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The Invisible Circus - A Disappearing Act to End an Era


After a decade of developing our creative hub here in central Bristol, The Invisible Circus will soon be leaving our current premises. The new owners plan to redevelop the site in response to wider city plans that are creating a rapidly changing landscape. Our experience has sparked an important opportunity for new conversations about how cultural organisations, developers and decision makers can work together to keep culture thriving in city centres.


Unit 15 Creation Space is recognised within the circus industry both locally and internationally, as a highly equipped training space for professional performance artists and companies (with over 200 registered members) and a venue for public workshops, courses and performances. Artists travel from across the country, and indeed the world, to use the comprehensive facilities available at Unit 15. We also run Project 345 on the same site, which hosts 16 affordable creative studios. 


The Invisible Circus has always been a transient organisation, evolving creatively in response to local spaces, societal shifts and cultural needs. Since arriving in Bristol in 2005 the company has transformed disused buildings into public art spaces both independently and alongside our sister company Artspace Lifespace. Most recently we are collaborating in the transformation of the old Marks and Spencer building in Broadmead, into Sparks - an innovative art and sustainability hub (for which Invisible Circus’ free event - Weekends of Wonder! - will mark the grand opening).


Wim Penhaul - Director of the Invisible Circus shared “our current situation is part of a far bigger picture. The loss of spaces like these will have a notable impact on the city’s cultural landscape, with many independent organisations being edged out of our central location to the outskirts (or outside of Bristol entirely). What makes Bristol so attractive is its diverse, accessible, rich cultural offering, and so it is important to start meaningful conversations about managing the cultural cost of the city’s economic growth.”


Looking forward, we plan to lay down roots to develop a new centre for collaborative creation and community building, in response to current needs both within the circus network and society more generally. We have started constructive conversations with the new site owners who we are hopeful will be able to support the company’s next step and culture in the city from a place of contextual understanding.


For now, Unit 15 remains open and running as normal and we encourage everyone to make the most of our city’s creative spaces, and use them to their full potential before they’re gone.

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The vibe now is CELEBRATORY, with a healthy dose of positivity and even excitement about what the next venture may bring! So many wonderful things have come out of Unit 15, and that is definitely worth celebrating, and using as inspiration for future plans.

There are many ways you can be part of what comes next -

- We're searching for a new home, so if you hear of anything Invisible Circus worthy, please do let us know!

- We'll be hosting an array of various events, talks, workshops and performances over the next year, leading up to a big 'Last Hurrah' in September. So if you've anything you'd like to bring or contribute, or any ideas you'd like to explore, please get in touch

- If you've used Unit 15, and would like there to be a new Unit 15 in future, you can fill in our survey and let us know what you'd like to be considered in future plans by clicking here.

- If you'd like to be part of a Focus Group to feed into future plans, please email us. 

And generally, keep an eye on our socials, share our news, get involved, and make the most of our wonderful creative spaces and the communities they nourish while you can!

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