ContraProject

Circus Research, Production and Provocation

We are a queer, female led company committed to making, touring & supporting the development of politically engaged, interdisciplinary, & boundary pushing work in Circus.

We are passionate about contributing to critical discourse around circus practice, making performance, and producing in the UK and mainland Europe. We produce public and industry presentations, speak about our research, and teach creative workshops. We are working to develop both organisational partnerships and new models for achieving positive social change through our work.

Current Work

We are very grateful for the support of Arts Council England, National Lottery and all those who buy lottery tickets. With this support we have been able to begin to put the gaping hole of uncertainty that is 2020 to good use.

Olga Kaleta, Period Drama R&D, Four Elms April 2019

Online Publication

We want to continue the exciting conversations that touring Contra has brought up for us with artists, venues and audiences this past year and amplify the exciting dialogue stirring in the UK circus scene around creative innovation, diversity, and socially and politically conscious practice. See the call for submissions below.

Contra Rehearsal Tour Vagabonde, Switzerland January 2020

Production and Performance

We are building a hopeful tour for Contra for 2021. Laura is at the beginning of a research and development phase for a new show, which we aim to begin work on by Autumn 2020. She also recently received a home video commission from Cologne Circus-Dance Festival [online], to make Measuring Up ‘pandemic-lockdown response to Western Politics and vegetable growing’.

Södra Teatern, Stockholm, February 2020

Training and Development

Cross artform collaboration is at the core of what we do. Currently we are working with Live Artist Louise Orwin and to facilitate an online training for Circus and physical practitioners in Trauma and Autobiographical Content. Read more here.


News & Opportunities

6th July 2020

Workshop Call out #2! – Building a safe space around autobiographical content with Louise Orwin

We only had three free spaces on the incredible workshop Louise designed for ContraProject in June, but as we had so many people apply we are organising another one on 20th and 21st July, 10.30-1pm both days, again this will be via zoom.

This is a two-part workshop open to all artists, facilitators and workshop leaders. It will offer an insight into Louise’s methodologies for supporting and leading sessions centred around autobiographical writing, storytelling and devised performance. In particular, these sessions will focus on strategies for creating safe spaces, when dealing with potentially triggering or traumatic devised material, whilst still supporting participants to explore and share without censorship. 

Louise Orwin is a performance maker who works across text, performance and video, and has a substantial body of work that has toured internationally to performance spaces, galleries and festivals. Her works to date have grappled with a range of themes exploring femininity and violence, and often have a participation and research focus. Her work is preoccupied with liveness, the fe/male gaze and queer and radical feminist theory. She is an experienced workshop leader and facilitator, and has previously run workshops that explore making work around real life stories/autobiography/trauma, fighting as a way of reclaiming physical and bodily agency, practices of care when making difficult work, the politics of desire, and how to begin as an artist.

There will be a fee for this workshop (to cover Louises time) which will be £25 for those who can afford it (eg. working, furloughed or funded artists) and £12 for anyone who needs it. There is no restriction on location/nationality for this session and the one fee covers both days. 

Get in touch at contraproject.info@gmail.com to book a place.


4th June 2020

Small commissions for Circus writing and creative responses

With the support of ACE emergency fund, the team behind Laura Murphy’s Contra are starting an online publication project and are looking for submissions. 

We want to continue the exciting conversations that touring Contra has brought up for us with artists, venues and audiences this past year, and try to make wider dialogue around creative innovation, diversity, and socially and politically conscious practices in circus more visible in the UK & ROI. 

For the first issue, we want to hear the distinct creative voices of circus makers, directors, producers and programmers – talking about their perspective, artistic practice, influences and their experiences as and aspirations for audience members. We also want to hear from anyone wanting to share a response, review or reflection on a piece of circus performance. 

Submissions can be written (between 500 – 800 words) or visual and will respond to any of the following briefs: 

  • Circus Writers: Taking an experience of a performance or event as a starting point, explore your hopes for your practice and the experience of your audience. 
  • Circus Lens: A deep dive into a cultural object: reflecting on an image, text, film, event or performance from your ‘circus’ perspective, however you may define that.
  • From the audience: A response, reflection or review of a circus or highly physical performance. We encourage responses from those not working in circus. 

All visual responses need to include image description and/or subtitling, we can assist with this if needed. 

Send a short bio and a max 200 word proposal to contraproject.info@gmail.com. We can review proposals from now until the 19th June and the deadline for complete submissions will be 6th July. We will pay £50 per agreed submission, although furloughed workers may choose to contribute in kind. Applicants must be based in the UK or ROI.

Interviews will also be a big part of this issue, if you would like to talk to us or want to recommend someone please get in touch.


4th June 2020

Workshop Call out – Building a safe space around autobiographical content with Louise Orwin

June 25-26th 2020, 10.30-1pm both days

Contra Project is offering two fully funded places for a Devising & Facilitating workshop (via zoom) with artist Louise Orwin. This is a two-part workshop open to artists, facilitators and workshop leaders, who have a physical-movement practice that is integral to the work that they do.

It will offer an insight into Louise’s methodologies for supporting and leading sessions centred around autobiographical writing and devised performance. In particular, these sessions will focus on strategies for creating safe spaces, when dealing with potentially triggering or traumatic devised material, whilst still supporting participants to explore and share without censorship. 

Louise Orwin is a performance maker who works across text, performance and video, and has a substantial body of work that has toured internationally to performance spaces, galleries and festivals. Her works to date have grappled with a range of themes exploring femininity and violence, and often have a participation and research focus. Her work is preoccupied with liveness, the fe/male gaze and queer and radical feminist theory. She is an experienced workshop leader and facilitator, and has previously run workshops that explore making work around real life stories/autobiography/trauma, fighting as a way of reclaiming physical and bodily agency, practices of care when making difficult work, the politics of desire, and how to begin as an artist.

If you would like to apply for one of these places please send us an email with a few lines about your work and how this would benefit you and the work that you do. Applicants must be based in the UK. Deadline June 15th.

contraproject.info@gmail.com

Contra Project is..

Laura Murphy is a genre-defying performance maker from Bristol who makes text driven and dynamic physical work about things that she thinks need to be talked about. Her work is cross-disciplinary fusion of theatre, live art, aerial choreography, dance and verbal explosions, which integrates intimacy and spectacle. Laura’s debut solo Contra was one of the first UK projects to be supported by the European circus platform CircusNext (Jeunes Talent Cirque Europe). Over the past year, Contra has been presented 38 times in fourteen cities, over twelve countries, including two sell-out shows at Arnolfini Bristol and a run at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019, where it was shortlisted for a Total Theatre Award.

Laura is a CircusNext Laureate (2018-19) and previous Harry Ransom Centre Fellow (2017). She holds a PhD from the University of Sheffield – her doctoral research thesis Deconstructing the Spectacle: Aerial Work as Critical Practice can be found here.

Nicole A’Court-Stuart is a freelance producer and touring company manager based in Bristol, UK. Her background is in circus, visual art, activism and the sociology of theatre. She has a passion for cross art-form collaboration and her current work places an emphasis on contemporary performance at the intersection of circus, physical theatre and live art.

She produces Bristol’s biennial Circus City Festival and the internationally touring show Contra, a highly physical feminist solo by circusnext laureate Laura Murphy. With the support of Arts Council England, the pandemic has pushed her to embark on several exciting sector development projects including a remote showcasing R&D with Handstand Arts CIO and the creation of a new critical circus publication with the Contra Project.


Performance has restlessly proved its unrivaled capacity to generate new forms of relation, collaboration and community that negotiate and traverse once solid divisions.

Adrian Heathfield


Photo Ivan marenic: Contra performance @ Cirkorama, Belgrade. September 2019.