Their stunning, larger-than-life theatrical circus performances are renowned the world over and they have even worked with Beyonce and Take That – however, very few people in their home countries know about the Cornish company Incandescence.
What started as a dream for a little girl from Sennen after seeing a trapeze artist at Cornish Flambards theme park has grown into a hugely successful business that brings hundreds of thousands of pounds into the Cornish economy – although it does has never organized shows in its own territory.
Incandescence’s productions skillfully blend world-class circus performances with beautiful dance choreography, memorable theater characters and stunning costumes to eclectic and diverse sheet music, creating unique performances.
I saw, reviewed and was blown away by Incandescence’s first marquee show in Penzance in 2004, but they have been so successful overseas since then that another Cornish show has never been possible , which is a great shame because it’s the kind of breathtaking show that redefines the word ‘circus’. And it’s a local talent we should cry out about.
The company has been producing and touring circus productions nationally and internationally for 19 years in over 50 different countries around the world from its family headquarters located in the Trewellard Industrial Estate in Pendeen, near Penzance.
Highlights include creating a site-specific show in a Thai jungle, a crane show in Egypt for Beyonce’s I Am… tour, a personalized show on a lighthouse at sea and being the first company to dare to visit 34 people and two tons of freight through Bolivia.
Incandescence founder Satya Lapham said: “It was an epic adventure. We performed in front of over 27,000 Bolivians, held workshops and free performances in local orphanages and were able to perform in La Paz, one of the most beautiful mountain towns in the world. Which at this altitude created a whole host of issues with altitude sickness and the need to have oxygen masks on the side of the stage for performers – this is certainly not a normal tour .
Satya described how a childhood dream came true for a girl raised in a Sennen council estate.
“My mother was a science teacher and my father had been a mountain and climbing guide. So my earliest childhood memories hung from the ropes on the cliffs of Land’s End. When I was nine, I saw my first aerial artist perform on a trapeze at Flambards theme park. I was fascinated and wrote to the circus to ask if I could join the theme. I never heard back… so I guess that was the start of my dream of being a flying trapeze artist.
Satya started and developed a community performance group called Pyromaniacs when she was just 15 with the help of her mother and best friend Ben Smith.
“The group had a team of 15 local people and we created fire and pyro shows which we presented at Glastonbury, T in the Park, Run to the Sun, Surfers Against Sewage’s Ball and Golowan.”
The team has grown to include Rosudgeon’s Bindle Jones, Liam Norris, a boy from Newlyn who has now become a very successful photographer in London, London artist Laura Buzzard and Fleur Davison, Satya’s sister-in-law who directs now the company with it from the industrial area of Trewellard.
The troupe moved from Cornwall to Bristol to train because, as Satya says, “back then, if you weren’t born into a circus family, it wasn’t very easy to become a trapeze artist and there were only a few circus training spaces in the country. all the countries”.
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In early 2002, they all returned to Cornwall and, with the support of the Sennen community, established a circus training space in the local community center. Their first big break came when Incandescence, as the company was now called, was awarded a contract to produce two 90-minute circus / theater shows for Bahrain’s first-ever arts festival.
“We were now a real little circus, my mom did her whole job and we joined our happy little group, we hired other artists and we embarked on our very first tour this summer in the Middle East,” Satya added.
They completed an eight-week sold-out race and made a name for themselves in the Middle East where they have since secured numerous tours and commissions for top performances, as they have also done in the Far East.
They reinvested the money they earned from their international shows into training, equipment, costumes and marketing in Cornwall.
Satya said: “In 2004, we were commissioned by the government of Qatar to produce Cirque Elemental. As a company, we then tried to self-finance a tent race in Penzance during the summer. It was successful but it broke us all. It is extremely difficult in the UK to produce and tour shows without funding from the Arts Council. As a company, we were unsuccessful in securing funding and decided that the work and time spent on applications was better spent securing show orders from festivals and foreign governments.
“We have developed the company without any government funding, which for a British arts society is a huge task. The downside is that we haven’t found a way to do shows in our own county or in the UK yet.
The company, which produced a section of the show on Take That and Robbie Williams’ Progress Tour, ensures that all of its suppliers, designers and creative team are based in Cornwall – “a wealth of talent, which we use and have been maintaining for 20 years and seeing as one of the strongest assets of the business, ”added Satya.
“We support the Big Dance Company in Penzance, by attending their annual showcase. This created contracts for Cornish dancers, including company shows, pop concerts and international tours. We also employ many local musicians, theater directors, artists, sculptures, seamstresses, fabricators and touring production staff, all from this amazing and creative county.
Like so many others working in the arts, the Covid pandemic has had a huge impact on the incandescence.
“Like many other businesses, we are clearly in trouble and have had no income for a year. We applied to the Cultural Relaunch Fund. We keep everything crossed, we could finally get some funding that we would use to support the independent independent artists of the company. Like many industries, the self-employed have probably had the least help in the current situation, ”Satya said.
“I think the government’s messages about the arts and the cultural industry in the current situation are terrible. For my part, I wouldn’t want to live in a world without the vibrancy, color and magic that come with the arts and the cultural industry. Arts and culture are not a privilege, they are an integral part of our society and should be accessible and appreciated by all.
Incandescence always wants to happen locally.
“We would love to perform at the Minack Theater or take a tour of Alice in Wonderland Primary School which would be accessible to all children in Cornwall. Well, we can go on dreaming like who would have thought that a nine year old boy from Sennen would become an international flying trapeze artist?