Fiona McKay

I’d been very aware of WOW in the community in my years of child-rearing. I enjoyed, and hankered after what I saw: the fun, creativity and relationships that were obviously part of the organisation. In 2004, through my work colleague, Heidi Hillier, I learned about the WOW circus classes for children that WOW was starting. My daughter, Shona, then 9, joined circus classes, and loved it. When the children’s classes transferred from WOW to Circus Monoxide under Jane Davis, I continued my involvement as a Circus Mum, and we relished being part of Wollongong’s circus community.

At that time I didn’t feel I had the time I needed to join WOW for classes and performances, but at one stage did take part in a 6 week ‘Tina Turnovers circus for women over 40’ class which I thoroughly enjoyed. We sampled all sorts of circus skills, although I didn’t get a good vibe about my suitability for either aerials or stilting.

In 2012, when my daughter ran away to join Circus Aotearoa, and I was in a demanding job, I knew I needed to look after myself better. Making time to join WOW to get more laughter in my life and the company of fun women as part of that goal. In 2013 I attended hoop classes and helped out on the management committee because, as a community group, everything is done by volunteers. From 2014-2020 I have served as Chair, Secretary, Training Coordinator, Marketing and Promotions. I was better at juggling MC positions than balls and clubs, as I sometimes did the work of more than one position concurrently!

Over the years I have discovered that I don’t have my now-professional-circus-performer-daughter’s hooping and object manipulation genes, but have enjoyed participating in a variety of classes and workshops with WOW. I found my most comfortable and natural aptitude in the performance class and clowning. I’ve also taken part in a number of performances and community events, secure as a member of a group which has helped support me and grow as an individual and as a woman.

I’m a teacher by trade, and teachers ‘perform’ every day in the classroom, but I remember my first performance with WOW, in a hoop act at the Bubbles Ball in 2014. Although amongst friends and a supportive female audience, I discovered I was really challenged—anxious about forgetting ‘the moves’ and dropping the hoops, being a clux amongst a group of competents, and the least graceful to boot. I worked through that and was able to reconnect with what I tell children all the time—have a go, it doesn’t have to be perfect, have fun, everyone is different.

That’s what’s great about WOW: the acceptance of difference, of women as they are, each individual exploring and developing in herself, in a safe place. Participating in the creativity that is part of an act is often more important to me than the actual act itself. Working together with others, playing with ideas, developing costumes—it’s all great to be involved with. Even supporting another woman’s performance, perhaps by doing some child-minding on the side, gives me satisfaction being part of a positive group of women.

For me, performance is only a small part of what WOW is about, but my best WOW moments have probably been when I’m a chook!

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