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Contemporary circus artists, Compagnie XY have landed in Derry-Londonderry with plans to involve local people in a series of surprise, pop up performances across the city.

The French collective troupe with its dozens of world-leading acrobats are touring the city and have appeared in a number of locations in recent days.

From the city walls and local parks to shopping centres and street corners, on the cityside and the waterside, they first appeared on Tuesday 6 September and will continue to pop up across the city until the week ends.

Les Voyages – Derry-Londonderry is part of the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, a national programme of 22 artist commissions inspired by the heritage of conflict, created in partnership with Imperial War Museums (IWM).

The performances begin a year-long project where Compagnie XY will collaborate with In Your Space Circus, Circusful and local artists to create a new work for 2023 inspired by the achievement of Northern Ireland citizens in sustaining 25 years of the Good Friday Agreement.

An eye-popping celebration of bodies achieving seemingly impossible shapes in a cityscape, Les Voyages – Derry-Londonderry will end with Le Grand Rendezvous, a mass performance of lifting each other up.

Everyone is invited to join them for Le Grand Rendezvous in St. Columbs Park at 3pm on Saturday 10 September. The event is free to all and unticketed.

Cian Smyth, Ulster University’s Arts and Culture Programme Manager commented:

“It’s exciting to welcome one of the world’s best modern circus companies to Derry city and to the island of Ireland for the very first time. We hope the year-long duration of the project will allow Compagnie XY and local artists to build a meaningful collaboration with each other and communities across the city. The collaborative effort hopes to explore the contribution citizens have made to sustaining a peace in the face of conflict.

“Modern circus arts are different to what people historically expect of circus and this project will bring something people have never seen before, connecting some of the best circus performers in the world with those at home to create what will be a beautiful celebration of human resilience – of many bodies in public space overcoming obstacles and celebrating a place they love.”

Les Voyages – Derry- Londonderry is the 19th edition of Compagnie XY's globally acclaimed project that has taken place in cities and towns from France to Denmark and Palestine to Serbia.

Antoine Billaud of Compagnie XY, said:

"'Nervous excitement' is the phrase describing how we feel as we arrive in Derry city.

We’re looking forward to starting such a great human and artistic adventure in a one-year process involving local artists.

This is a very unique opportunity that Cian Smyth through the IWM 14-18NOW Legacy Fund and Ulster University has offered us - to begin the first step of a whole community-based process with our Les Voyages performances rather than it being the objective in itself. So we arrive with this nervous excitement about a new adventure and to share our vision of the universal gesture of “lifting each other up" with the people of Derry."

Cath McBride, Company Director of In Your Space, commented:

“In Your Space Circus is delighted to be involved in this project with Compagnie XY. Les Voyages - Derry-Londonderry will be such an inspiration for local circus artists and our many circus school participants.

It's a very exciting time for Circus in Northern Ireland and the north west at the moment, and we hope that Compagnie XY will help us to keep up the momentum of celebrating and profiling our wonderful, diverse and powerful art form. We are excited to see how audiences react to the performances this week and we are looking forward to see how this visit inspires their work in 2023.”

Created in partnership with IWM, this artwork commission is part of a new initiative continuing the vision and reach of 14-18 NOW, the official UK arts programme for the First World War centenary.

The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund has been made possible thanks to the success of Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed film They Shall Not Grow Old, co-commissioned by IWM and 14-18 NOW. A share of the film’s royalties – £2.5 million – will see investment in artists and arts experiences as IWM partners with 20 cultural organisations and 22 artists from across the UK. The fully-funded commissions will each be inspired by the heritage of conflict.

Dame Diane Lees, Director-General of IWM, commented:

“IWM is delighted to be working in partnership with Ulster University to mark 25 years of the Good Friday Agreement. Since the First World War, we have collaborated with artists to record the experiences of conflict in new and thought-provoking ways.

The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund builds on this rich history by providing investment in artists and arts experiences across the UK and we are thrilled to now present the first of these landmark commissions with a new work from Compagnie XY."

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To find out more about the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, visit the website.