TEST residency: Circus announcement

Lancaster Arts is delighted to announce that our TEST residency: On Circus (formerly the Nuffield Residency) has been awarded to circus, magic and live artist Tom Cassani.  This residency is specifically directed at artists or collectives who include contemporary circus in their practice, with the wider aim of supporting the development of the sector in the North.  

The residency will enable Tom to test new ideas, supported by contemporary circus mentor, Flick Ferdinando, and will include technical dramaturgy, producer support and an opportunity to engage with the full Lancaster Arts team as well as  academics the University.   

From the 6 – 13 September Tom will be working with us to expand and interrogate the form of the circus sideshow.  On 13 September Tom will be presenting some of the outcomes of his residency. If you’d like to attend, please contact catherine@lancasterarts.org  


What is Tom testing?   

Tom says: 

“This residency will afford me the opportunity to explore circus sideshow in new forms outside of cabaret gigs or a variety show context where often the experimental nature of this artistic exploration isn’t really possible.”  

Tom’s research aims to expand the form in which circus-sideshow acts are performed, taking them into new frameworks, recontextualising them and stripping them back. Many circus sideshow acts have their origins in ritual and magical practices, either as demonstrations of faith or as worship ceremonies. Tom’s approach to training and performing circus-sideshow acts is to re-engage with the ritualistic elements of many of these acts by presenting them in Live Art contexts. In this way his residency connects to the current Lancaster Arts theme of ritual. 

Through the medium of a performance art lecture, Tom would like to examine the internal choreography of sword swallowing as well as the ritualistic origins and training it entails. He will also explore the collision of elements of magic (such as levitation) and sideshow (sword swallowing) creating and investigating new territory through the meeting points of these fields.   

Flick Ferdinando, residency mentor says:  

“I am interested to work with Tom to see where his enquiry into Live Art and circus will venture. I hope to enable Tom to look deeper into his investigation and help him to create a clear path forward for his work to develop beyond the residency.” 

Tom says: 

“I often work alone so will greatly benefit from mentoring and external input of a contemporary circus practitioner.  I’m looking forward to connecting with the Lancaster Arts team and learning from the research taking place at the university. Being present in Lancaster for the week will be a great opportunity to have conversations, explore new research avenues and share my practice.” 


About Tom 

Tom Cassani is a performance maker working in theatre, cabaret, Live Art and circus. His ongoing artistic exploration draws on an expanded approach to magic. He uses strategies of Live Art, techniques of circus-sideshow and methods of illusion to create almost impossible images. Using his body as a site of deception Tom hangs from his hair, swallows swords, crawls through broken glass and performs almost-miracles with everyday objects. Tom also works internationally as a consultant and dramaturg specialising in inter-disciplinary deceptive practices. 

About Flick Ferdinando, mentor 

Flick has been working in the alternative arts industry for thirty years as performer and director. Mainly working in the circus and physical theatre sector, which has included puppetry directing and large ensemble pieces with university level students. In recent years she has moved increasingly toward the natural world in her thinking and work.  

Posted on 6th Sep, 2023