Ron Beadle Columnist

Article excerpt

THE trapeze artist swings gently whilst the audience below files in; at the same time musicians are adorned with feathers, a hoop dancer checks their LED lighting and a juggler's especially shaven head is topped with a hairpiece.

This scene is played out where- Paris, New York, Montreal? No, in fact it's Shieldfield, Newcastle, home of Britain's only circus school north of Yorkshire. 'Circus Central' is run by volunteers, trains children and adults and put on a show which delighted its audience last Saturday.

If you were so minded you could go there to learn aerial gymnastics, juggling, unicycling and much else besides.

In particular the young people learning circus skills in Shieldfield are also learning about themselves and about the way in which becoming good at their particular art requires them to be good in other ways too.

Any complex task, such as learning how to walk a tight wire, requires us to overcome a range of dangers, temptations and obstacles. We might try to do more than we are capable of, to refuse the advice of our teachers or to become inattentive but if we do these things we are likely to fail at our work.

To succeed we need to develop qualities of self-control, courage, trustworthiness and many others. This learning is not often commented on, it's often implicit but it's critical to our development.

We are, each of us, profoundly impacted by the type of work we do and the type of teachers we encounter.

Every experience of succeeding in difficult tasks, of being inspired by those who teach us and of developing confidence in ourselves and others helps to achieve this.

It enables us to distinguish between whatever we happen to want, praise for example, and what is actually good for us, which might be a degree of criticism.

Not to learn this distinction is to become the victim of our own desires and potentially of anyone who would manipulate them. This understanding of virtue, of character and of apprenticeship were once central to the way in which people understood ethics and organisations from the medieval craft guilds to the Girl Guides were established in light of such understanding.

Have you noticed how TV talent shows always involve coaches? …