Chapter 3

The Blue Tent and other stories

Take a couple of minutes to listen to Ali introduce the years covered in this chapter, in which they buy their very own tent, and tour the UK.
1990 - 1991

Ali and John in Conversation - on buying a tent


7 mins Ali Williams and John Ellingsworth in conversation about the first couple of years with a tent, and seating.

Date Unknown

Dave Id leaves to go solo

Company business

Dave went on to form The Splott Brothers and work successfully for many years, both as that double act, and as a solo performer.

more on Dave Id

5 - 7 Apr 1991

BJC #4 - Blue tent goes up for the first time


British Juggling Convention in Leeds. NoFit State offer their new tent as the venue for the Renegade shows.

24 Feb 1991

Meltdown Benefit Night to support tour


In addition to benefits, NoFit State sold 'Crisis Bonds' (aka crowd-funding for you 21st Century folks) - in an attempt to raise £15K for a lorry.

Date Unknown

Winter Quarters


Dickie Jones remembers replying to an advert from a circus who were looking for a bit of land on which to put a tent up and rehearse a show. The Company gathered annually on Dickies farm in the early days, and Dickie probably got more than he'd bargained for - good and not so good!

5 April 1991

Take A Chance starts touring


Wrote and produced ‘Take a Chance’ to perform and tour in our own Big Top.


Dangerous and Risky


In between tent gigs Risky and Dangerous Duo continue with street and festival performances.

Read more


Other News

Abzurdicus survived for a year (1991) and grew out of the folding of Circus Burlesque and Mummandada and the heady days of early Fooltime Circus School in Bristol. The company's performers included Gregoire and Linda Carel, Chris Hills and Pete Lamb all of whom came to Nofit State the following year for Defective Detective. Also on tour was Roger Woods and heading up the company was Tina Banks whose connection to the UK circus scene precedes even the early days of this archive.


Tim becomes new partner

Company business

Tim Adam joins as full partner

more on Tim Adam

7 Feb 1992

Newspaper appeal


Inside text in the download

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1992 - 1994

ASW extend sponsorship


Secure three year sponsorship deal with ASW (£10,000 per year.)

Apr 1992

Arts Council funding


Receive first Arts Council Grant for the production of ‘The Defective Detective.’
It is a collaboration with Techniquest (the hands-on science centre) that built 'science awareness' props for the show.

May - Oct 1992

The Defective Detective starts touring


The Defective Detective’ tours for 25 weeks in our own tent., including three week tour of South Wales Valleys Live Festival.

16 put-ups, and we drove 2000 miles.


Ali and John in Conversation - community projects


Ali Williams and John Ellingsworth talking about the Valleys Live Festival, Rob Brydon, collaborations with the WNO, Splott State Circus, etc.


Up the Valleys


Three week-long workshop projects with disadvantaged children in the valleys leading to performances in the Big Top.
Valleys Live- featured three tent residencies in October in the valleys- a mixture of the main show and community workshops. This included getting flooded out in Anghansarad park in Pontypridd- having to dig a huge trench round the whole tent to stop the flood water getting in. It didn't work very well and the caravans were parked in lake for a while.

Nov 1992

St David's Festival Fayre

Major Collaborations

Month-long workshop project in collaboration with WNO leading to performance outside St David’s Hall.

Involved 30 children from Adamsdown Primary School.

1 May 1993

Dodo Island starts touring


Go to Show Page

‘Dodo Island’ toured and performed across UK in Big Top, sponsored by ASW and funded by the Arts Council of Wales.

The tour included an appearance at the 'Chelmsford Spectacular' (see pic)

We did 15 put-ups, and drove 2400 miles.

Sept - Dec 1993

Splott State Circus starts

Major Collaborations

Set up Splott State Circus to collaborate with WNO on Splott Cinderella. Trained 30 members of the community to perform in large-scale community project.

9 - 11 Dec 1993

Splott Cinderella

Major Collaborations

In 1993 we were invited to join in with Splott Cinderella a Welsh National Opera community project that would take place in the star centre. Alan Dear the WNO education director approached us and invited us to create a circus troupe to be involved in the performance. None of us were particularly keen as Opera was not on our list of favourites in the accessible arts sphere but we were convinced that we would learn new skills and benefit from the formation of a new community circus troupe. We created Splott State Circus which was made up from young people from Splott and some of the ex balls up crew. It was the start of our first youth circus programme but at this time it was integrated with adults practicing circus in Cardiff, as it was before the days when all adults are potential child abusers and classes had to be separated. In the end 40 non singing members of the circus performed in the show. We were asked to create some specific sections of the show including aerial and acrobatic routines for the festival scenes. This project gave us experience at directing and choreography for lots of community participants but also open our ours to potential of community performance and large scale design concepts. It planted the idea that we would be able to create this sort of work on our own in the future.

Working with WNO taught the core nofitstate team many valuable skills that we would use of the next two decades and changed the course the circus would follow over the next 20 years.

Over 100 performers with 40 members of Splott State Circus.

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14 - 17 Apr 1994

Blue Tent as Renegade tent at BJC#7


Circus Space moves

Other News

In 1994 Circus Space moved to an abandoned Victorian power station in Hoxton, it got its Grade II listed building for a peppercorn rent on a 150-year lease.


Arts Council withdraws


Arts Council of Wales withdraws and re-instates project funding after a campaign.

12 May 1994

Totally Wicked starts touring


Go to Show Page

Produced ‘Totally Wicked’, an original show, based on Doctor Faustus, which toured for 20 weeks across the UK.

June 1994



Win £1000

Pete on verge of leaving...

Circus wins ABSA SWALEC Arts Award, for the best use of continued sponsorship.

Aug 1994

Edinburgh Festival


Performed at Edinburgh Festival next to the Chinese State Circus, and still managed to sell-out, and received rave reviews from many national papers. (Reached the top
5% of audience attendance)

Aug 1994

Fan mail


Foundation for Sports and Arts funding


Receive £7000 from The Foundation of Sports and the Arts for workshop equipment

end of 1994

End of year summary 1994

Company business

Picture from a Scottish newspaper, when the company was caught short during the Edinburgh Festival.

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19 November 1994

National Lottery starts

Other News

The first draw, in November of 1994.

Heritage Lottery Fund set up the same year.

Dec 1994 and Mar 1995

Kalaf's Quest

Major Collaborations

Following on from Splott Cinderella with the Welsh National Opera (WNO) we were invited to work on Kalaf's Quest. This show was directed by Iain Stewart Ferguson and was another large scale community opera produced by Alan Dear whilst he was head of education at WNO. The show was based on The opera Turandot by Puccini and includes the famous ice cream song Nessum Dorma! This time the project ran simultaneously in Bristol and Cardiff and we worked in Cardiff with Splott State Circus and with The Albany Artists in Bristol to create the circus elements of the performance. Workshops ran weekly in Orchestra Hall in Cardiff and the Albany Centre in Bristol for two months before the performances. The shows took place in the Star Centre in Splott and the Bristol Hippodrome. For the Albany artists it was their first taste of large scale community productions. Noteable performers from the group we taught with included Billy Alwen who went on to set up Cirque Bijou and Drew Hewitt who started Incandescence.

This is another show where we have no photos or film so if you have some please let us know.

2 shows in Cardiff and 2 in Bristol

Over 100 people.

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Winter 1994

Roy Hutchins reading

Community shows

Roy Hutchins came and did his solo reading of Heathcote Williams' long poem "Autogeddon" at the Star Centre in Splott


Pete Gregory leaves

Company business

Pete Gregory leaves to go freelance


Circus Space offers BTec Diploma

Other News

Circus Space had begun offering qualifications in 1995 with a two-year BTec National Diploma in Performing Arts (Circus), the first further education course of its kind.

20 - 23 Apr 1995

Blue Tent as Renegade tent at BJC#8

Early 1995

Lose Arts Council funding


Lose Arts Council funding, for summer tour, and do not tour.

1995 - 1997

Office in The Tredegar


For a couple of years, the circus offices were upstairs at The Tred.

The landlord, Russell Noman, can be heard talking about those days in the sound clip above. (10 mins)

6-9 July 1995

The Bartered Bride

Major Collaborations

Sherman Theatre - collaboration with Welsh College of Music and Drama

Summer 1995

Splott State Circus perform

Community shows

Splott State Circus performed in ‘Autogeddon’ and in ‘The Bartered Bride’ with the Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Summer 1995

Autogeddon funding


Autogeddon is funded by ACW, ASW, CCC, and several trust funds.

29 July -2 Aug 1995


Community shows

Go to Show Page

Decide to consolidate community work by setting up and producing our first very-own large-scale community project, ‘Autogeddon’.
The show involved 100 members of the community, several local community art groups, and individual artists.

Sept 1995 - 1998

Tom goes to college


Tom Rack goes to Newport College of Interactive Arts, with an interest In combining installation and theatre.

1995 to 1998 Interactive Arts B.A. (hons)

April 1996

NoFit State Community Circus Ltd formed

Company business

NoFit State Community Circus Ltd is formed to enable lottery applications.

This comes from a memo dated 1998:


Since 1985 NoFit State Circus has produced shows of a high quality that have always been both accessible and critically acclaimed. Over this period the company has developed their own unique style which is now developing further with the large scale projects they are undertaking. The company draw upon many theatrical traditions such as 18th century popular drama including:
1. Circus, which from it's inception presented re-enactments of historical events and even Shakespearian plays.
2. Mummers plays which developed out of the community, for the community and about the community.
3. Melodrama which was able to speak to a popular audience about the issues that affected it in ways that seemed urgent and relevant.
NFSC like many other directors and artists this century such as Meyerhold and Eisenstein, use circus with poetry and theatricality, humour and imagination to create something unpredictable, fresh and challenging.

Despite continual financial constraints the circus has managed to develop a reputation for exciting and entertaining productions and have endeavoured to maintain a high artistic standard.


Our philosophy is about forward looking, progressive theatre, avoiding the cultural and intellectual elitism of most art. We aim to reach audiences denied the opportunity to witness live Art. Nofit State Circus was formed in 1995 and is now recognised as the best tented touring circus theatre in the UK

Circus Theatre, by it's very nature, has the ability to transcend the limitations of any one theatrical or cultural style, yet make disparate elements seem part of a cohesive whole. Breaking down barriers is essential, both theatrically and politically. We live in times of fragmentation where new perspectives are essential if we are to save this planet and live in peace. We choose to act as messengers.

To fulfil this philosophy we must, produce accessible, politically challenging shows containing understandable messages and further develop our levels of excellence in Circus Skills and performance. Creatively and culturally a melting pot of ideas is not just unavoidable but desirable.

We aim to develop our links with local communities across cultural divisions at grass roots levels and we encourage participation by all ages and abilities especially in workshops and community projects.

We usually perform in our own 400 seater tent, fully equipped with specialist rigging, light and sound which has access and space for wheelchairs. However we visualise exciting new performance spaces and aim to utilise these for site specific projects.

Our political and artistic commitment is matched by our commitment to exploring progressive and alternative methods of work. Nofit State Circus is an equal opportunities employer, it operates as a non profit making company ltd. by guarantee and all policy decisions are made by management committee which meets six times a year.

In essence we follow a desire to liberate, to celebrate, to educate, and create fun for ourselves, our employees and our audiences.

The work of Nofit State Circus is a collaboration of art forms, mixing drama, circus, physical theatre, mime and
music. This is achieved through collaboration with established experts during the training, devising and rehearsal period each year and is a continuing process of development for both permanent company members and guest performers. The continual improvement of standards and quality, both in dramatic content and circus skills, is an important aspect of company policy.

Early 1996

ACW funds summer tour


ACW fund summer tour again.

Produce circus version of Alice which tours for 20 weeks

Apr 1996

More funding and support


Lottery and Sports and Arts Foundation buy us new van, generators and trailer, and new light and sound equipment

5 Aug 1996

Alice starts touring


First website on university server

Company business


It looks as though this finally got deleted about six months before we asked about it!

The earliest that has been found online (so far) dates from 2001 - and it links to some text pages, but no images.

from the Wayback Machine

However, we do have the content of a website from 1998, some of which is being used in creating this timeline!

Early 1997

No Arts Council funding for tour


Once again no ACW funding but find this out too late to withdraw from tour

11 April 1997

Treasure Island rehearsals


We discovered half an hour of footage of the cast doing a 'stagger through' of the show, without scenery, costume or props.

25 April 1997

Treasure Island starts touring


Treasure Island written and produced in 2 weeks, with low budget and lots of help from volunteers.

Tour UK and Ireland for 20 weeks and just manage to break even.

1 May 1997

New Labour gets into power

Other News