Performer at Karnidale Circus Festival, Karnidale Margaret River

Every year in January, a property hidden away in the South West town of Karridale transforms into a strange and wonderful circus and music celebration.

The Karnidale Circus Festival is an epic two-day camping adventure, which brings together some of the most incredible performers on the planet. The festival opened its big top over 15 years ago, when juggler, unicyclist and comedian Matt ‘Fatso’ Yates turned his dreams into action. Yates scouted the South West for the perfect plot of land, eventually discovering ten-acres, which he spent years developing into the perfect festival site.

“I used to live in England, and when I was growing up, I was inspired by the old English folk festivals and some of the larger festivals like Glastonbury,” Yates says.

Performers at Karnidale Circus Festival, Karridale Margaret River

Fun for kids and grown ups

Today, Karnidale is home to five big tops, an amphitheatre, a converted double decker bus and the Dr Reg Bolton Cabaret Bar, which serve as epic stages for circus and cabaret performers, comedy acts and musicians.

The festival draws around 1500 revellers every year, with family-friendly performances and activities during the day, and adults-only entertainment after dark. There are often acts from Cirque du Soleil, as well as performers on the way to or from Glastonbury Theatre & Circus.

“Apart from Glastonbury Circus, it’s just one of the most unique festival experiences you’ll find,” says Yates. “A lot of people who come once will come back year after year after year.”

Just like Glastonbury, Karnidale showcases the music of extraordinary musicians, who will be playing across the weekend and keeping the vibes high.

Then there’s the eclectic market stalls, laden with curiosities, clothes and wares from talented makers. Not to mention delicious food trucks and hands-on workshops for kids, guided by Karnidale coaches who make learning new skills a blast.

“You’ll come and just go into another world,” says Yates. “There’s music happening everywhere, there’s market stalls, you can have a go at little workshops. There are loads of great things to do and watch – from all of the family stuff during the day through to the adults only at night, there’s lots of magic.”

Apart from Glastonbury Circus, it’s just one of the most unique festival experiences you’ll find

Lunar Summer Circus School - Part of Karnidale Festival

Home grown talent

Karnidale has kickstarted international careers for many local performers, including young talent who hone their skills at the Lunar Circus Summer School, which is held onsite in the lead up to the festival.

“It’s a really highly respected event within the Australian circus industry, because it has spawned so many great performers,” Yates says. “A lot of those kids are off now touring the world with international companies, and they’ve had the opportunity to have access to some of the awesome international artists that we invited over the years.”

Lunar Circus Summer School runs for two weeks, with coaching from world-class circus performers on purpose-built stages. Students get to showcase what have they learnt in special performances at the end of each week. There are training options for adults too, but places for all courses tend to go fast.

“The training is just fantastic, it’s awesome for the kids, they get so much out of it,” says Yates. “Then leading through to all of the actual shows during the festival for the community to enjoy, it’s all brilliant.”

Karnidale doesn’t just attract gifted performers. It’s also a space where performers get noticed.

“The organiser of the circus and theatre field for the Glastonbury Festival, he comes to our festival every year,” Yates says. “And so, he sees lots of acts and lots of those acts then go and perform in the UK at Glastonbury in the summer, which is great.”

It’s a really highly respected event within the Australian circus industry, because it has spawned so many great performers.

Performers at Karnidale Circus Festival - Karridale, Margaret River

Get tickets to Karnidale 2024

Karnidale will be hosting over 70 circus artists from all around Australia, France, UK, Spain, USA, Canada, China, Taiwan and Ireland, many who will be performing in the custom-designed big top, which can seat up to 1,000 people. There really is something for everyone, check out the full program here.

The world-class circus and music festival happens from 19 to 20 January 2024. Guests can buy weekend camping passes, or tickets for Friday or Saturday night only. There are also Priority Access tickets available, which means individuals with access limitations can find a seat before the crowd.

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