My side hustle: how I built a community with a circus school

A year ago, Luke Trentham Shaw of WPP-owned agency Possible launched a circus school designed to target anyone wanting to learn performance skills; while simultaneously becoming part of a unique community.

A recent recruit at Possible, by day Shaw works as a service delivery manager. By contrast, he also has six years experience as a fire and pyrotechnics performer and aerialist.

He now spends his evenings and weekends teaching students aerial acrobatics and other skills at The Forgotten Circus School, a creative space he co-founded last year with his girlfriend and best friend. Not only do they work together, they also all live together in the circus building, which is based in Tottenham Hale in North London.

"The idea for the circus school came from 'The Forgotten Circus Production Company'. We have a group of performers who are a family and community that perform at festivals and large scale events in London.

From that my girlfriend Lindsey Higgins and best friend Rachel Hardwick decided we wanted to open a community space where it was accessible to everyone and it had a family vibe."

Shaw is a firm backer of side hustles and believes that anyone who needs a creative outlet should pursue one. He doesn't think his own has distracted him from his day job, but rather has helped him to be more "open to a challenge".

He added: "Circus fulfils me in a way.. it’s just expressive nature – sometimes you just can’t get that in work.

"You need another outlet to let it go. Service delivery manager roles are generally quite IT heavy or project management heavy which is fantastic, it’s great to have that in your day job, but to have a creative pursuit outside that’s also financially beneficial and benefiting a community - there’s nothing like it."

Shaw has also worked stints as a set designer, production manager and rigger. He has been stage manager at festivals including Isle of Wight, Boomtown and Secret Garden Party. 

The long term goal for the Forgotten Circus School is to open another school in central London and ultimately to launch in Los Angeles. However, Shaw wants to keep the original school as the headquarters simply because he says: "we all live here and it’s a nice community".