Hailsham-based Moonlight Dreams offers creative interactions in the community

Thanks to a grant of £10,000 from The National Lottery Community Fund, Moonlight Dreams, the Hailsham-based Not-For-Profit organisation, is delivering a series of five stimulating and motivating Circus Skills Workshops to a range an inter-generational groups within the community.
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Renato Pires, Founder and Owner of Moonlight Dreams shared the exciting news saying: “We are dedicated to inspiring and engaging with people of all ages and backgrounds within our community, giving them the opportunity to experience the joy of learning new fun and interesting circus skills – and we do this through our interactive Circus Skills Workshops.

“Our workshops not only address adverse issues concerning physical and mental well-being, but also overcome barriers to participation in physical and collaborative activity, which exist in conventional sports.”

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By receiving the National Lottery Community Fund Grant, it has enabled Renato and the Moonlight Dreams team to bring people of all ages together, teaching them fun, different and unique skills that require teamwork and mutual support.

Renato Pires of Moonlight Dreams, hosting a Circus Skills Workshop at Mortain Place Care HomeRenato Pires of Moonlight Dreams, hosting a Circus Skills Workshop at Mortain Place Care Home
Renato Pires of Moonlight Dreams, hosting a Circus Skills Workshop at Mortain Place Care Home

For the younger generation in particular, the physical and cognitive energy required to learn new circus skills, provides an outlet for pent-up energy that could otherwise, potentially, be expended in disruptive or anti-social behaviour.

Renato and the Moonlight Dreams Team designed their Circus Skills Workshops to accommodate all levels of ability, age and mobility, to ensure they have something for everyone to enjoy and take part in. Every workshop is delivered by professional, skilled performers and instructors who give demonstrations of each skill before helping participants to master them.

“The circus skills are demonstrated and performed by our experienced instructors before we explain to everyone how they can participate in a fun, entertaining and engaging way. We then teach the basic skills of each discipline, under close supervision and always prioritise safety,” added Renato.

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“The physical benefits of learning one or more circus skill are numerous. They include improved coordination, balance, strength, flexibility and dexterity and also help to build self-esteem. For both the older and young generations, learning circus skills can be an effective, therapeutic tool to help learning and behavioural disabilities, including Dyslexia, vision issues, ADD, and ADHD,” continued Renato.

Plate Spinning Resident at Mortain Place Care HomePlate Spinning Resident at Mortain Place Care Home
Plate Spinning Resident at Mortain Place Care Home

So far this year, Renato and his team have held four of the five workshops. The Moonlight Dreams Team has visited Mortain Place Care Home in Eastbourne, Lewes Old Grammar School in Lewes, participated in Sussex Community Development Association’s Ukrainian Unity Day in Newhaven and also hosted an Open Day at its headquarters in Hailsham. “Whilst we agreed to five workshops, we are aiming for 10 as we know how important they are for promoting social inclusion, health and well-being,” Renato added.

“When we visited Mortain Place Care Home in Eastbourne, the residents had a wonderful time and lots of fun. They really engaged with learning new skills and thoroughly got to grips

with all the circus competencies we demonstrated. We were all very impressed with how well and quickly the residents were able to master the techniques - Scarf Juggling proved to be a particular favourite.

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“Juggling improves the mobility in hands and fingers, hand to eye coordination, reaction times, reflexes, spatial awareness and concentration. In addition, it’s a gentle form of exercise which is not stressful on the joints, so ideal for the residents to participate in,” continued Renato.

Moonlight Dreams' Circus Workshop at SCDA's Ukrainian Unity DayMoonlight Dreams' Circus Workshop at SCDA's Ukrainian Unity Day
Moonlight Dreams' Circus Workshop at SCDA's Ukrainian Unity Day

Residents at Mortain Place certainly had a great, engaging time. ‘’It was a thoroughly entertaining afternoon; nothing was too much trouble for them. They spent time ensuring everyone had the help they needed. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next time,” said resident, Bernard Ransom. Another resident, Jennifer Cartwright added: ‘’It was excellent. They had a very good way of getting everyone involved, it was such a laugh, with the scarfs. Everyone enjoyed it.’’

Resident Gerry Barnard agreed: “Plate spinning was great fun, I’d never done it before, but it worked well.” “The plates were very interesting. Especially from up high to down low then around the room with everyone,’’ added resident, Michael Neil.

Alex Leftly, the Activities Coordinator at Mortain Place continued: “Renato really worked his magic. He and Jada came in and, straight away, had people juggling scarfs and spinning plates. The smiles on the residents faces and the laughter that could be heard down the corridor was just a different level, this just proves you’re never too old to learn new tricks.

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‘’At Mortain Place, we don’t let age define you. We have an age range from 65 to 101-years-old and residents who are living with dementia and physical disabilities. Renato made them all feel welcome. He had them all involved, laughing and joking, it really was an amazing afternoon,” concluded Mortain Place’s Home Manager, Catherine Brewster.

When the Moonlight Dreams Team visited Lewes Old Grammar School, the pupils immersed themselves in each circus skill. “We wanted to give each pupil an insight into the diversity of circus performance skills and how each discipline is different and requires a different skills-set. The pupils were fully engaged and motivated, participating and enjoying each new skill we demonstrated. Everyone got involved and took part, it was great,” said Renato.

At the Sussex Community Development Association’s (SCDA’s) Ukrainian Unity Day in Newhaven, the Moonlight Dreams Team engaged with 100 children, teaching them how to plate spin, top spin on ropes and other fun, circus skills. Suzi McCaig, SCDA’s Youth Services Project Manager said: “It was a real pleasure to host the Ukrainian Unity Day for our Ukrainian clients, families and friends. A special thank you to Moonlight Dreams who helped us with the Circus Activities, We held the event at SCDA’s Community Centre in Newhaven for our Positive Activities Project; supporting Ukrainian children and young people into activities in their community.”

The National Lottery Community Fund gives grants to organisations throughout the UK to help improve their communities. They work with local groups and UK-wide charities, to enable people and communities to thrive. “Our Circus Skills Workshops could not have taken place had it not been for the Community Fund grant,” continued Renato.

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“Being awarded the grant has enabled my team and I to do what we do best - to get out into the community and bring the excitement and joy of all things ‘Circus’ to new groups of people, giving them the chance to experience new and different things that they probably would never dreamed of doing.”

Renato and his team have two more Circus Skills Workshops planned for February. They will be visiting two care homes, one in Eastbourne and the other in Hastings. “We are really looking forward to the next workshops and sharing our love of the circus with more of our community.

“I have spent my life training and working in circuses throughout the world and am qualified in all circus skills; so to be able to pass on, in some small way, my passion, is the best thing of all,” concluded Renato.