Amelie Bal, France

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"I think it’s such a shame that in a town where so many buildings are unused, that there is such a struggle for artists to find space to share, create, store, imagine, be warm and dream."

My Origins

“I am French, from Brittany. I trained as a language teacher in France and in England. After years of gymnastics, I discovered circus when I was an English teacher in the Canary Islands. Then I moved to Ireland in 2004 to teach French in the University of Limerick. I kept doing circus and training in Limerick and decided to do a bit of fire spinning in the streets the first time I went to visit Galway. On that night, I met the person that was to become my work and life partner, Aidan Phelan. He was very well connected with the circus people in Ireland and a fire dancer himself. We started hanging out together and organising events and meetings all over Ireland, connecting with other European performers for skills shares and impromptu performances. In 2006, a whole bunch of us circus people moved in together in Galway and participated in lots of events like the European Juggling Convention in Cork in 2006 (a gathering of over 3000 jugglers from all over Europe) and Project 06.

“The years went by in Galway and I slowly made more connections with people in the arts and developed my skills, started working for MACNAS and Arcana, and started cooperating with the Galway Community Circus.

“In 2009, I had a baby and myself and Aidan started our own street performance company called Realta. It is now the leading stilt-performance street arts company in Ireland. I kept working with many other Irish companies, particularly Luxe, a Derry-based company, and many others. I also took a very active role in expanding the types of classes that the Galway Community Circus was offering to their members.

“Today, Realta is very well known and well respected in our sector. We have produced numerous shows and walk-abouts and perform all over Ireland and in France. I am also the Youth Circus and Early Years coordinator of the Galway Community Circus (GCC). I direct many shows and plan most of the programs, especially the social circus programs.

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Connecting with My Origins

“Most of the people I met, I met through circus. Luckily, it’s a very energetic sector where people move a lot. There are many European people involved in circus. Doing street shows, you also meet a lot of people. Then you pick the ones you gel with. I don’t feel like I am part of a big French community, but more that I am part of a big international and Irish community of circus and arts people.

“There is a small group of my friends from France and Belgium and we meet sometimes to share French food when one comes back from a visit to France or Belgium, and we also meet to watch old stupid French or Belgium comedies that no English speaker would understand. Since my child is of talking age, I also make the effort to meet up with French people that have children so that my daughter has the opportunity to practice the language.

Being At Home

“Galway is full of people from all over the world like many ports are. In my classes and in my daughter’s school, I see so many children with two or three nationalities – small children that speak two, three, or four languages. It is so well mixed and so easy to meet people and make friends in Galway, you just have to walk up Shop Street on a sunny day to know half the population. It seems to me that it’s a special Galway thing.

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Intercultural Exchange

“I can really see it in my classes in the circus. It seems that the majority of children that come have parents from different countries and speak more languages than English and Irish.

Being ‘European’

“I feel part of a bigger picture. In the circus, most of the working team is European. I benefited a lot from the European schemes to go travel, learn and share my expertise all over Europe. The GCC is well connected with European networks, as is Realta, through advocacy organisations like ISACS (Irish Street Arts Circus and Spectacle networks).

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Creating a Better Galway

“I would like to see all the properties, hotels, supermarkets, warehouses that are slowly crumbling down to the ground be given to artists and social urban projects. I think it’s such a shame that in a town where so many buildings are unused, that there is such a struggle for artists to find space to share, create, store, imagine, be warm and dream.”