CIRCUS performers have conjured up a new way of teaching pupils about sexual health and relationships.
Jacob Hirsch-Holland, from West Swindon, is part of the Sexual Health Circus – a creative group which uses an innovative method to connect with young people.
The 32-year-old said: “It’s important to realise that what we are doing is not traditional circus as many people may think of it, it is not just like sparkly outfits and big tricks, it’s circus theatre.
“We have scripts to portray certain messages.
“What we are trying to do is potentially more effective than the traditional method, with teachers feeling awkward about having to talk about this subject with kids that feel awkward to talk about them, and it’s difficult for them to engage.
“I guess it’s a way of using something that’s quite interesting and engaging like performing art as an educational way to connect with young people.
“It is not just about sex education, it’s also about how healthy relationships can enable you to make smart decision.”
Based on the new Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) Programme, performers will be using aerial silks, tandem balancing acrobatics and juggling, to address themes such as gender, pleasure, healthy and unhealthy relationships, sexting and more.
“In circus we are doing partner acrobatics, and a big part of that is communication, trust and consent, so we can draw parallels with healthy relationships and partner acrobatics,” Jacob said.
Performer and educator Jess Herman is behind the project. Jacob met her while volunteering in centre America.
“I worked on a social circus project, with a charity called Performers Without Borders, and I have done four projects in central America,” Jacob said. “And the first one I did which was six years ago, there was Jess, and that was the first time I met her.
“We spent four months together teaching and performing circus and theatre to disadvantaged children and families.
“She had the idea six years ago to create that circus. And it was only in the beginning of this year that she got funding.”
Jess, Jacob, Winston Pyke, Emily Ball and Robyn Hambrook are at the project’s core.
They have all received a training in order to acquire specific knowledge on sexual health.
Jacob said: “Part of the creation of the show was for us to be educated and get up-to-date education so we use the right terminology. And it is fascinating stuff, I’m 32 years old and I think adults of my age would learn a thing or two from this show.
“I certainly learned a lot from going through the creation of this show, and we spent a week being fast-tracked through methods and information on how people teach these stuff and what the curriculum is. So, we were educated as well in order to try to educate.”
After each show, the group gives the opportunity for students to anonymously ask the questions they would normally avoid in a teacher-student situation.
Jacob said: “The 13-15 year olds, they usually laugh at it and make fun of it, and they find it a bit awkward, but they ultimately engaged with it.
“We created a scenario where they can ask questions about this topic that they might find embarrassing, but they would do it anonymously.”
The group is seeking funding in order to take the project on tour. See sexualhealthcircus.co.uk