Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal

25 01 2011

Naomi Smyth started as a spectator when the Invisible Circus squatted the old Audi garage on Cheltenham Road, a few minutes walk from her home in Montpelier. She then became an observer, filming the group for the first time when they received their eviction notice on September 29, 2006 and following them until September 2009. While still filming, she became an active participant in one of the most vibrant artistic communities in Bristol. Was the bejeezus scared out of you in the Haunted House at last year’s Carny Ville? That was Naomi’s doing.

Naomi has now turned more than 300 hours of footage into a feature-length documentary which will have its world premiere at the Cube on February 5.

The film, Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal, is a behind-the-scenes look at the Invisible Circus as they faced eviction after eviction before finding legal homes at the Pro-Cathedral in Clifton and then at the former fire and police station and courts complex in Bridewell.

“I wanted to tell the story of something that was very grass roots and ad-hoc,” Naomi told us over a soya milk coffee in Cafe Kino. “It is about building something established, licensed to manage a building that could be signed off by health and safety.

“It was about the challenge of setting a price for tickets, getting reviews, all that stuff and how that was going to happen, especially with the mix of crew that there was.”

Naomi went from being on the periphery of that crew to at its creative centre. When not filming, she was part of the discussions about how closely a group founded by squatters could work closely with property developers.

The film features footage from the huge Carny Ville shows and everything that happened for those shows and more to be made. There are also interviews with the Invisible Circus and Artspace Lifespace members, as well as Jonathan Brecknell from Hotwells-based Urban Creation, the owners of the Pro-Cathedral, which remains empty.

Naomi’s film is a look at one of the most exciting stories to happen in Bristol in recent years and she was in a unique position to document Invisible Circus supremo Doug Francis and his cohorts as they let their imaginations run riot.

“There are some things from the early days that I wish I had filmed, or pressed people more in the first place,” Naomi says wistfully. “But in terms of the editing, it was mostly a relief to get rid of things.”

After its premiere, Naomi (left) will look for a venue in Bristol to screen the film on a short run, and also send it to European documentary film festivals.

She has got an idea for her next project, about the breakdown of our civilisation, but that is still in its infancy.

For now, Naomi is looking forward to seeing people’s reaction to No Dress Rehearsal at the premiere.

“I feel so proud to have been part of all of this,” Naomi says. “I was inspired to make the film in the first place by the way back at the beginning the circus reinvigorated in me what I love about live performance.

“The people in the film have been the most patient. They knew first that I was making the film and they had the longest wait for me to get it finished. I think they like it.”

On the night of the world premiere of Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal at the Cube on Saturday, February 5, there will be walkabout performances from 7pm.

The film begins at 8pm. Afterwards, there will be a Q&A with Naomi and the Invisible Circus’ Doug Francis. Music will be provided by The Triangulators and DJ Jules.

Tickets cost £7 and £5 concessions. For more information and to watch the trailer, visit



3 responses

4 02 2011

5th Feb Now SOLD OUT.
There’s only one premiere- but the film is back by popular demand on March 5- Sign up here to reserve a ticket:


After this there will be NO Bristol Screenings for at least 2 months, probably more, so get in there. We’ll also put on a knees-up of sorts to accompany it- so you won’t miss out on the celebrations.

16 05 2011
Welcome to the world of ‘Invisible Circus : No Dress Rehearsal’ |

[…] “Naomi’s film is a look at one of the most exciting stories to happen in Bristol in recent years and she was in a unique position to document Invisible Circus supremo Doug Francis and his cohorts as they let their imaginations run riot.” (Bristol Culture) […]

9 05 2012

The film is available for free for the next five days on daily motion.

Catch it whilst you can!

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