18 for 18: Meet Aisling, the 18 year old fundraising to promote the importance of mental health in the arts

Published Friday, 7th January 2022
By Keira Edwards

Aisling performing in circus show Monoculture at Dance City

Credit: Sharon McInerney Photography

Instead of partying or hitting the pubs with friends, Aisling, 17, decides to do a bit of good for her birthday.

18for18 is a fundraising project created by 17-year-old Aisling for her 18th birthday. Instead of having a normal birthday party, she will be doing 18 hours of exercise, each hour representing each year of her life. This starts at 6am on 12th of January and ends at midnight, as the day changes to the 13th, making Aisling now 18. However, there's a twist. Each hour will be a circus class, ran by different circus mentors, each teaching a different skill. These classes are open for anyone to join, with both in person and online options for those who can't make it and the payment is a give-as-you-feel donation.

What are these donations for? These donations fund bursaries for Circus Central, a circus arts center. These bursaries fund under 25's who want to join Circus Central's level 2 BTEC first award in performing arts and will cover all costs of the course. This allows young people who would never have been able to participate in circus because it is unaffordable and would allow them a chance to use circus to support themselves and their emotional wellbeing.

"It's hard for anyone to find funding as there's less money in the arts and not much goes to circus so people can take part" Aisling says. That's why she is specifically raising money to fund circus bursaries, to allow others to get the opportunity to also join the circus, hoping it should benefit them the way it has for her.

"When I was 13, I had a brain infection and basically, when you have a brain infection, your body shuts down the things that you don't need so the things that release like chemicals into your brain that make you happy" she says. This caused Aisling to suffer from anxiety and depression and eventually drop out of school. She was then psychotic and bedridden for two years which then caused her body to not have built up the muscles and strength it needed to support her body weight. Her flexibility had also dwindled severely, stopping her from even being able to straighten her own legs.

"I went to the physiotherapist, and they said that if I didn't gain some muscle quickly then I was basically gunna die." This caused Aisling to start doing aerial circus, but unfortunately, the place where she was learning aerial looked like it was going to shut down. So she moved to Circus Central, where she has continued to do aerial and says that "it was just really nice to have such a supportive team of people." This has played a massive factor in her choice of circus bursaries as what her fundraising will provide for.

"I had bad mental health and circus helped me get past that, so I want to help others" she says, as mental health has been prevalent in her circus journey.  In order to promote how much circus has helped her, part way through her 18 hours, there will be an hour of performances by other circus artists there to support her, all themed on mental health.

The timetable of 18for18 can be found on Eventbrite by clicking here and you can also go and donate to her cause on her Gofundme by clicking here.

We wish her the best of luck for the day.

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