The pandemic does not spare any sector in the cultural community. However, if there is an environment that is hit hard, it is that of the circus.
A new national survey on the repercussions of COVID-19 on the circus arts in Quebec, conducted at the end of the year for En Piste, paints an alarming picture of the situation of its artists and companies.
Indeed, the survey reveals that two thirds of respondents suffer from depression or anxiety; more than 80% of circus workers are unable to plan their professional future; and 94% are now considering a new career.
Ten months after the start of the pandemic and the cessation of cultural activities, the outlook is very bleak. Both financially and humanely. “It is the entire ecosystem that is struck,” explained the director general of the National Circus Arts Group, Christine Bouchard, in an interview with The Press.
The director, who speaks of “economic slump”, launches “a big alarm signal” to the public authorities. “For circus companies, the vast majority of income comes from overseas tours and corporate events. Two activities completely stopped for 10 months, and which we do not see a resumption yet. ”
If the picture is dramatic for organizations, individuals are also in survival mode. The survey indicates that their incomes declined by 65% on average during the pandemic, that their debt ratio increased by 36% and that 5% of respondents used food banks.
For meme Bouchard, the results of this second survey are consistent with those of a first survey carried out last April. For the current fiscal year, own-source revenue per organization has fallen by 78%, on average, while grants have increased by 45%. The share of own-source revenue (excluding donations and sponsorships) rose from 75% to 33% in their turnover. She also recalls that public funding is lower in the field of circus arts.
A threatened jewel
In June, however, the government of Quebec announced specific aid of 10 million to the circus arts sector granted by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.
” These results [du sondage] demonstrate that the aid allocated since the start of the pandemic is not sufficient to support the high challenges facing artists and companies, for which maintaining a high level of performance and excellence is essential to back on stage ”, believes the director of the Regroupement.
According to her, companies must be given the means to hire artists and put them to work.
It is urgent to find draconian aid measures, adapted to the circus, in order to prepare for the recovery.
Christine Bouchard, Executive Director of the National Circus Arts Group
She gives an example of operating grants for companies as well as research or creation grants and extended salary benefits for self-employed workers.
In the eyes of Mme Bouchard, we must not wait to risk losing a qualified workforce, sacrificing a rich and unique expertise within the circus community. “It would be a disaster! Because for decades, artists and circus companies have been a flagship, a source of pride and our Quebec identity all over the planet, ”she said, tremolos in her voice.
Despite everything, the director of En Piste considers herself “an eternal optimist”. “Beyond hope, we must believe and invest in the circus arts to make up for the millions of lost revenues in our sector. The circus in Quebec must remain a source of pride. ”
More than 60% of organizations say they will cease their activities if no additional financial assistance is granted to them after March 31, 2021.
A 53% reduction in the number of employees resulted in a decrease in paid hours, loss of expertise and overwork.
Average revenue fell 51%, while own-source revenue fell drastically, by 78%.
This national survey was conducted online, between November 23 and December 7, 2020, with 381 respondents, or 320 individuals and 61 organizations.