Ukraine War: Circus Cortex based in South Yorkshire delays tour with performers stuck in Ukraine

A South Yorkshire-based circus troupe has had to delay its UK tour beginning in Sheffield after its performers were caught up in the Ukraine war.

Thursday, 14th April 2022, 4:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th April 2022, 4:20 pm

Circus Cortex has a very large percentage of Ukrainian performers in its ranks, with more than 80 per cent of its performers hailing from the wartorn country.

This has caused a problem for the circus group, as its tour beginning in Sheffield has now been delayed by almost two months, from April 8 to May 25, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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The South Yorkshire based Circus Cortex has delayed its tour due to some of its performers being stuck in Ukraine

Military conscription rules in Ukraine mean men aged 18-60 there are unable to leave at the moment in case the country calls them up.

Irina Archer, director of Circus Cortex, hopes to have many of the performers back and out of Ukraine in time to perform in Sheffield in late May.

"We are planning to open on May 25 so we plan to get everyone here by then,” said Irina.

"This year we are going to have 18 performers and only 12 of them Ukrainian because some of the boys we cannot get out (of Ukraine) because of the martial law in Ukraine.”

The South Yorkshire based Circus Cortex has delayed its tour due to some of its performers being stuck in Ukraine

Asked whether she believes the performers trapped in Ukraine will have to go to war, Irina said: “At the minute we don’t think it is going to happen because of the four stages of military – and the last stage is when they call everybody if you are a man, and at the moment they are at stage two.”

Due to this, not all of the circus performers will be able to get out of Ukraine before the reopening of the tour in Sheffield on May 25, so fewer of the crew will be Ukrainian than normal.

Irina, who says she is half-Ukrainian and half-Russian, can not believe how unlucky Circus Cortex has been over the last couple of years.

The South Yorkshire based Circus Cortex has delayed its tour due to some of its performers being stuck in Ukraine

"Honestly, it is just a joke. We had two years of Covid and our industry was nearly dead and now we have to deal with this – I think out of all the circuses in the UK, I am the hardest hit because some don’t have Ukrainian artists at all and some only have one. I happen, by chance, to have mostly Ukrainian,” she said.

"My mum is from Ukraine and I’m from Russia, so I think it is my connections that have got me in this, because I know a lot of people from Ukraine – they are really good artists.”

This situation, coupled with the closure due to Covid-19, is something that Irina says has “paralysed” them as they have now had to again delay the tour and also scale back on the performers.

Irina is keeping in constant contact with her performers in Ukraine who are regularly updating her with their situation. Irina says none of them are in imminent danger but they are “running out of money”.

On May 25, Irina expects the tour to begin at Sheffield Transport Sports Club on Greenhill Main Road in Lowedges, and she is encouraging as many people as possible to come along, see them and help them get back on track.

Irina promises the show is “nothing like what you have seen before – it is very modern and unique".