The tend among the buildings

In the heart of Tirana, among popular houses and market places, the artists of a small circus perform every sunday since nearly 60 years. The new capital’s urban plan foresees the demolition of the entire area, erasing in this way the history of one of the most ancient European circus schools.After having crossed Skanderberg square, the main square of Tirana, among huge working yards and new shining skyscrapers signed by the most important names of world’s architceture, the real face of the Albanian capital shows up like an old movie from the 30’s. Decorated old buildings, with warm tones traditional graphics on the walls, bazars winding old streets through small yards among old style popular buildings. Inside one of these yard a small tend appears like a freak mushroom, a red spot in a concrete garden. The Tirana Circus, officially founded in 1952 by a group of Albanian artists, Telat Agolli, Bajram Kurti, Xhuzepina Prendi , Bardhyl Jareci e Abdyl Karakashi, reveals if fact an older and fascinating history. Enver Hoxa, after a first, catastrophic relationship with the USSR, started a new collaboration with the Chinese government for the logistic and industrial support of the country. During one of his visit to Beijing in order to sign agreements, the Albanian leader was invited to attend a show with artists and circus jugglers. He was so impressed and enthusiastic by what he saw that he decided to create a real circus school in his own country. During the years of his hard and inflexible dictatorship, every sunday hundreds of families were waiting in a long queue in front of the red small tend to attend to the magic of the jugglers, the bravery of the trapeze artists and tightrope walkers, the clown’s laughs. The circus was in fact not just a children’s show, but one of the rare moments of joy and lightness in the life of each single Albanian family, constantly oppressed by one of the most cruel regime of recent history. The circus school is still today considered as an institution in Albania. Every year children from any part of the country dare the admission, dreaming to become fearless acrobats or famous jugglers. Teachers carefully care about young atlets not just in their artist and physical growth, but also on the personal level, growing together like in a large artist family. In the last three decades the circus show has inevitably left the success to the new actractive amusements in large quantity imported by the new Albanian capitalism, and nowadays there are few families sat under the tend with the stars, during sunday’s morning shows. The new Tirana is moving forward, skyscrapers brush the old popular buildings which surround and protect the circus and its school. The new zoning plan of the capital forecast an additional extension in the Skanderberg square, in order to build new elegant buildings. If approved, the circus and its school risk to disappear. In these last years the UNPD (United Nation Development Programme) set the goal to finance some of the activities of the circus, increasing the number of performances and the visibility of the young artists abroad. Maybe it won’t stop the progress, but the fascination and the history of this small neighbourhood circus won’t end inside a skyscraper in the centre of Tirana.

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