News & Reviews

Sydney, Australia - 702 ABC; Circus Oz: Go behind the scenes to see the challenges of erecting a 1,300-person tent

17th December 2015


When Circus Oz rolls into Sydney, it brings with it movement and colour, but also some challenges.

Like putting up the big top; a structure large enough to fit 1,300 audience members as well as a 12-metre circus ring.

Tim Coldwell is the founder of Circus Oz and the man responsible for designing the special canvas tent.

He is also one of the many crew members that have sweated it out this week to erect the tent ahead of their 'But Wait ... There's More' show at the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park.

Mr Coldwell said everyone in the Circus Oz family was expected to pitch in because putting up a circus tent was not something just anyone could do.

"There aren't a million people who know how to do it; it's an arcane set of skills," he said.
"It's big and there's a bit of grunt work in it, but if you know what you're doing it's not too bad."

Circus Oz only tours with the tent a few times each year, so having a team of people who know how to wrangle the various parts is vital.

One of them is Beverly Parker — a forklift operator and front of house manager who joined the circus after seeing the troupe perform in England and falling in love with their double bass player.

She has been a part of Circus Oz now for 15 years.

She said being a part of the troupe meant wearing many hats.

"In Circus Oz multitasking is across the board — in the office and out here in the field, as well as the performers," she said.

"You do get a great sense of family and camaraderie from the circus; it's fun, but it is hard work."

And the work does not stop once the tent is erected.

The bare bones need to be transformed into a lavish performance space complete with stadium seating, air conditioning, lighting and trapeze rigs.

When the job is completed, even those responsible are impressed.

"Sometimes even we stand back and say, 'crikey, we've just done that in two-and-a-half weeks'," Ms Parker said.

After so many years working in the circus industry, Mr Coldwell said he found it difficult to articulate what motivated him to keep the show on the road.

"You've got sawdust in your blood, or sawdust in your soul, or maybe even sawdust in your brain," he said of those that join the circus.

"People have an idea of a circus in their head and we're just out here trying to feed it and keep it alive."

ABC 702
Corey Hague

Photographer: Corey Hague


Sydney, Australia - 702 ABC; Circus Oz: Go behind the scenes to see the challenges of erecting a 1,300-person tent -