“I started doing shows, and then I realized, like 15 years later, I’ve never had a job,” says England-born Fatt Matt, also known as Matt Yates, director of the Lunar Circus in Karridale, Western Australia.
Matt was late to enter the circus business. In 1988, this 20-year-old learned to juggle on his travels Down Under. He settled in Margaret River in 1990 and has continued performing ever since.
Matt bought a blue-gum tree plantation (undesirable trees grown only for their pulp) in Karridale and took three years to clear the land for his circus. With eight acrobats and a full band they performed in a small big-top as a touring troop. From there, they added the festival, in 2007. The ‘Karnidale Festival’ is a once-a-year two-week training project with 250 kids, adults and aspiring circus people. That culminated into the January two-day festival with an attendance of 3,000 people who come to see the circus and camp on the property.
Photo of Fatt Matt (Matt Yates), director of the Lunar Circus
The festival (January 19th and 20th 2024) features seven big tops, a bar, restaurant, café and venues such as the bus station and rocket ship. The highlight of the festival features acts of 70 different performance artists from around the world. “They come for the love of circus. It’s a celebration of circus for our industry for the national and international artists,” says Matt. “They get to come to Australia and perform in this small town of Karridale or what we now call ‘Karnidale’”.
During the festival Matt hires local residents for food services, sales or whatever else may be needed. “It started off small and every year we keep getting bigger and bigger,” he says.
The Lunar Circus no longer tours but Matt does. He returns to England during Australia’s off-season to perform 40 comedy-acrobatic shows.
And where does the name Lunar Circus come from? Says Matt, “In 1990, we were talking about Cirque du Soleil, and we said when the sun goes down, the moon will rise.”