A south asian woman wearing a pink headscarf smiles with an elderly white woman as they both hold juggling balls in a care home setting


Homemade Circus

About Homemade Circus

Homemade Circus is our groundbreaking project that ignites connection, imagination and creativity in care homes. A two-year project that follows almost a decade of building circus skills for and with older people. To learn more about the different ways we’ve done this in the past, click here.

Throughout 2023-24 Upswing’s Lead Artist Charlene Low and a team of circus workshop leaders worked with staff and residents in a series of creative, multi-sensory circus workshops across UK care homes.

Two older women sit in a care home and laugh as they balance peacock feathers in their hands

The activities we run help people find new talents and possibilities in themselves and each other. They help create trust, boost confidence, and improve abilities of both the residents and staff.

We worked with care teams and residents to make sure the activities we develop are flexible and adaptable – meeting the needs of everyone who takes part. This includes equipping care staff through intensive training, so that they have the skills and confidence to run their own circus sessions long after we’ve gone.

To us, Homemade Circus is a long-term investment in care homes as unique, creative places, bringing playful practice and adventure into each setting.

“It’s just so much fun. I always say to people – I can do a 12 hour shift on that day because it just takes me somewhere else…It gives you that excitement, you have so much extra oxygen. So, so much creativity.” – Care Home Staff after a Homemade Circus workshop

Learn to lead your own circus activity sessions:

Built from our learnings, the Homemade Circus Digital Toolkit is designed to arm anyone working with older people with the knowledge and confidence needed to run accessible circus activities in their own care settings.

Whether you’re a care provider looking for meaningful activities, an artist/facilitator interested in working in care settings, or someone who supports older adults, sign up to our toolkit to unlock the transformative impact of circus activities with older people.

A care home staff member helps an elderly woman to hold a silk scarf

So what did we discover?

In the first year of running Homemade Circus we trained over 50 care home staff to deliver interactive circus activities to over 130 residents. We followed each step closely so that we could see what was working, here’s what we learnt:

people trying out different circus activities like juggling and ball throwing in a care home

The training itself was a teambuilding experience. Both staff and residents found that learning together through play and practice really valuable. As one staff member told us, “It was freeing trying activities ourselves, messing up, cheering each other on, and trying again.”

This gave people who worked in the care homes a better outlook on these kinds of programmes, and changed perceptions of what ‘circus’ is too.

Through the activities, residents bonded over achieving more than they thought they could.“I liked how everyone was in it together. I liked doing the activities with other people I’ve seen around before. We were all doing the same thing together as if we’d been doing it forever.”, commented one resident. Not only are people bonding more, but balance, coordination and movement have improved.

To read more about our learnings, you can download the evaluation report from Year 1 below:


Homemade Circus is made in partnership with Anchor Hanover Care HomesExcelcare Homes and Bupa. Funded by City Bridge Trust and The Rayne Foundation.


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