Catch our Artistic Director Rebecca Mordan at Glastonbury’s Big Top this summer!

Artistic Director Rebecca Mordan takes centre stage at the Big Top at Glastonbury after years as the tent’s only female compère – marking her 20th year performing at the famous festival!

Becca Mordan – responsible for our hit Cornish shows including Queenagers and Duffy Beats The Devil, as well as the creator of The Riot Showgrrrls Club and the Mayven festivals – has worked her way up from volunteering in the Big Top offices at the age of 17 to MCing the main stage in the Theatre and Circus fields over the last two decades. 

Becca said: “My fantastic Glasto boss, Jade Dunbar, saw something in me while I was working backstage and told me one year, ‘Oh, you’ll be trying some compèring shifts next year by the way.’ I was terrified – I’d seen compères clear that huge Big Top of hundreds of people in under five minutes because they couldn’t hold the crowd. But she was adamant I could do it – and that was 20 years ago!

Becca is now one of the small handful of compères in the Big Top at the huge Somerset festival and is the only one who doesn’t come from a traditional circus background.

Performing to crowds of over 3,000 people, Becca opens the tent this year and introduces acts from all over the world.

Becca said: “I am so lucky to be able to open the Big Top, which I absolutely love. I have to help create a unique atmosphere for the audience, make them want to stay in our tent, warm them up, and make sure they’re excited and enthusiastic about what they’re experiencing – they are going to see some of the best circus in existence in that tent and I want them to go wild for it!

She added; “For many of the years I have worked at Glastonbury, I was the only female compère. That’s started to change now. I work with some incredible people and together we try to create a sense of party and community in this tent filled with thousands of people.

The cultural scene in Cornwall has benefitted through Becca’s association with Glastonbury as the relationships she has forged there – along with the SPF funding that we have received – means that many of the circus performers from Glastonbury have appeared in our productions.

Becca said: “Our SPF funding has allowed us to bring some of those Glastonbury circus performers including Annabelle Holland, now a fellow Big Top compère, who brought her knife-throwing skills to our Mayven; and Charlie Bicknell, who recently performed her Cabaret with Claws show in Falmouth and is an amazing aerialist, incorporating acro-balance, music and comedy into her act.

It was fantastic to give a platform to the young women of Cirk Hes, a brilliant Cornish circus school, who performed with Scary Little Girls at venues across Cornwall even as they were in rehearsals for their Glastonbury Big Top debut this year.

Becca’s experience over two decades at the legendary festival has seen her reflect on many changes in the performing arts, played out in the Glastonbury Big Top.

She said: “It’s been interesting to be a woman in a world which has mostly seen men running the show behind the scenes and on the stage – to be a woman’s voice in that space, while not necessarily fitting into the typical image of a woman in the circus. I am a woman in my late 40s and there aren’t a lot of women who look like me in that Big Top – most performers in the tent are young athletes! 

But, like all storytelling, circus is for everyone and so is fun and glamour, so I hope I can be part of showing that.  My boss Jade works hard to bring strong representation of women into the Big Top – I’m so glad she didn’t let me chicken out all those years ago!

Becca’s greatest hope is that she can give permission for future female performers in the circus space, showing what’s possible in a long career.

She said: “There are a lot of young performers coming to festivals, and too often that can be heavily gendered with boys getting to be the comedians and ringmasters and girls putting on the sparkly costumes. For years young circus women at Glastonbury have been fascinated by how I got to be a compère – it’s been so unusual for them to hear a woman’s voice doing that job and filling that huge tent.  I always tell them that you need to get the microphone. Your body can do amazing things, but only for so long – you can be funny forever.

Becca is onsite now – here are some behind the scenes sneaky peeks!

Tune in to BBC Radio Cornwall at around 10:15am on Wednesday 26th June to listen to Becca’s interview.

Thank you to Yahoo News, The Packet, Rewind Radio, and the Cornish Times for featuring this story – read the press release here.


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