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  • Writer's pictureBarnaby King

Getting Creative with the Kids

I love involving my family in my creative processes. Fortunately for me, my kids love it too.

Since they were very young we’ve often enjoyed making goofy videos together, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that we first made a whole show.

We happened to be in Colombia when the pandemic began. I was teaching circus and supporting my wife with the start-up of her online pain relief business. The kids were attending a Spanish speaking school called ‘Alas’ (which means ‘wings’) which was amazing and in a very short time they had become fluent.

So it was a little bit disappointing when suddenly the school closed down and we were all confined to our houses.

Fortunately our close friends, Connie and Wilmar, and their 3 daughters, lived just a couple of miles from us on a beautiful and rather wild patch of land known as ’La Finca’ that in normal times served as a kind of retreat centre, but during the pandemic became our domain for adventure and play.

After we decided to bubble with our friends at La Finca, we created an idyllic ‘nature’ school environment, with an outdoor classroom where we would spend the mornings reading, drawing and talking, and the afternoons roaming around the extensive grounds, doing things like tree identification, poetry writing, fishing, den building and…


Wilmar was himself a circus teacher and a very accomplished clown. So it made sense that we would put a show together with the kids and both of us in it.

The kids learned some basic aerial skills on silks hung from a tree. They also trained in tightwire walking, trampoline and partner acro. Wilmar and I honed some juggling tricks and created some clown routines. For several weeks this became the principal activity in our school of awesomeness.

Out of the fragments of circus skill and comedy scene, a show started to cohere around the theme of mysterious spirits (the kids) who played tricks on Wilmar and I, and ultimately taught us the value of working together. At the Finca there was this beautiful enclosed cart that Willmar and I pushed around with us, and which the kids magically came out of. Apart from the beautiful backdrop of the grass and trees, that was the only set we had.

You may be wondering who came to see this show, since we were still in the middle of lockdown. Well, it was only May 2020, and people weren’t yet fully embracing the Zoom reality (at least not for live performances), but we wanted to reach people and help support the community. So we decided to stream it live over several weekends, and we invited all our friends, family and wider community to attend.

What a strange thing, to have hundreds of people joining us live from around the world in our little corner of paradise in Colombia. For that hour, the camera was like a magical portal transporting our spirit of fun and playfulness into the living rooms of bored and frustrated families. How lucky we had been to end up there, and how delightful it was to share a little of our joy with the world.

Of course it was not all rainbows and daisies. The kids were amazing. But, as with any creative process and any family process, there were some scrapes and bruises along the way, not to mention massive meltdowns (and that was just me!).

We put a lot of expectations on the kids, and almost treated them as if we were in a professional ensemble together. I say ‘almost’ because I think one loses patience more quickly with one’s own offspring than with a colleague who is having a hard time. So in some ways we were even more demanding of them.

But they rose to the challenge, and, as you can see from the images, we created quite a beautiful show…

Circo Mariposa (Butterfly Circus) was an enchanting blend of circus skills, storytelling and comedy. With each show we matured and found ways to add to and develop the show. The children overcame many challenges (as did we) to shine. And the words of the final song of the show are totally apt:

Ver tu cara con sonrisa

Me hace sentir feliz

Y vamos a Jugar y quizas

Bailar tambien

(Seeing you smiling face

Makes me feel so happy.

Let’s play and maybe

Dance together too)

This captures the spirit of that time so well. It was a time of huge anxiety and unknowns. But people in general responded by feeling into that part of themselves that is kind, gentle, loving and playful. We were quicker to connect, ironically, and slower to judge. We worked through our anxieties by coming together however we could and reaching out to those who were struggling. It was, indeed, a time of ingenuity and creativity in the face of hardship.

I’ve made shows with the kids since then, and it has always been rewarding. But there was something about that experience that will stay close to my heart forever: Circo Mariposa at the Finca.

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