Roll up, roll up: The Surrey Circus Centre is open for business


Learn how to perform on an aerial hoop with the help of Alissa Blackledge - Credit: Surrey Circus Centre

Hanging hoops, super stunts, amazing aerobatics… The brand new Surrey Circus Centre is ready to teach you it all, with experienced aerialist Alissa Blackledge at the helm. We speak to her about all the fun of the circus, the benefits of training, and why you should give it a go…

Post-lockdown, we’ve all felt our bones creaking and seen our sofas form a permanent dent. But if the thought of going on a run or heading to the gym fills you with dread, then there’s a new way in Surrey to get fit and have fun at the same time. The Surrey Circus Centre has opened in Walton-on-Thames, where punters can learn fun performance arts in the beautiful setting of the Hersham Baptist Church. 

Surrey Circus Centre

Alissa proudly showcasing the Surrey Circus Centre space - Credit: Surrey Circus Centre

The Circus Centre journey began with Alissa trying to find the perfect place in the county to perform. ‘During the summer last year, I was trying to find somewhere to train as a professional artist, and ended up finding the Baptist Church,’ she says. ‘I turned the negative of lockdown into a positive and used the time to open it up as a space because I felt like there was a gap in the market for aerial classes in the area.’ 

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Alissa is just the right person to introduce Surrey to this exciting acrobatic endeavour. She has been trained at the National Centre of Circus Arts, where she has also taught others of a range of ages. ‘Circus is accessible for anyone and everyone, which is one of the things I really love about it.’

‘Professionally I have performed aerial all over the world from Australia to Scandinavia to the Brit Awards with Hugh Jackman, performing The Greatest Showman at the O2 Arena. I specialise in performing ice skating on my own synthetic ice pad with aerial acrobatics. That is my unique selling point as a circus artist, because I can perform in ice skates anywhere.’ This wealth of experience she brings as a performer and a teacher means that she’s more than capable of training those who wish to give it a go. 

For the first two weeks, Alissa is running taster sessions for children, teenagers and adults, who can then join the four-week course if they enjoy it. Initially, Alissa is offering aerial hoop training, but in time she is hoping to deliver a wide variety of classes, including silks training, flexibility and mobility training, as well as a selection parent and child classes. 

Not only will aerial training lift your spirits (literally), it will also help you get back (or keep you) in shape. ‘It's a total body workout – often in the class you're just focusing on trying to get a position or a trick, then the next day you can feel that you've just done a really big workout,’ she says. ‘We will be concentrating on strength though, and so people can get confidence in their own bodies and ability. I would describe the classes as a combination of dance, gymnastics, and bodyweight circuit, all the while focusing on having fun and exploring the aerial hoop.’

READ MORE: Alternative ways to get fit in Surrey

Even if the last time you hung off something was monkey bars as a child, the classes are all inclusive and suitable for a range of abilities. ‘I’m aiming to provide a really supportive space, so if you don't feel confident in doing something, I'll be there to help you through it.’ Seeing people be excited about exploring the hoops and playing with them is the part of the classes Alissa is most looking forward to. ‘Once someone gets onto the equipment and does the first position, the way they light up is so unique. They realise what they're capable of and what their bodies can do.’ 

She continues: ‘Some people have rang to book and said, "I am in my 50s, and just been sat on the sofa during lockdown. I've never been to the gym, could I have a go? Is it for me?" And I'll say 100 per cent – it’s a happy place with no judgement.’

Whether you have mini acrobats in the making or even want to give it a go yourself, there are options for everyone. Stepping into the magic of the circus certainly sounds like a fabulous way to emerge from the stresses and strains of lockdown.

Classes at Surrey Circus Centre start from £15 for a children's class (8-16) and from £18 for an adult one-off taster session. Four-week courses are £90 for children and £100 for adults. For more information or to book visit