History and policy
Contemporary circus popped up in the ’90’s in Flanders, and by the 2000’s the first steps toward a cohesive policy towards circus were taken. The political recognition of circus as an ‘art form’ (in 2002) was a big symbolic step in that process, and for the first time, with the formulation of the Circus Decree in 2008, financial support became available for the circus arts. Looking back, this was the crucial dose of oxygen the circus sector needed. There was a policy and a vision, a modest budget foreseen and clear guidelines for Flemish support of the circus arts. Important choices which were made at that time included the creation of the Circuscentrum as an umbrella organisation, as well as the decision that all forms of circus would be treated equally: classic or contemporary, in a tent or on a stage, every circus or circus company had an equal right to funding.
In the ensuing period, the Flemish circus took a giant leap. The number of companies increased noticeably. Creations were of better and better quality, resulting in a large increase in international touring possibilities. Back at home, in 2016, circus made a definitive breakthrough in the cultural world when three different circus companies won the most important prizes to be had in renowned theatre festivals. There was no denying that ‘circus was here to stay!’
The Flemish circus continued to grow and thrive to such a point that the Circus Decree of 2008 was soon outdated and no longer adequate for the sector it was meant to serve. By 2019, in collaboration with people from inside the sector, the Circus decree was re-evaluated and thoroughly adapted. This new decree was once again a strong impulse for the Flemish circus landscape. Also financially. A new budget, augmented from 2,7 million to 5,7 million per year, not only offered support for the creation and diffusion of individual projects, festivals, international travel costs and development, but also made structural support available to circus creation centers, circus companies and circus schools. With the new Circus Decree, the Flemish government re-affirmed its commitment to the further professionalisation of the sector. The core tasks of Circuscentrum have also been adapted to the new realities in the sector, and the focus has shifted from its initial pioneer work to consolidation, research, promotion and logistic support.