Long-wished-for discussions when circus riggers from across Europe met at SKH


At the end of April SKH was the host of the annual conference of European circus schools, FEDEC conference 2022. And connected to the conference theme of security, a parallel three-day seminar was held for one of the circus world’s most important, but perhaps least-known groups: The riggers. A meeting that many riggers felt was sorely needed.

“We’re creating a community and have started communicating with riggers at other schools,” explains Saar Rombout, who leads the rigging course at SKH. “When you run into problems, having someone from the same discipline to ask and discuss with is indispensable. There’s no single education – riggers have learned the discipline in different ways, from climbing, from the circus, from other entertainment, from sailing, and now they have partners to discuss with.”

Starting in 2022 and up until 2024, SKH and the European Federation of Professional Circus Schools, FEDEC, is conducting a project in cooperation with the EU programme Erasmus+ to facilitate exchanges between riggers at eight circus schools in Europe and North America. Named RIGGERS (React, Invent, Get together for a Goal: Expertise in Rigging Services), the project consists of staff exchanges, continuous digital discussions and two major seminars where all the riggers of the different schools meet up for deep-level discussions.

Every year FEDEC also hosts a conference at one member school, and this year SKH stood as the host together with Cirkus Cirkör, Manegen and Subtopia. This year’s conference was on the theme of security in circus, and where better to hold the first RIGGERS seminar than there?

“It was so clear that this was a highly anticipated forum,” says Jorun Kugelberg, international relations coordinator at SKH. “The discussion was so lively from the moment we stepped into the room. Riggers seldom get to meet like this, and it was near-impossible to stick to one subject when everyone immediately wanted to start exchanging ideas.”

Conference meets seminar

One of the key parts of the seminar was on Thursday, 28 April, when the riggers were given the opportunity to share their perspectives with the gathered group of school managers from the different institutions.

“Everyone runs into the same issues, no matter how large or small the school,” says Saar Rombout, who represented SKH at the conference with Will Cleary and Johan Bodin. “We raised four different topics with the general conference: how riggers can be involved in decision-making processes, what resources are made available to riggers and what expectations are placed on them, teaching and how to transmit knowledge of rigging and including students, and not least stress management and workload. Riggers have responsibilities for people’s lives and a mistake can cost lives, which is a significant stress factor.”

Jorun Kugelberg explains that this kind of exchange means a lot for deepening the level of knowledge within the school.

“It is vital for student and staff to have international contacts with others in the same field,” she says, “both for their own personal knowledge development and increasing the quality of our courses and practices.”