Despite lockdown, a Hailsham based circus school has continued to develop its premises close to the town and recently celebrated the graduation of its first student.

East Sussex School of Circus Arts (ESSCA) is located at Knockhatch, just off the A22 Hailsham Bypass and recently saw its first student who completed an entire course, and received top marks from judges.

Guests for the showcase of Jemima Mitchell’s final performance to complete her course, were shown around the site by the proud founder, Renato Pires, as he explained how the site could work as a venue for events and shows as well as a circus school.

Once the guests, including showbiz writer and producer Chris Gidney, retired professional dancer and dance teacher Katherine Mansi, ventriloquist who appeared on Britain’s Got Talent Steve Hewlett and singer and singing teacher William Robert Allenby were seated in the smaller big top, head teacher, Carlos Gaudencio, talked them through Jemima’s journey including the fact she had chosen to remain on site alone during the lockdown so she could complete her course as soon as it was possible.

Carlos explained that Jemima had been a total beginner at the start of the course and had worked extremely hard to get to where she was today. When all was ready, Renato introduced Jemima and she entered the tent wearing a fabulous sparkly mauve leotard. She applied the resin in front of the audience in classic circus style before climbing the silks. Folding herself into a cocoon of silk, she was ready to begin.

The music started, a version of The Show Must Go On from the film Moulin Rouge (very appropriate giving what she had been though), and she began by peeking out of the cocoon, reaching an arm out and finally throwing out the curled up silks and beginning her routine. What followed was a passionate, stirring and theatrical performance of shapes and movements on the silks. She executed her moves with precision and intensity before an exhilarating final flourish and dismount.

One judge commented on her ‘artistic flare’ and said her performance was ‘stylish and well controlled’. All the judges remarked on the level of care which had gone into her training and said he had huge potential for the future.

Discussion after Jemima had left focused around what was next for the circus school. Renato detailed his plans to reopen his regular after-school classes for children which he had created to be a really safe inclusive environment for children to learn in. Classes are designed not just to teach children new skills but also to allow them to build their confidence and self-esteem while moving more especially if they aren’t into traditional sports. They are also going to be running more of the adult vocational courses like the one Jemima took as well as regular classes for adults. Big plans for the future include offering a circus and performing arts foundation degree from the site.

Renato and the team hope that their circus school and venue will be a hub for performing arts in the area as well as being able to offer something for everyone. The venue will be able to host touring shows of all types in addition to holding events such as corporate events, parties and weddings. They believe their school will be a centre for learning performing arts that people from all over the country and beyond will flock to. If you would like to know more about what ESSCA will offer, please call 01323 325957 or email

See a video of the event by clicking here.