The Richard Award 2019


The second Richard Award took place on the 16th of November 2019.  5 acts were selected to perform at the live final.

All the video submissions were viewed and appraised by a selection panel made up from industry experts: artists, directors, producers and choreographers.

The winner of the Richard Award 2019 was Katarzyna Jastrzebska.

Katarzyna has always had to move to think. After discovering acrobatics at 8 years old, training became the most important part of her life. From this, she discovered how to turn her training into other forms of art. Movement is the way she expresses herself best and it allows her to connect with music and emotion on a deeper level. Katarzyna feels lucky to have found her passion and to be able to share it with others. She hopes to never stop being creative.

‘Can I see myself’ is a poetic expression of emotion told through a physical display of strength, flexibility and movement. 

The other four finalists were:

Dani Mearns is an aerial hoop artist who lives in Bristol. She started her training at the age of 14 at Gravity Circus Centre based in London where she grew up. Dani trained on a professional course at this centre, and on completion performed her first act at Jacksons Lane Theatre. She incorporates her experience of dance and martial arts into her choreography resulting in a unique style.  In 2019 Dani graduated Circomedia gaining a BTEC qualification.

Dani’s aerial hoop performance captures the integrity of the fight for survival within a dystopian era. She portrays the vulnerability of existing in a lawless outland through a unique movement style.  


Hester Cross has dabbled in many skills including gymnastics, theatre, drama and dance but it wasn’t until she was 24 that she found the circus and realised she could combine these skills and do something she loved. Since then she studied for two years at Circomedia and one year at Flic school of circus, where she discovered a passion for combining physical theatre, comedy and circus skills in order to tell stories and express issues about the everyday dilemmas and heartaches we go through.

A beautifully twisted aerial, comedy piece that tells the story of a lonely princess trapped in her very own fairytale doomed to be alone forever, and the tragic decisions she makes.

Helena Berry has spent the last past 6 years of her life in circus schools. The first was Circomedia located in Bristol, this is where her juggling journey started, as well as her interest in creating and performing. She continued on her circus adventure which led her to ACaPA in the Netherlands. It was there that she spent four years researching a style of juggling that incorporates foot juggling and acrobatics.

Technically, Helena combines foot juggling and acrobatics. But, can you keep your eye on the ball?


Lee Keenor is a professional Handbalancer and Hand to Hand flyer. He trained on Circomedia’s BTEC course and later graduated from the National Centre for Circus Arts in 2019. Lee performs his acts all over the UK performing with companies such as Ockham’s Razor and NoFitState Community Circus, he has also performed in various cabaret, club and events. Lee uses incredible strength and flexibility with hand balancing to transport his audience to a dark and depressing scene.

‘Penrose’ A technical hand balancing piece using eight canes. An act which creates an atmosphere for the audience, formed from the research of Impossible Objects and Illusions.

The Judging Panel 2019

Billy Alwen is co-founder and Artistic Director of Cirque Bijou formed in 1999. Since then Cirque Bijou have made thousands of shows across the globe for audiences of 50 to 50,000. In 2012 they made Battle for the Winds to launch the London 2012 Olympic Sailing events in Weymouth. Significantly it bought Cirque Bijou into partnership with Diverse City. A year later the first Extraordinary Bodies show, Weighting, was made in only 10 days, with an exceptional company of disabled and non-disabled artists. Since that first commission in 2013 Extraordinary Bodies has grown and developed into a national and international circus project, working with the National Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, and Circus Oz in Melbourne.

Verena Cornwall is currently head of Culture and Place for Royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea; she is a founding member of CircusNext for which she is an EU judge and the UK & ROI co-organiser for the EU Foundation and Circostrada the European Network for circus and street arts. She has worked with: Circus of Horrors,  Circus Development Agency and Jeunes Talents Cirque Europe.

Her work with Festivals and Carnivals includes Winchester Hat Fair, St Patrick’s Festival, Dublin and Notting Hill to name but a few. She has sat on a number of EU and country-wide boards in the not-for-profit sector including Arts Council England and The Association of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain. She also ran a Ballet School for 2 years!

Jade Dunbar was born into a circus family and has worked with many circus theatre groups including the acclaimed Cirque Bijou, Three sixtyº and Tao Productions as well as at events across the UK, Europe, India and the Middle East. Having run the Circus Big Top at Glastonbury Festival since 1995, she specialises in new work and commissions; her talent for discovering and nurturing new work has since become recognised as The Glastonbury Arts Commission award for new programming.

Eloise Currie’s dance training set her up to enter the world of circus in Cornwall and then Bristol before studying at The National Centre for Circus Arts where she graduated in July 2018 with a BA Hons. She was awarded the inaugural Richard Award Trophy in 2018 and since then has. worked internationally for companies, events and festivals were invited to audition for Cirque du Soleil and continues to work as a soloist with many adventures and ideas for making a show with an ensemble cast in the pipelines.