Improving the lives of young people through circus



Lolly Jar Circus is the social circus centre of South Australia


What is social circus?

”Social circus is an innovative social intervention approach based on the circus arts. It targets various at-risk groups living in precarious personal and social situations… the primary goal is not to learn the circus arts, but rather to assist with participants’ personal and social development by nurturing their self-esteem and trust in others, as well as by helping them to acquire social skills, become active citizens, express their creativity and realise their potential.”

(Cirque du Soleil)

Lolly Jar Circus uses social circus to create social change by helping marginalised youth find their place within their community. That community then becomes enriched by their new-found skills and confidence.



Every class is unique and full of joy


Lolly Jar Circus offers regular circus classes and performance opportunities for young people to age 26, including those with physical or intellectual disabilities or who are isolated or at risk. Through circus arts we nurture and celebrate our wonderfully diverse participants. They are the ‘lollies’ in the jar, but the lid is off so that they can jump out with new skills and confidence into their families and the community.

Our classes are led by trainers with years of experience in performing and teaching circus skills or gymnastics. They are experienced in working with people with disabilities. All of them have Department of Human Services (formerly Department for Communities and Social Inclusion) Working with Children Clearances.

Outreach classes can come to you and can be one-off or a series. They are suitable for people of all ages, mainstream and special schools, OSHCs, community groups, Day Options groups, and corporate training days. Whatever the group, fun and laughter are guaranteed.

To find out more visit our Classes page.

Lolly Jar Circus is an incorporated not-for-profit association with charitable and deductible gift recipient status. Our Board members, who are all volunteers, set our strategic direction. 



“Lolly Jar Circus bubbles over with happiness”


Judy Bowden, CEO, Lolly Jar Circus





Circus training is a lot of fun, but it has a serious side too.


Exercise benefits physical and mental health but in circus this is complemented by artistic and social elements. Everyone benefits from circus skills. For an introvert it may be solo juggling which is mesmerising and meditative, while an extrovert may be attracted to the physicality of acrobatics.

Circus promotes co-operation without being competitive. Group juggling only works if participants respect and trust each other. A human pyramid works best with strong and reliable people at the base and respectful ones above.

Modern circus is often called ‘new circus’ and there is no place for animals or personal humiliation. People are accepted and applauded for their achievements. Lolly Jar Circus is a haven of acceptance and models mindful behaviour and language in a very positive atmosphere.

Dr Reg Bolton is the father of the new circus movement in Australia and his thesis, Why Circus Works: How the values and structure of circus make it a significant developmental experience for young people  uses the analogy of a hand to summarise the elements of circus:

  • The index finger is self, individuality, identity and image
  • The middle finger is risk, adventure, courage and defiance
  • The ring finger is trust, touch, cooperation and sharing
  • The little finger is dreams, aspiration, imagination and symbolism
  • The thumb is hard work, resilience, persistence and process


  • The ticklish palm is fun, humour, happiness and laughter

Kristy Seymour, of Circus Stars completed her Masters with a thesis, How circus training can enhance the well-being of autistic children and their families.

In it she states:

"Social circus sets out to re-create the sense of freedom and fun that is associated with healthy childhoods…For children with special needs, social circus can concentrate on providing an apparently non-therapeutic, easy-going creative environment in which they can come to feel safe, while involving them in activities that encourage them to develop a sense of connection - with themselves and with each other.

“In my experience the combination of a strong sense of safety and playfulness that social circus provides can build confidence and trust while encouraging creative expression and constructive risk taking. In this environment, autistic children often take the opportunity to explore and/or express their individuality, ironically because they are sharing themselves in an inclusive situation in which their concentration is on working/playing with others to make an activity succeed."




Lolly Jar Circus was established in 2013 to provide a safe and happy place for all young people to enjoy circus fun together.


Lolly Jar Circus founded by current Chief Executive Officer Judy Bowden as an inclusive circus school.

Classes commenced at the All Souls Church Hall in St Peters.

First performance at the Bunnings Kent Town Family Christmas Party.

First media appearance in Aspire Magazine with journalist Ashleigh Ebert and her brother, Port Power player, Brad Ebert.


Granted funding from the Department of Communities and Social Inclusion through Community Benefit SA to purchase gymnastic and manipulation equipment.

First fundraising event held in record breaking 47-degree heat.

Returned to the Bunnings Kent Town Family Christmas Party.

The Sidney Myer Fund (Poverty and Disadvantage Small Grants Program) funded performance preparation and costumes for our inaugural public performance at the Disability and Information Resource Centre Expo.


Featured on Channel 7 News Adelaide.

Benefit partner of Cirque du Soleil’s philanthropic arm Cirque du Monde for the Adelaide tour of “Totem”. Partnership included sale of 100 tickets as a fundraiser and hosting participants and their families at the dress rehearsal.

Received funding from Department of Communities and Social Inclusion through Community Benefit SA for volunteer and paid staff training with a presentation by Autism SA.


Sponsored by Perks Integrated Business Services which continues with in-kind support. Collaborated with Cirkidz to perform at the opening of Flinders Therapy House.

Participated in the Moon Lantern Festival and with participants Charlie and Angus featured in Eastern Courier Messenger.

Trainer Charlie Wilkins wins the inaugural Australian Circus and Physical Theatre “Spirit of Circus” Award. Prize included a trip to Melbourne for flying trapeze workshops with Circus Oz.

Trainer Pennyanne Garner awarded the inaugural Lolly Jar Circus Deb Dawson Award for Outstanding Service.


Received funding from the Department of Communities and Social Inclusion through Community Benefits SA for the commencement of a pre-school aged class called “Little Lollies” and the purchase of a defibrillator.

Received a grant from the Sisters of Charity to provide 10 year-long scholarships for participants.

Belgian Beer Café sponsored participant Diezel and had an on-going program of discounted meals for Lolly Jar Circus.

Moved to newly built ARC Leisure Centre at Campbelltown.


Participants, families, trainers and volunteers took part in the Moon Lantern Festival.

Performed at the KYD-X Disability Expo with a “Spring” themed performance.

Performed at the annual Bunnings Mile End Family Christmas Party.

Volunteers Brianna Gourley, Susan Soleil and Rikki Wright jointly awarded the 2016 Lolly Jar Circus Deb Dawson Award for Outstanding Service.


The Advertiser featured Diezel and his trainer Jono in a double page spread.

Sisters of Charity renewed their scholarships for 10 participants, enabling some of our old friends to continue and some new friends to join.

Commenced classes at a second venue in the Windsor Gardens Community Hall. Participants Marley and Mya featured in the Messenger Press (state which one).

Participants Amelia, Marley and Mya featured in the Messenger Press (state which one) for the launch of National Youth Week.

Volunteer Susan featured in national story on Channel 9’s Today Extra show.

Received funding from the Department of Communities and Social Inclusion through Community Benefits SA for another volunteer training program.


Fundraising dinner at the National Wine Centre MC Alex Ward and speaker Paul Blackwell

Received funding from the Office for Recreation and Sport that enabled us to increase our reach and to plan for classes at Elizabeth.

Performed at KYD-X, the Christmas Party for Special Children at the Zoo and Celebration on the Square to mark International Day of People with Disability.

Lolly Jar Circus nominated and Judy awarded an International Day of People with Disability Playford Mayoral Award.

Treasurer Peter Featherston awarded the Deb Dawson Award for Outstanding Service in recognition of his 4 years of volunteer service.

Lolly Jar Circus became a registered as provider under the NDIS for Capacity Building - Innovative Community Participation - Increased Social and Community Participation


Commenced classes at Elizabeth and Port Adelaide.

The Sidney Myer Foundation funded four scholarships for indigenous youth.

Received grant by the Universal Charitable Fund to fund two  scholarships for young people with disabilities or at risk.