IT worker quits job to join his daughter's circus act

A woman has revealed how she gained a new stage partner when she persuaded her 60-year-old dad to give up his career in IT to join the circus with her. Professional aerialist Francesca Hyde, now 34, has been working in circus arts since she was 19. But last year, when her dad turned 60, she wanted him to show his creative side and suggested they should do a show together. Amazingly, Joe, now 61, decided to give up his 30-year career to join Fran as a full-time circus artist and now they are set to take to the stage together for the first time. She said: “I knew my dad was a creative person and I wanted him to embrace that side but I didn’t think persuading him would be that easy. It’s been great working together and I can’t wait to show what we’ve done together.” Joe and his wife Moira met in art college in Leeds, when Moira fell pregnant with Fran. Settling down near Preston, Lanacshire, Joe took an IT job to support his family, and over time, worked his way up to become an IT security consultant. Fran explained: “He went to music college and while he was there, he and my mum had me so he got an office job and he kept that same job for my entire life. He would still do music for parties and a little bit of magic. It was just a hobby. “I knew that he would be a great performer and I felt like he should be an artist but he has got used to having a comfortable life. I wanted him to do something a bit more creative. He was doing the sensible thing but he's very much not a sensible person. He called his suit that he wore to work his costume.” Fran’s life had taken a very different turn when she came across a group of circus performers while living in London when she was 19. She explained: “I came to circus quite late in life. I started when I was 19. There was a church in Tufnell Park where I lived and there was a bunch of people there who did some circus. I turned up and got really into it and then ended up doing a degree at the National centre of Circus arts in London.” Graduating in 2009, Fran and friends set up a performance company called Collectif and Then and even converted an old barge into a circus boat, complete with aerial hoop on top. They travelled around France performing and Fran’s dad Joe even travelled out to join them and play some music. “It was so much fun and I know he really enjoyed it,” Fran said. In 2016, inspired by working with her dad previously, Fran started taking to her mum Moira about doing a show with him. “I had a conversation with my mum and asked her not to tell him but I wanted him to do a show with me. Then I got a call from my dad that night and he said 'I've been speaking to mum and she mentioned you've been thinking of doing a show with me. I actually think that would be a great idea.' “He decided to give up his job a few months later and work with me. It took a lot less convincing that I thought it would!” she laughed. Starting out, Fran asked her dad to play some music while she performed her unusual art of hair hanging, an act she had developed since graduating from college. She explained: “I have been hair hanging since I graduated but doing it as a discipline in itself for the last year. I developed a technique with a counter weight, which I think is specific to me. Most people would braid a ring into your hair and then you clip a rope into the ring and hang from it. I don't use a ring but just clip it straight into my hair. Normally people would hang, spin and dance but my system allows me to jump up and float down “With lots of circus things, you get used to the pain but with this, the pain never goes away. The first few seconds are really painful but then adrenaline kicks in and you forget. It's like being pulled up by a string from the top of your head. “It does weird things to your body - I feel like it turns me into an elegant dancer in a way that I'm not normally when I'm hanging by the hair. It holds your head in one position. It's a really specific quality that it gives the body. I’ve built it up over time and now I can hang for a maximum of about 30 minutes at a time.” Using her experience, Fran started to work with her dad to teach him a little bit of aerial art to incorporate into their show together. He does a little bit of aerial work, which mirrors a little bit of what I do, but obviously he's not hanging by the hair. I developed a dance warm up and some exercises that are meant for people who aren't in the circus world. I realised that he's quite agile for someone who hasn't really moved much in 30 years. He had a desk job and didn't do much exercise. We started working with my technique with hair hanging to allow him to do something a bit acrobaticy and spin in the air.” Now, after months of training, Fran and Joe are due to take to the stage in front of an audience for the first time in their show Fram and Dunt, which runs from 3-5 April at the Roundhouse in Camden as part of Circus Fest 2018. Fran added: “It's been really nice working together actually. He's been really respectful and knows that I am a professional and I know what I am doing. He listens lots and we share a very similar sense of humour, which really helps. We wanted to have an emotional depth to the show and we had to talk about things, which isn't really what we normally do. “I'm really excited to do it in front of an audience. We made the show last November and we have been working on it since then. I feel like we just need an audience now to put it in front of.” Joe added: “The idea of doing a circus show with Fram was terrifying! I mean, I’ve been sitting in an office for the past 35 years doing nothing but finger exercises. It was very touching she asked me though and I couldn’t help but be tempted by the glare of the audience and the smell of the lights so I said yes. The first two weeks were gruelling, I’m still not sure my body has forgiven me and I had to soak it in beer for many weeks afterwards. I love what we’ve ended up with and people seem to like it.”

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