Achieving the Impossible: LifeLine Documentary

Last July, Galway Community Circus along with its partners produced and presented LifeLine, Europe’s largest highwire spectacle in Galway City. The event was part of the 2022 Galway International Arts Festival, and featured a cast of 130 people of all ages and backgrounds, creating a stunning display of strength and resilience over one of Ireland’s most iconic waterways.

LifeLine truly embodied the essence of circus by showcasing resilience, community and magic. Our performers showed incredible resilience by overcoming their fears, our community came together to support and celebrate each other, and we saw the extraordinary physical and mental capabilities of humans, proving that we can all 'achieve the impossible’ through hard work and with the support of community around us.

LifeLine brought together people of all ages, from all over the world, to work together on a project of hope and solidarity. This mini documentary about the LifeLine highwire spectacle truly showcases the international depth and breadth of the project. We hope you enjoy it.

Achieving the Impossible: LifeLine Highwire Spectacle Mini Documentary

LifeLine had a huge impact locally, nationally and internationally. The project and event had:

  • 130 performers
  • 119 community participants aged 11 – 63 years
  • 11 professional highwire artists
  • 20,000+ spectators
  • 46 days of free funambulism workshops
  • 14 Irish partners
  • 10 European partners
  • 17 nationalities
  • 12 riggers
  • 2 original soundscapes
  • 8 highwires

The performance took place over 6 hours and included:

  • Site-specific installation of 7 highwires rigged at 1.5m – 6m high over the Claddagh Basin
  • 1 highwire rigged at 9m high over the River Corrib
  • A cast of 130 people from 17 countries, aged 11 – 63 years including community participants and professional artists
  • A European Youth Ensemble performance by 41 youth funambulists from 7 countries
  • Premiere of Creative Europe performance ‘BassAlto’ by a new all-female professional funambulism ensemble
  • Performances by international funambulism artists Andrea Loreni (IT), Oliver Zimmermann (DE) and Ellis Grover (UK), and emerging Irish funambulism artists Ciara Moloughney, Tony Mahon and Naomhan McKeon Joyce
  • Highwire walks by community performers from the LifeLine National Public Participation Programme
  • Bespoke soundscapes of original compositions by Michael Chang (supported by The Arts Council Music Commission Award) and Gil Mortio and day-of music performed by a live band of five world-class traditional Irish musicians
  • Environmentally sustainable costume design by Ella Daly

LifeLine was Galway Community Circus’ biggest production to date in terms of budget, scale and ambition.

We successfully delivered our first national public participation programme, working across 4 counties in Ireland. Our partners were Dublin Circus Project, Circus Factory Cork, Cloughjordan Circus Club, Dublin City Council, Cork County Council, Tipperary County Council, and Galway County Council. We are continuing to work with these partners on future actions to develop and expand the sector nationally.

We worked with École de Cirque de Bruxelles and the European Centre of Funambulism on creation of the training methodology for the national participation programme, and the upskilling of Ireland-based funambulism tutors on delivery of the programme. This offered valuable professional development opportunities for Irish practitioners while ensuring positive, impactful experiences for participants. We now have a pool of experienced Ireland-based funambulism tutors for the ongoing delivery of participatory activities in Ireland.

We partnered with Jigsaw, Mental Health Ireland and The Finnish Institute (UK and Ireland) on mental health actions. These partners acted as advisors on communications around mental health to ensure this was done in a sensitive and socially responsible way. They also supported delivery of some specific mental-health actions including a panel discussion on Youth Mental Health during the LifeLine Spectacle, and an upcoming youth mental health campaign created with youth participants from LifeLine. Self-evaluations from participants confirmed significant positive wellbeing impacts, including increase in confidence, self-belief and feelings of empowerment; new connections between individuals and groups leading to decreased isolation; development of skills for management of anxiety and fear.

The project was successful in promoting social inclusion among people from different backgrounds, with 17 different nationalities taking part.

LifeLine saw a partnership of 7 European Circus Schools (including Galway Community Circus) to train participants, choreograph the European Youth Ensemble performance, and deliver the 9-day Erasmus+ Youth Exchange. Partners were École de Cirque de Bruxelles (BE), Cirkus Cirkör (SE), CIRQUEON (CZ), Circus Amersfoort (NL), Coraggio die Kulturanstifter (DE), and Şcoala de Circ (RO). We are continuing to work with these partners on both funambulism and other youth and social circus projects (via the International Youth and Social Circus Network CARAVAN) to grow activities on a European Level.

Our Creative Europe project included the creation of the funambulism ensemble ‘BassAlto’ and show of the same name, which premiered as the finale of the LifeLine highwire spectacle. Creative Europe partners are École de Cirque de Bruxelles (BE), Şcoala de Circ (RO), and Université Libre de Bruxelles (BE), and we are continuing to work together on the development of funambulism performance and participation on a European Level.

Our rigging and techincal production partners were High Performance Productions (UK), the European Centre of Funambulism (BE) and Acrophobia (IE), who worked with us to create and implement the rigging plan for the highwires for the LifeLine Spectacle. This partnership allowed us to push boundaries of what was possible in terms of rigging and technical production for funambulism. Our partners brought expertise in the areas of rigging design, installation and health and safety, with Irish individuals and organisations gaining valuable skills from working alongside them that will be used in their future work.

We would again like to thank our funders, partners and contributors for making LifeLine such a success.

LifeLine was produced and presented by Galway Community Circus and was funded by an Open Call award from Arts Council Ireland. Other funders, partners and contributors included Creative Europe, Erasmus+, Mental Health Ireland, Finnish Institute UK + Ireland, Galway City and County Councils, the European Centre of Funambulism, Circus Factory Cork, Cloughjordan Circus Club, Dublin Circus Project, Galway County Council Arts Office, Cork County Council Arts Office, Tipperary County Council Arts Office and Dublin City Arts Office.