and successful that we decided to do something together again. Mixed arts festival Birch came naturally to Agit-Cirk because the group’s ethos has always been doing and seeing things in a new way. London is a relatively big place but Birch Festival is small and aims at being easily accessible to the local area. Birch isn’t aiming at big audiences or brand creation which differs from many other festivals.
I come from a small village. I got interested in performing arts by seeing performers that came to our school to perform. I was blown away by those performances. The main point was that the performances were brought to us without asking. As kids we would have probably said that we’re not that interested and we’d rather play football. The fascination towards taking performances to a smaller place where they are not usually taken comes from there. From the beginning we have taken performances to small places in Lapland and Finland with Agit-Cirk. There is a lot of silent demand for these performances.”
Finnish circus is currently very popular, especially in Britain. What do you think is the reason for that?
“There are certain people in Britain that are fans of Finland and they happen to have resources. It’s good to note that Finnish circus is recognised internationally, not only in Britain. Finnish contemporary circus has been a forerunner compared to many other countries. It is pretty peculiar, open-minded and ambitious. People are talented because we have remarkable circus schools for children. Professionals aren’t necessarily coming from theatre background but particularly from circus and circus culture because we have this pathway.”
Why should people visit Birch?
“Birch offers surprises to both the audience and performers. People should spend the whole day there with the thought that they are ready to just be, receive, give and meet new people. In Birch surprising things are happening in a normal environment.”
What kinds of reactions are you hoping from the audience?
“The kind of feeling that ‘I have never seen this before but it’s actually really good’. I hope that performers have the same kind of feeling. People are often afraid for the unknown for no reason. It’s actually quite fascinating and positive when you don’t really understand what’s going on. A certain uncertainty helps create new connections.”
Birch Festival, St. Mary’s Secret Garden, 50 Pearson St, London E2 8EL, https://www.agitcirk.com/, 4 October, 2:30–7:30pm, free admission
Text: Kaisa Paavola Photo: Photography By ASH