Founded in 2002 by Rachel Clare, COL nurtures both projects and individuals. Depending on the artist and the project, COL tailors its work to their work. COL has blazed a trail in new ways of thinking about contemporary performance for audiences of all ages. COL’s approach has evolved over the years, but has always maintained an aesthetic of the unusual, the visual and the gravity defying – work that crosses art-form boundaries.
Since its inception, Crying Out Loud has toured productions, created development opportunities for artists, curated seasons and festivals, founded networks and developed one-off special events.
Early notable successes focused on introducing the work of seminal international artists to the UK, including French artists James Thierrée’s Compagnie du Hanneton, Collectif AOC, Company XY, CirkVOST, Jeanne Mordoj, Company Non Nova, Capilotractées, L’Insomnante, Raphaëlle Boitel, and Aurélia Thierrée and Victoria Thierrée; Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger from Morocco; Italy’s Company TPO; Race Horse Company from Finland; Laika and Inne Goris from Belgium.
In 2012, COL created and presented its largest project, Piccadilly Circus Circus, as part of the Cultural Olympiad – more than 200 international and UK artists performed and reached an estimated 250,000 live attendees over one weekend in central London.
From 2013, COL delivered a five-year strategic touring programme, Circus Evolution, in partnership with ten regional venues with a vision to bring more circus to more people and more places. COL researched, tested, and evaluated audience development methods for cities with different audience development goals.
In 2017 COL was nominated for the Peter Brook Awards’ Dan Crawford Innovation Award.
In 2018, COL developed 3 ambitious outdoor/tent collaborations that experimented with, and expanded, the contemporary circus form. COL platformed innovation in circus through unusual partnerships and created culturally relevant shows celebrating the primacy of the live event as a shared experience. Leading international artists worked with UK young talent: jugglers, brass band musicians, urban dance and circus artists – from as young as ten years old. COL presented 28 performances to audiences totalling 12,038 across 7 different UK locations.
In 2019 COL commissioned some qualitative research to create a snapshot overview of the circus sector in England today – Circus Snapshot. This research, alongside further conversations in the sector has led to the birth of a new network in 2020 – Circus Change UP.
In 2019 COL also began developing a new work that merged urban dance forms with circus in collaboration with six international performing artists, called Kundle Cru. Originally, Blame Game was to have premiered in May 2020 as part of Galway 2020 European City of Culture with support from Arts Council Ireland, the pandemic changed these plans: it was first livestreamed to audiences as part of Belfast International Festival in October 2020; and then finally premiered in autumn 2021 at Circus City in Bristol. It continues to tour in the UK and Europe.
In summer 2021, in partnership with Take Art, COL started exploring the potential for circus artists to extend their audience reach through rural arts networks, and for rural venues to extend their programming by supporting 4 companies to adapt and present their in 30 different outdoor locations. In 2022, this reach was extended, with the support of Perform Europe, enabling two international works to tour rural venues in eight different European countries.