The History of AirCraft Circus

Aircraft Circus founders: Alex Frith, Nik Litton, Moira Campbell, Lucy Francis

In the year 2000, Alex Frith and Lucy Francis were performers, in the amazing Millennium Dome Show. Nik Litton was a student on the first ever circus degree at The Circus Space (now known as The National Centre of Circus Arts) in Hoxton. Moira Campbell was running evening static trapeze classes, at Jackson’s Lane.  In April 2002, Alex & Nik set up a live/work space called The Hangar, which quickly developed, very organically, into a vibrant circus hub, a place where shows could be rehearsed & like-minded circus practitioners could meet & live!  Not only was the Hangar home to AirCraft Circus (because Aircraft live in a Hangar!), but all the founder members of Ockham’s Razor also lived there between 2005 & 2007, using the space & Alex & Nik’s rigging expertise to develop new show concepts.  The Hangar was used regularly by many luminary circus & production companies of the noughties, both big & small; ENO, Royal Opera, BBC, SKY, Lord of the Rings, Heir of Insanity, Cardboard Citizens, Physicality, Blue eyed Soul etc.  Meanwhile, Aircraft Circus, initially a performing and children’s entertainment company, morphed into adult circus classes & special effect theatre and TV rigging.  Over the next 5 years, the Hangar continued to grow and became a well know circus school in London.  However, in 2007 they were to be evicted from their space, in order to make way for London 2012 Olympic development.

School Number 2: In 2007, AirCraft Circus moved into a new building, named ‘Hangar Arts Trust’ which was set up as a charity, with the help & expertise of local legal structures expert Katharine Ford.  Lucy Francis and Moira Campbell joined AirCraft Circus to help run the business.  The new school in Harrington Way, was very quickly established as one of the most comprehensive circus school offerings in London and the UK, despite a desperate lack of the funding required to transform the tatty warehouse, which was now their home!  Nevertheless, over the next 10 years, Hangar Arts Trust hosted 120,000 visitors, as AirCraft Circus delivered over 7000 classes in over 15 circus disciplines for Adults, Children (4-17yrs), Professionals (Foundation Course in Circus Arts & Intermediate Course in Circus Arts), Taster classes, Private training, Circus Parties and Workshops.  Between 2012 & 2015, they partnered with Greenwich Mencap to deliver outreach workshops for people with learning difficulties and those with visual impairment.

Aircraft/Hangar Arts Trust maintained its commitment to the performing arts, by hosting the rehearsal or R & D phase of over 300 productions over the 10 years of its lease.  The first space hire was “Zorro” R & D session in September 2007 & the last was Peter Pan Goes Wrong up to December 31 2017.  HAT housed the corpses of over 35 previously-funded productions & large sculptural pieces like Upswing’s birdcage & globe.  HAT was also home to Gorilla Circus’ winter flying trapeze school.  Alongside the school, AirCraft Circus gained expertise in special effects rigging for theatre and TV.  With an in-depth understanding of both circus physicality and technical rigging, we have consulted on 7 different productions of Peter Pan, created special effects for many West End Shows (Matilda, Ghost, Lord of the rings, The Play That Goes Wrong, Peter Pan Goes Wrong, The Full Monty), music videos (Will Young, Manic Shine), Operas (Tosca, Timon of Athens), and festivals (Download, Wilderness, Howthelightgetsin, Underbelly).  AirCraft Circus has facilitated the R&D and rehearsal process for the London 2012 Olympic Animation companies, numerous circus production companies, English National Opera, Royal Opera and Sadler’s Wells.

AirCraft Circus also set up a professional circus company to provides shows, acts and circus entertainment around London, UK and Internationally.  Productions include: Madame Pain’s Boudoir Circus (Download 2011), Damaged Goods 2013, Shipwreck Circus 2012, Midnight Circus 2012-2014, Twilight Circus 2015, Boudoir Circus (Underbelly Festival 2017), Showman 2018, Sizzling Hot Circus 2019.  We also performed at Secret Cinema Moulin Rouge 2017, Flew off the Archimittal Orbit for the Grand Opening in 2014, performed at the MTV EMA Awards 2012, and were flying dementors and Mary Poppin’s Aerialists at the London 2012 Olympics, to name a few.

At the end of the 10 year lease of the Hangar Arts Trust (Dec 2017), it was time for Alex Frith and Moira Campbell to move on to pastures new in Australia and Katharine Ford moved over to the cinema museum.  Due to a significant lack of funding, The Hangar Arts Trust was closed down.

School Number 3:

With 3 of the core team now gone, there were just Lucy Francis and Nik Litton, a husband and wife team left.  They decided to move into a smaller space in order to continue running the school and keep the magic of circus alive in the community, with their shows and productions.  In June 2018, the new school was created and AirCraft Circus Academy was launched.  They believe that anybody can learn circus skills no matter what age or fitness level.  It’s an exciting way to work on your strength, flexibility and fitness whilst feeding your creativity.