Life As A Juggler

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By June Ramli

Circus work has always fascinated me.
So far, I have only had the privilege to attend circus performance once as a child in beautiful Ipoh.
It was for the Royal London circus show.
They had a performance in Ipoh in which I attended with my family and neighbours.
I still remember distinctively the camaraderie that we went through just to get inside the circus grounds and then watching the show so earnestly.
It was a great performance and the show was packed to the brim.
Yes, Ipoh is a small town so when anything like this comes to town, you can expect us all to attend in full force.
Then fast forward to when I became an adult and was holding down a full-time job as a New Straits Times reporter, I received an out of a blue media invite to the same show but this time the performance was held near my apartment at the Mines Wonderland in Balakong.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it.
But enough about me and my circus memories, today, we have managed to bagged a very interesting interview and it is none other than with Richard Sullivan who works in Australia as a professional juggler.
In this interview, we ask Sullivan all about his life as a juggler and whether the job pays enough money for him to get a mortgage and much more.

Richard Sullivan. Image supplied.

What got you interested in a career as a juggler?

I was always interested in performance and being physical when I was young, so circus seemed like a natural thing to move into. Since starting to really get into juggling in my early teens it has been all I want to do, I never really planned for it to be my career specifically but through pursuing it more and more I found avenues to make it my career.

Do you do this full-time?

Yes! I am a full time circus performer. Basically the distinction here is that in Australia to have more reliable work you need a more diverse skill base than just one discipline. So although I am most known for my juggling I do perform other disciplines as well as doing strictly juggling work.

Is the salary as a full-time juggler enough to sustain yourself?

This can vary from person to person, in Australia it is possible to make enough money to sustain yourself as a circus performer but only through performing juggling is much harder, this is one of the reasons TCC started making work to show that there is a career path for jugglers and it is possible to live off juggling alone.

Sullivan in blackt. Video supplied.

How much can a juggler make on a full-time basis?

This can also vary as it takes many years for you to build up your connections but once you have established yourself it’s possible to be earning around AU$50,000 to 60,000 a year.

Sullivan (right) and in action.

Do you have a mortgage based solely on a career as a juggler?

Yes, my partner (who is also a circus performer) and I have a mortgage together.

At what stage in your life did you start wanting to become a juggler?

When I was in youth circus juggling was just one of the many disciplines to train, I had done a bit but just to say I can juggle. It wasn’t until I injured myself riding unicycle that I started training it seriously, once I got the taste of learning and then mastering a new skill I would say that was the point that I was captured by juggling.

Sullivan (left) with his colleague.

What are people’s reactions the first time around when you tell them you juggle on a full-time basis?

People are usually caught by surprise only because it’s not something you hear so often. Mostly the first question is who do I work for, and then I explain how freelance performance is a very mixed bag in terms of whether I’m working for myself on my own projects, hired for one off events or even hired to be a part of an ensemble. Then I have all sorts of questions ranging from “how many can you juggle” to “what does your day to day look like.”

Do you consider yourself privileged to be able to do what you?

I do consider myself incredibly privileged to be able to do something I love as my career that by no means makes it a walk in the park, I absolutely worked my ass off to be in this position. There were points early in my career where I considered moving on to a more stable job but it’s the love for juggling that kept me going. 

Sullivan (left) in action.

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