Circus has a long tradition in Ireland, incorporating classical or traditional circus and contemporary circus. Both strands are valued artistically, with classical circus having a long working history in Ireland, while contemporary circus practice is relatively new. The Arts Act 2003 cites circus as one of nine art forms. As an art form, circus attracts high audience numbers each year including many rural audiences and members of new communities.
The live events sector has been impacted by Covid-19. I know there were some drive-in circuses last year, which shows once again the innovation of the arts sector. Government support for circus as an art form is channelled through the Arts Council. While there are enterprise supports available for businesses and individuals impacted by Covid-19, these are matters for my colleague, the Tánaiste, in his role as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, as are the criteria for their eligibility.
Primary support for the arts, including circus, is delivered through the Arts Council which is a statutory agency under the Arts Act 2003. Funding for the Arts Council has increased steadily in recent years, reaching a record level of €130 million this year. It is important for me to point out that under the Arts Act 2003, the Arts Council is independent in its funding decisions.
The strategic context for the council's support of circus and all other art forms is set out in Making Great Art Work: Arts Council Strategy 2016-2025. The Arts Council supports both strands of circus and, through direct support and strategic intervention, engages with the sector to assist individuals and organisations to develop high-quality performance and participatory work.
Circus is supported by the Arts Council by way of grants under a range of categories including bursary, strategic funding, project awards and touring and dissemination awards. There were very significant increases in supports provided for the circus in 2020 and 2021, with over €2.2 million allocated to circus, street arts and spectacle in 2021. The council makes awards to circus organisations and to individual circus artists.
In 2020, many circus artists also qualified for the council’s Covid-19 crisis response award. Details of all grants are available on the Arts Council’s website.