Soggy Circus in the South
The Sandflies at the WA Circus Festival

Posted by Meredith Benke Bell

Rachel and Hayley work with others on rainwater management. Photo by Clancy McDowell

Karridale participants start baling water at the barricade to stop the floods getting inside. Photo by Clancy McDowell

Well, it’s not often that anything can diminish the beauty of Kimberley rains. However, returning home this year to tropical downpours after 10 wet January days in Karridale wasn’t quite the same. Many of you would know that I organized a group of Sandflies to train, perform and soak up the delights of the WA Circus Festival and festival training week, but you may not know how the weather treated us.

We were flooded! A highly unlikely summer weather event not only came to Karridale, but it came when dozens of trainers and a multitude of circus enthusiasts from all over Australia (and beyond) came to a tent-studded paddock to eat, drink and breathe circus.

The rains and the wind were pretty incredible. When the deluge wasn’t sending shallow rivers through the Circus Festival bar, (which is where you eat, drink, lounge and watch nightly cabarets), there was a constant mist in the air. For days our clothes were always damp if not soaking. We had some really amazing circus parents on site (you know who you are, and may you be eternally blessed!), who drove our muddy, soggy clothes to Augusta or Margaret River to wash them, dry them, and then hours later return them to us all in neatly folded stacks. One gem of a mum even gave me the gift of some locally made soap. I needed it!

Well, despite the madness, we all made the most of a disruptive situation. I learned what a resilient crew circus people are. They’re used to last minute interruptions, to life intrusions, to the need to apply a creative solution to an irritating problem. During the largest deluge, a large group of people stripped down to undies (I mean who had extra jumpers to waste, anyway?), and banded together to dig a trench around the bar and bale large volumes of water out of our only roofed place of refuge. (You probably saw the photos on Facebook.)

People were certainly feeling the ache of loss and disruption: their tents had blown down, electronic devices were lost, and there were many missed opportunities to train and rehearse. And what incredible weariness there was from having to work so hard in training, but not having a dry night’s sleep, or even an uninterrupted sleep. I counted 5 different sleeping arrangements that I slept in over the first 5 nights due to being rained upon, blown down or flooded each night. But on the whole, people took it in their stride, and they digested the discomfort. They found the humour that was in it, and we all shared their jokes.

And of course, by the time the festival opened and the punters came thru the gates to share in the talent and the excitement of Karridale, the sun shone like nothing at all had happened, and of course the show went on. That is, ALL of the shows went on – we just had to be ready and get on with it. And we did.

As usual, our kids learned heaps. They met trainers from Margaret River, from New York City, from the UK, and from Sweden. They did a great show – an adaptation of “Total Rebuild” that Anni Davey worked with us on here in Broome. And we were delighted to have Anni in Karridale – to give us a bit of added support. Then, after all that hard work, we were all able to relax and enjoy all kinds of circus shows under beaming southern sun by day, and under a chilly full moon by night.

I would like to thank the following for their amazing commitment and support to our trip to the WA Circus Festival:

The WA Department for Culture and the Arts for Artflight support, the Broome Pistol Club, Gwen Knox, Nel Simpson (for rigging and aerial support and for being such a solid sounding board), Felix (for sharing his mum!), Anni, all the fantastic Sandfly parents who helped their kids prepare for this effort, especially those who supported us on the journey: Katie Pigram, Clancy McDowell, Adam Vincent, Julie and John Sawyer, Ashley Eastwood and Phil Thompson, Mira Holzmann, Nerrie Tucker. Thanks also to babysitting whizzes Grace Strain and Luna Lippert! And a special thank you also to our amazing TK costumers Tracey Lowe and Lesley Marsh, to Chris Hill for props, and Jackie Uhd for photos and video. Special thanks also go to Paul Bell for freight help, photography and fantastic help all around. And if I have forgotten anyone, please attribute it to my lack of medium term memory, and not your lack of support!

Categories AAA Publish, Sandfly Circus