JOEL Chia has a fear of heights, but that didn't stop him dangling on a silk 5m above the ground from a fig tree at the Mullumbimby Showground yesterday.

Mr Chia, a 33-year-old software designer from Brisbane and his partner, Dorothy Poh, who works in retail, were among 100 participants being put through the ropes at this week's circus-training sessions ahead of the Mullum Circus Festival from Friday to Sunday.

Festival highlights

"I am an amateur, not a professional, but I've been learning circus for about seven years," Mr Chia said.

"I work as a software designer and circus is my hobby; my way of de-stressing," he said.

"Circus keeps me sane."

Ms Poh likes the movement and strength required for her favourite circus performance: pole dancing.

"It's not strip-joint-style pole dancing. It's more about dance and clowning and character work," she said.

ROLL UP, ROLL UP! Circus performer Tom Flanagan will be performing his show, Kaput, at the Mullum Circus Festival.
ROLL UP, ROLL UP! Circus performer Tom Flanagan will be performing his show, Kaput, at the Mullum Circus Festival. Patrick Gorbunovs

The circus festival coincides with Mullumbimby's Spaghetti Circus celebrating its 21st birthday this year and in the lead-up, the showground has been transformed into an open-air circus training hub.

Hundreds of circus performers, amateur and professional, are being put through their paces in everything from acrobatics to chair balancing and classic flying trapeze.

"We have 180 trainers and performers here this week, all working voluntarily to help the 100 participants upskill and train in 35 different circus disciplines," Alice Cadwell, Spaghetti GM and festival co-producer said.

On Friday the professionals take over with a mix of world-class, international and local acts and workshops for all ages, market stalls, a cafe, a bar and cinema, sideshow shenanigans and cabaret.

It's a coming of age for Spaghetti Circus which began with a grant for disadvantaged schools at Main Arm Public School under Leonie Mills.

The festival places it among the best on the national circus circuit.

"Circus is all about family and Spaghetti is one big family. We are coming together from all over the world," Ms Cadwell said.

Festival highlights

  • 3 is a Crowd (winner of Best Circus show at Adelaide Fringe 2013)
  • Full Cream Circus (starring Cirque du Soleil & Circus Oz performers from sold-out seasons in Sydney, Melbourne)
  • Die Roten Punkte (worldwide cult sensation)
  • Tom Flanagan (larger-than-life star of Tom Tom Crew and Circus Oz)
  • Briefs (the trash brat-pack fresh from their wickedly enthralling shows in Edinburgh)

Or click here for the full program

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