Who are Curbside Carnies?
Curbsides Carnies is a project developed in lockdown by me, a Reservoir local (Sophie deLightful), to create Covid-safe performing arts experiences as soon as they were allowed coming out of Victoria’s heavy restrictions. Who is in the Curbside Carnies? Well, this varies on where the project is taking place and which performers are most suitable and available. The aim is to offer paid performance opportunities to people in the area we are funded to perform in, to support the councils that support us and also spread the love across a community that has largely laid dormant for the best part of the year.
How does this work? How can people book a performance and what does it cost?
Curbside Carnies is open to discussing any booking opportunity with people who want a bit of circus flair at their next special occasion. Even getting the street to pool some funds together will get us our to your neighbourhood - the possibilities are endless! Cost depends on what people can afford and what they’d like us to contribute to their event. We have a small stage infrastructure we can bring or we can tailor an experience that is more based around specific performers.
What did your performance/worklife look like before COVID 19 and how has that changed?
Honestly, I have always worked from home so that wasn’t much different. But my industries were performance and travel, so that changed a bit! I was stood down from my home-based travel consultancy job and my performances/shows were all cancelled. So, because I don’t like sitting still, I started doing online cabarets through Zoom Webinars and ended up doing 19 through both lockdowns! It definitely gave me something worthwhile to focus on and a reason to keep thinking creatively, while also giving my arts community an avenue to keep performing.
What has been the most challenging aspect of this time?
Dealing with organisations and councils that have no idea how to handle a Covid world! I struggled to get Curbside Carnies off the ground and the eventual date we performed in Reservoir was actually the third postponement. Now I”m having concurrent discussions with councils around the city about bringing the project to their area and every one has different processes and ways of dealing with this new way of living. It’s… a learning experience.
Who is on the Curbside Carnies team?
Me! It’s my baby and I run the operations, with the help of different casts for each show. My friend Nic was instrumental in building the stage alongside Sparks who helped to weld the frame but otherwise, it’s pretty much me!
Even getting the street to pool some funds together will get us our to your neighbourhood - the possibilities are endless!
Have there been any 'silver lining' surprises?
Truthfully, this idea was based around roving festival performances but with Covid, I was able to get initial funding from Burning Seed to build the stage for its virtual screening this year (unusual in itself as the organisation would normally not fund this kind of arts project). From there, I had the idea of using it to roll around the streets as people emerged from their homes post-Covid, and Curbside Carnies was born! It’ll get to the festival paddock some day...
Are there any apps or technology that really helped you make this transition?
The internet! Being able to connect to the outside world through my laptop meant I could do all the research, purchases, communications and marketing that I needed to bring this project to life. It might seem outdated but I am still so grateful for the internet!
How do you see your business evolving in the future? Are there changes you've made that you will continue with when things go back to 'normal'?
My production business, Sophie deLightful Presents now has more offerings in its ability to deliver online performance content, contactless arts experiences and a comprehensive network of performers that can fulfill basically any brief (online or physical). I love that people are now valuing the arts more and seeing its contribution to their lives as something work investing in, and I am excited as to how that may continue to translate into the way entertainment is presented as things return to ‘normal’.
Are there any business decisions that you have made with sustainability in mind?
I try to make all my business decisions sustainably. The materials I used for the stage construction were recycled wherever possible and the marketing collateral is made with reusable materials, with a focus on digital promotion over the printing of single-use flyers and posters.
Have you collaborated with any other local businesses?
Yes, I have a sponsorship arrangement with Mint Printing, based out of Heidelberg. Daniel has provided us with some wonderful signage that makes us look very professional and continues to help us out with quality advice and deals on other marketing materials. For our debut Reservoir outing, Elise Mezner kindly donated her photography skills and will come back on board for our City of Yarra shows. Local cooperative Loconomics has been key in securing funding in a few council areas (including the Inner North Foundation for Reservoir) and some other locally based circus schools have also worked closely with us to assist our grant applications.
What would you most like assistance with, to help your business thrive?
We would love people to visit our social media pages, share our information, tell friends and family who would like these experiences, come to a show and leave a review. Maybe even pop a note (green is our favourite!) in the hat at the end. Every little bit helps.
Photo credits: Elise Mezner Photography