NICE Meeting


A place where Adults play games 

A network of people who say Yes, Let’s!

A city where circus has pride of place 

A continent of community circus connected in  conversation 


NICE is the Network of International Circus Exchange – and the 2018 meeting took place November 1-4 in Leuven, Belgium.


The NICE meeting is a regular gathering of youth and community circus people from across Europe. As a participant of my 5th event, I can say that this NICE is  always nice, but this NICE was particularly nice. Cirkus in Bewegin were great hosts – as you can expect from the experienced team that are celebrating their 25th anniversary year in 2018. 


Leuven’s ‘open house for circus education’ makes a great showcase of a mature and successful circus organisation, so it was an ideal place to host the NICE.  The venues of the Flemish circus atelier are to the desire of most small, and many larger youth and community circuses across Europe. Four of their city centre spaces were used to house the program of activities – the same venues that host the regular activities of CiB. Having various halls, two churches and a large city centre railroad-barn available brought great opportunity for the NICE gathering and are clearly put to great use by Cirkus in Beweging when you see the results of projects that they deliver. I am always inspired after a trip to Leuven, with this trip being no exception.

The theme of this NICE was ‘Circus Moves ON’. Rika, Isabel, Jonas, Annelies and the Cirkus in Beweging team organised a thorough programme of presentations, conversations, workshops and artistic incursions to enjoy between social events, meals, games, Belgian beer and bike rides. Sessions included Stephen Desanghere’s provocation of Urban Arts and what circus can take from these scenes; Rika Taeyman’s time-honed work involving early years circus for young children ‘Circomotoriek’; Mieke Gielen’s ‘Experiential Learning’ workshop and many more brought together via reflection inducing facilitation from Paul and Marthe 


Over 50 international circus people took part, alongside several dozen locals from the Belgian and Beweging scene. The depth and breadth of the programme gave stimulation for the diversity of people present – trainers, students, administrators, volunteers, youth participants and managers.

There are always dozens of conversations, presentations and notes from events such as these – For this year’s NICE there is a google drive folder with open access here

And there is a wider Facebook group for previous and interested future participants

From these – you can be part of the conversation and explore what took place in Leuven.


Historically, NICE is a project born from the European Union and its ideals to support international cooperative projects and it’s investment towards Culture to all. The NICE is a project of the European Youth Circus Organisation (EYCO) and is hosted in partnership with a different member organisation within a member country. EYCO is the ‘umbrella organisation’ which is made up of national circus organisations that are each umbrella organisations in their own country. Their are currently 14 full membership countries – Germany, Italy, Austria, France, UK, Switzerland, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, Poland, Netherlands, Flemish Belgium and Slovenia. EYCO is funded via the Erasmus scheme Youth Mobility Funding, with this link being a useful website for anyone interested in developing cross-border European partnership projects involving the youth field. 

In the UK, youth circus has it’s own national umbrella organisation – CircusWorks. CircusWorks is a membership organisation open to any youth circus or individual involved with youth circus in the UK. One of the membership benefits of being part of CircusWorks are the annual UK Youth Circus Festival (next in July 24-28, 2019) and CircusWorks Conference (next at Circomedia, Bristol – October 4-6, 2019) – as well as opportunities to be involved with international trainings, meetings and conferences such as the NICE Meeting. This year’s UK delegation to NICE included myself from Let’s Circus in Newcastle upon Tyne, Bob Gallagher-Lyall from Edinburgh, and Jay Ellis from CircoPyro in Wales and Lynn Carrol the driving force behind CircusWorks. I encourage anyone with an involvement with youth circus to find out more about CircusWorks and become an active member in the network, as there are great opportunities available each year – many with costs covered as part of a membership reward scheme. 

My participation in this NICE came at a curious time, when the UK’s role in the wider European Project is so unknown. Let’s Circus was very active at a European level from 2009-2014, having since then pulled away to focus on developing commercial sustainability within the UK, and moving away from full-time management of Circus Central – the community circus/school in Newcastle that we founded in 2008. NICE marked a step back into the European realm with a desire to be part of ongoing international cooperation despite whatever may happen with Brexit. Having benefited from so many European partnerships and opportunities, I am a big believer of the EU’s funding programmes and wide general support of transnationalism. To me it will be a great shame if these opportunities do not continue. This NICE in Leuven has allowed me to further develop my plans of taking The Games Exchange project to the next level. If having an online searchable video database of circus games for trainers sounds like a resource you’d like to have available – check out and join the facebook group Circus Games Exchange. I hope to realise stage 2 of the project and enact a pan European gathering some time very soon – plus get the video-based website and app off the ground (any interested app developers out there?). The Circus games project will hopefully not be a parting gift of the UK to the EU, preferably a Let’s keep moving forward together present!

And like all nice things, NICE 2018 came to an end with the answer to everyone’s question

Where will be the next NICE?


Nice, but not Nice.

The next NICE will be nice, but not IN Nice. 

The next NICE meeting will be in Le Mans, France. 

Hosted by Ecole de cirque du Mans and the French Umbrella Organisation Fédération Française des Ecoles de cirque 

About 1 hr from Paris – October 2019 


NICE picture


If you’d like to have a NICE experience in 2019 – get involved and stay involved with your national circus ☂ umbrella!

NICE things happen to nice people.



Steve Cousins

Ringmaster : Clown : Circus Missionary

Let’s Circus