The Circus performers and the factory

The property: A former factory site The weekly fee: £21.50

The former factory sits on a 10 acre site in a suburb on the outskirts of Bristol. Once eight factory buildings occupied the site but the rest were cleared some time back and the site has reverted back to nature with Budleia taking hold and wildlife including bats, badgers and birds all moving in.

The remaining factory is one of the more unusual in Camelot’s portfolio. In this case the guardians have brought their own accommodation in the form of circus vans. These are parked up next to the factory, which acts as their practice performance space and equipment store.

For performers Chris and Darryl it is the perfect solution. They need to have a safe secure place to park up their wagons when not on the road and the factory inside is not unlike a sport hall with its high roof and plenty of light. Perfect for practising routines.

Thirty six year old Chris lives in a beautiful blue showman’s wagon when not travelling in the UK and abroad. He’s just done a stint in Australia for a month.

Chris has travelled widely and initially used his juggling and street performance skills to finance his travels. But then he met a tightrope walker, learnt the art and was hooked. He trained with several masters of the art in Brazil and elsewhere before returning to the UK to work with travelling circuses as The Bullzini family.

“You need to keep practising with the tightrope,” said Chris. ”I needed a space where I could hone my act and develop new routines. The factory is perfect. I’d spied it out even before I heard of Camelot. I’ve been a guardian here for three years now and I’ve got the set up just how I want it with a permanent wire and mats set up.

“It works really well for me. The lower costs on the lease are great and the practise and storage space is perfect. I have quite a lot of equipment for the show so having a dry secure space to store it is ideal. I also like the fact that the whole site is securely gated off.

“It does have its downsides. The factory can be cold in winter as it doesn’t have heating and it would be nice to have some land to be able to grow vegetables. We also can’t invite lots of people over. It would be great to have 20 or 30 friends come over in summer as you would if it was your home but Camelot are very strict on the no parties. I can understand, that neither they nor the property owner want warehouse raves.”

While Chris practises the high and low wire Darryl is working on his trapeze and juggling routine.

Darryl, 31, is the all round performer - juggler, acrobat, magician, trapeze artist and comedian. And it’s a far cry from his original training as a tree surgeon.

He says: “I learnt to juggle while at college. I went travelling after my studies and used the skills to help fund my journeys across India and beyond. When I came back to the UK I realised I wanted to perform full time and signed up with Circomedia in Bristol to study. 

“I’ve been a full time professional performer now for five years. I’ve worked with NoFit State one of the largest contemporary circuses in the UK. I also did the Batman Live world arena tour, which went to 22 countries and packed out venue such as the O2.

Darryl lives “off grid” in his 7.5 tonne converted horsebox just accessing a water supply from the factory.

“I was living in my wagon in Glastonbury when I heard about this place. My main attraction initially was it seemed a cheap place to park up and the practice space was a bonus. But now I’ve got it all set up I love it.

Darryl has a circular trapeze rig set up where he can practise his fixed trapeze routine with co-performer Gemma.

“We worked really closely with Camelot to make sure our practise space was safe and secure. The lower costs mean I have the ability to choose which work and performances I do. I don’t have to take every offer just to make ends meet. That frees up time to practise the act, be more creative and develop new opportunities.

“I’m very busy with UK work at the moment so having a permanent base is ideal. I can cycle into central Bristol in 20 minutes, which is great when I perform on the Bristol comedy circuit. But I’m also on the edge of the countryside here. It's a short walk to the woods or out to the Bristol to Bath cyclepath.

So what do the local people feel about having the performers on their doorstep?

“Initially local people were a bit worried. They saw the wagons move in and I think they thought we were travellers camping on the site illegally. But we’ve made real efforts to get to know people by doing work with local schools and meeting the local traders. That reassured people and we feel like part of the community now.”

Link to video of Darryl performing and to his website