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Circability goes online to spread the joy

A Circability tutor during a class
A Circability performance
A Circability welcome
Auckland’s Circability has moved its social circus classes online by creating the Joy Market and spreading joy to families during this lockdown.


Auckland’s Circability has moved its social circus classes online by creating the Joy Market and spreading joy to families during this lockdown.

Three months into her role as General Manager at Circability, Mel Powell wasn’t sure how to run a circus online. But with 75% of its 42 weekly classes across Auckland and Northland designed for children with disabilities, she knew families would need it.

Recent evaluations with teachers from Learning Support Centres showed that disabled students and their whānau wanted to have fun with those in their bubble, Mel says.

“Our Circability tutors have showed me how they incorporate oxygen tanks, wheelchairs and medical equipment into their circus classes so everyone can participate,” she says. “That really stuck with me and I just knew we had to continue to bring joy, play and fun into families’ lives during lockdown.”

Pivoting during adversity
The Joy Market is an example of how the social sector can pivot in times of adversity. Mel recognises that being agile, creative and innovative is vital for charities to survive during COVID times.

“This is the first time we’ve done online classes,” she says. “It’s meant we’ve been able to expand our reach and also give our tutors more employment opportunities, including our tutors in Kaitaia, Kerikeri and Whangarei.”

Circability is a social circus, creating social good. “We bring joy, laughter, play and happiness to 340 people’s lives every week. We believe that ‘all ages, all abilities and all together’ is better, and so we created the Joy Market to continue to spread the joy during lockdown.”

As for creativity, Circability has that in abundance, Mel says. With all of its props locked up in Circability Central premises, tutors and students have created props from pillows, onions, socks, buckets and other household items.

Lockdown creates new opportunities
“The students had fun and a few laughs but the biggest joy came from seeing their Circability tutors again to clown around with,” Mel says.

Circability’s income has been affected by lockdown but the Joy Market has attracted new financial opportunities. In its first week, Circability has started a new online class with a primary school in West Auckland and with two new groups for disabled adults.

Circability recently received funding support from the Government through its Creative Spaces Initiative. Delivered by Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage in partnership with Arts Access Aotearoa, the Creative Spaces Initiative is supporting 54 creative spaces with funding over three years.

Mel describes the funding as a “ game-changer”, providing security and the ability to expand its reach. “It’s given us a real boost and has significantly increased our capacity to create innovative campaigns such as the Joy Market.”

Further information: 

Visit Circability’s website for information on how you can help spread joy during lockdown.

Written by

Arts Access Aotearoa

9 Sep 2021

About Arts Access Aotearoa