Norfolk sisters who joined Circus Fantasia in Hemsby this week
- Credit: Archant
Running away to join the circus is a dream for some, but two talented Norfolk aerialists did just that and became a huge hit with audiences. Alan Ayres caught up with them in Cromer.
Working high above a circus ring holds no worries for Norfolk sisters Kizzy andTilly Packham.
They literally have each other's lives in their hands as they swirl and tumble on aerial silks or a double trapeze in a circus big top. Kizzy, 19, and Tilly, 21, are professional aerial artists from Gorleston, performing with Circus Fantasia on the north Norfolk coast performing at Hemsby, near Great Yarmouth, until August 12.
Last month, the sisters also starred in the musical Barnum in Suffolk, providing the wow factor with their breathtaking aerial skills. 'We were excited to be part of a big musical like Barnum with a young cast in a big top,' said Kizzy. 'It was great to do something different, out of our daily show routine.'
'We're trusting each other with our lives'
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For Circus Fantasia, they worked out their two aerial acts together, developing a synchronised gymnastic display of such strength and control it has the audience gasping and applauding.
Explains Kizzy, 'We have to stay focused, you can't lose concentration because what we do can be dangerous. Tilly agrees: 'Even though we do our acts every day, we have to be very aware of what we're doing so that it's safe.'
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Kizzy got the bug when she was just 13 and went to a circus where a performer was on silks.
'I wanted to try it and my parents got her to teach me. I haven't really stopped since!'
Sister Tilly wasn't interested in circus at all.
'I was 17, at college doing A levels. When Kizzy's trapeze partner couldn't do the shows, I was asked to fill in for four days at the last minute. It was really scary.'
Kizzy laughs, 'I had two weeks to train her from scratch and teach her the whole act. There were some tears! Because she's my sister I could push her more.'
Tilly adds, 'I wanted to back out at the last minute, I didn't think I could go through with it. But I did it and went on to join the circus! Now I want to learn more and we're developing a swinging double trapeze act.'
The sisters perform together on double silks and static double trapeze with Circus Fantasia in London and all over the south east of England.
Kizzy started on silks: 'I think if you do silks first it gives you the strength to do almost any aerial act. I was doing so many different aerial acts until I decided the one I wanted to do most was the double trapeze with Tilly.'
Working together has brought the girls closer.
Says Tilly, 'Working with my sister on the double trapeze, I feel like we have this new bond that we didn't have before. We're trusting each other with our lives. I feel our relationship has got a lot stronger. Everything we do, we're watching what the other person is doing. I worry more about Kizzy when we're up there.'
The pressures of touring and performing are demanding, but the sisters never fall out.
'Because we're sisters, we sometimes argue. But when it comes to the performance, before we go into the ring we always make up,' says Kizzy.
Tilly agrees: 'You have to be in tune, because you can't be working that close, with that much trust, and be angry at each other. Kizzy always says 'I love you' before we go up in the air.'
Heat can be a problem in the big top, especially this summer.
Explains Tilly, 'For the silks, the more difficult tricks are towards the end of our act. When it's hot, it's really slippery and our hands can slide quite a lot. Doing the wrap for the big drop at the end (when the cloth is coiled round arms and legs), we need to make sure everything is right so we don't get tangled. It's all about being safe and making it look good.'
Being so close to their Norfolk home is a bonus as the girls are in East Runton performing two shows every day. 'It's a beautiful place close to the sea,' says Tilly. 'It's just minutes to the beach and our dogs love it.'
It also gives them a chance to pop home to Gorleston and catch up with their parents and two sisters, one of whom is Tilly's twin.
Adds Tilly, 'We're on tour with Circus Fantasia from February to October, so it's exciting to have three weeks in Cromer. We love seeing new places, but whenever we find a nice restaurant we're only there for a week before we have to move on!'
Circus Fantasia performances daily at 3pm and 7pm (Sat 2pm and 5pm, Sunday 2pm only) at Hemsby until August 12. Tickets: ticketline.co.uk/circus-fantasia, call 0844 888 9991 or at the big top ticket office 10am-7pm daily. Facebook: @circusfantasiauk Twitter: @circus_fantasia