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A Network That Makes Things Happen

For almost two years now, the Bundesverband Zeitgenössischer Zirkus e.V. (short BUZZ; translated the name means “Federal Association for Contemporary Circus), which grew out of the “Initiative Neuer Zirkus” (New Circus Initiative), has been championing the interests of contemporary circus companies and artists.

It acts as a network for the industry and a spokesperson in politics. BUZZ’s long-term goal is to further establish and strengthen the genre of contemporary circus as an art form nationwide.

We met with Jenny Patschovsky, co-founder and first chairwoman for an interview.

Chamäleon: As co-founder of the Bundesverband Zeitgenössischer Zirkus, you have been involved from the very beginning. Can you tell us how long BUZZ has existed and how the idea for BUZZ came about?

Jenny Patschovsky: The Bundesverband Zeitgenössischer Zirkus e.V. evolved from the “Initiative Neuer Zirkus” (INZ) in 2019. This precursor association was founded by several circus creators from Cologne (and one from Essen, I might add) in 2011. We had met informally for circus roundtables before, where we talked about the history of New Circus, watched videos of circus productions together, and brought the Cologne circus scene together in the process. The idea for the INZ was then proposed by Tim Behren, who initially wanted to make a flyer to show what New Circus actually looks like and what it can look like. This was primarily intended for Cologne’s cultural politics. This led to the joint initiative to ensure greater visibility and to found an association.

How did the idea evolve?

I myself had a network throughout Germany thanks to my association Atemzug and my old friends from the Youth Circus School. We then incorporated all these contacts into our INZ work; that happened automatically, so to speak. Each of us had already built up a network in his or her own city so we tied them together. Then we came up with more and more ideas for joint projects and more and more people were interested in our initiative and got involved in various ways…this is still how it is today!

What are your primary responsibilities at BUZZ?

I am currently the first chairperson of the association. Therefore, I am often the first point of contact for inquiries from the press, politics or sponsors. I also take care of the members and coordinate all the accounting. I am actively involved in the working group on cultural policy – nationally and, of course, in my hometown of Cologne. And at the same time, as chairperson, I try to keep a general overview of all the many activities and working groups, which has become quite difficult!

Why did you decide to work in circus? Have you always been interested in circus?

I went to a circus school for children and young people in Heidelberg when I was nine years old, and that’s how I got to know the circus world. That’s when I first came into contact with the Cirque Nouveau approach and all the exciting developments in France. That really excited me. Making circus, moving like that, the individual artistic disciplines, and especially the collaboration in the acts. And watching circus pieces and seeing what is possible in the genre, and how powerful it can be. That stuck with me to this day.

Has your work changed much compared to last year, given the current situation?

Since March, the working group on cultural policy has been concerned solely with Corona relief and aid programs. Other topics, such as our own activities, content-related work, and many projects have fallen by the wayside for the time being. And then, of course, we were greatly hampered, because festivals and circus events where we are normally present, offer panels or expert discussions, network, and so on, could not take place. That has had a big impact. Not to mention that some of us and our members have had to struggle greatly with the financial consequences.

Has BUZZ developed any new ideas or formats as a result of the current situation?

We organized a lot more roundtables, i.e. regular meetings for the scene, all of them digital, and we had a lot of participants. And it gave us the brilliant idea of holding a nationwide roundtable. It was exciting and a great experience for all attendees. We hadn’t thought of that before Corona, because we had always held the meetings live. I also believe that local cohesion in the city chapters has increased because people cared for each other much more, and exchanged information and ideas.

What do you personally consider to be the greatest achievement since the founding of the Bundesverband für Zeitgenössischen Zirkus e.V.?

Our network. And our collaboration, which is very effective. We now have a presence throughout Germany, we are connected to every institution and every company in our field, directly or via the city chapters and their coordinators. Sometimes it almost feels like a single organism. This network helps us to make a lot of things happen, directly and indirectly, and a lot does happen. Compared to five years ago, contemporary circus has become much more visible in Germany. It is great to see this momentum and to be involved in shaping it. It’s incredibly motivating. Many of the successes in the circus community throughout Germany would never have been conceivable without BUZZ.

At Chamäleon, we have two committed members of BUZZ on our team, Anke Politz and Alexandra Henn, and they advocate for the interests and networking of circus creators in Germany. Through the nationwide merger of various networks and the dedicated work of the association members, BUZZ, though young, has already been able to achieve a number of successes for the circus scene, such as the nationwide funding program Zirkus ON.

With #TakeAction, the Fonds Darstellende Künste also announced a dedicated funding program for contemporary circus productions as part of Neustart Kultur in October 2020, making it the first nationwide public funding for the genre.

All information on the BUZZ is available here.