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Last on

Sun 27 Dec 2009 00:15 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
15 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 19 April 2009

Midge Ure travels to Cape Town in South Africa to visit Zip Zap School of Circus Arts for Social Change. Midge is expecting the big top, bright lights and clowns in comedy big shoes and red noses, but this is something entirely different.

Founded in 1992 by Laurence and Brent van Rensburg, the vision for the Zip Zap circus school was to teach circus skills to South African children from all walks of life - from Cape Town's wealthy middle class elite to children born in the townships. Boys, girls, wealthy, homeless, extroverted, introverted, aged eight to 18, all have their places and responsibilities at Zip Zap, which attempts to embody Mandela's vision of the Rainbow Nation.

Midge meets Zip Zap's founders in Cape Town, and joins Shannon and Neville, two trainers from Zip Zap who travel to Khayelitsha township once a week to run the circus outreach programme there for kids born with HIV.

Shannon and Neville seem to embody what Zip Zap is all about. The former is a white American from Minneapolis who went over to train with Zip Zap and the latter is a black South African from Khayelitsha township - they got together at Zip Zap.

At the Khayelitsha outreach programme, there is no big top or paying audiences, just 25 children aged between eight and 13 who were all born with HIV. They practise circus skills in the street, including juggling, unicycle and throwing hoops. Midge is initially a little sceptical about how teaching circus skills to kids born with HIV can improve their lives. He hears how they have been ostracised by their own communities and how the circus workshops attempt to enable these children to develop their physical strength and abilities, while gaining self-confidence.

Midge says, 'I get it now. It's not about building up wonderful performers, it's about integration, it's about self-esteem. The circus works - it gives all these kids a focus, it gives them something to do, something to learn. But most importantly it gives them a little bit of hope.'.

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