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Trio run off to join the Swamp Circus Trust in Penryn

By West Briton  |  Posted: November 09, 2013

  • Matthew Vanstone.

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A CIRCUS charity has put three young people on the payroll – including a homeless man – after becoming one of the first companies in Cornwall to receive funding from a new employment grant.

Penryn-based Swamp Circus Trust, which runs the Circo Kernow school, is using the Creative Employment Programme (CEP) funding to take on the three new interns.

But Christine Billingham, Iain Guard and Matthew Vanstone are far from the average employees.

Mr Vanstone is a juggler from Falmouth, aged 19. He said: "When I was at school, a teacher caught me walking downstairs on my hands and he said, 'go to circus school' and gave me a leaflet.

"Since the first day I went to the school I have not gone a day without juggling. If I wasn't getting paid for juggling I would still be doing it in my own time."

One of his new colleagues is Ms Billingham, a 20-year-old acrobat from Penryn. "I had not tried acrobatics before but, right from the very first session, that was it," she said.

"Hopefully this internship will be a springboard for me to get a career doing something I love – to make my favourite pastime my job."

Mr Guard, a 20-year-old stilt walker who now lives in Falmouth, said: "This means my whole world. I was homeless for a long time, with no hope for a better future. After finding Swamp I am now actually becoming someone I am proud of. I will be on a payroll for the first time and it feels fantastic."

Swamp has been working with Jobcentre Plus to find and hire the new workers. Sue Bradshaw, the creative employment lead for Jobcentre Plus in Penryn, said: "Following a period of work experience at Swamp HQ, I am delighted that Christine, Matt and Iain have secured paid work with the company, although I will miss each of these colourful characters coming into the Jobcentre and brightening our day."

Mr Guard said: "I want to thank Sue and my advisers Amanda and Lizzie at the Jobcentre – without the help of them and the Swamp 'family' I could have been back on the streets – now I have a real chance to make a name for myself."

Applications are now being invited for a further two vacancies – an acrobat artist based in Penryn and a community performer and youth workshop leader in Wadebridge and Bodmin.

CEP is an initiative to support young people who are out of work but want a career in the arts and cultural sectors.

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