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Phare Circus finds a permanent home

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Phare was told a year ago that, once its lease ran out, it would have to move. Terence Carter

Phare Circus finds a permanent home

Phare, the Cambodian Circus, has put a down payment on land that will become the permanent new home of one of Siem Reap’s most popular evening attractions – much to the delight of fans and supporters.  

“We are thrilled and excited to be taking this important step,” said the organisation’s chief executive, Huot Dara.

“A permanent home that we own and have the chance to tailor to our needs is immensely important.”

Dara said the move would give the circus a stable base to better service audiences, provide sustainable employment for the artists, contribute to the economy and continue to be ambassadors for Cambodian arts on the world stage.

The circus, which raised its big top in Siem Reap in February 2013, has been looking for a permanent new home since being advised in June 2014 by their landlord that they would have to move once their lease ended.

Of the $550,000 needed to purchase the 5,580 square-metre block of land at the end of Soksan Road, $50,000 came from donations from around the globe, raised through a “Home for Phare” crowd-funding campaign.

The remainder of funds was raised from shareholders and a loan through Grameen Credit Agricole.

After receiving their certificate of land title from the Ministry of Commerce in early June, the loan agreement was signed on June 25 and the deposit made – something the Phare performers, technicians and staff are already very proud of and excited about.

“Our team has worked very hard to make this happen, from raising funds, finding land, and coordinating the purchase and loan, to designing and planning the new site and now constructing it,” Huot said.

“This is proof to our investors and partners that we are capable leaders in the arts industry in Cambodia and that our business model works.

We’re also happy that our project resonated so strongly with people from all over the world who donated through our crowd-funding project ‘Home for Phare’,” Huot said.

Huot said that purchasing their own land was always part of the business plan.

With land prices in Siem Reap increasing exponentially, the board and management felt it was best to purchase a permanent space to provide a more secure, stable and sustainable environment for the performers.

The circus wasted no time, immediately beginning earthworks and construction, erecting the supporting structure for the surrounding walls.

Their hope is that heavy rains during the monsoon season will help flatten the land so they can install infrastructure, including water and plumbing systems and the electrical system, over the next month.

If all goes well, in November, the Circus hopes to start construction of permanent buildings including a larger Phare Cafe and Phare Boutique, better facilities for costume, set and equipment storage, make-up and dressing rooms, a rehearsal space, and a larger parking area, with the aim of holding their first show at the new site in January 2016.

“With our space right now, we’ve done our best to make it work well. But with the new space we have the chance to make something that is ours that we have designed,” said chief technician Sopheak Sam, who has taken on the additional role of new site project manager.

“We have learned a lot from operating in our space over the past two and a half years, and we can use that experience to make the new space more efficient, to make it easier for the staff to use, and make it more clear for the customers where everything is,” he explained.

“It will help things run more smoothly for everyone on site,” he added.

“Because it is our land, we can invest more in making the buildings nicer and bigger, and create space for us to grow into.”

While the Phare team will be busy back home in Siem Reap preparing for the move in between shows, some of the performers are packing their bags for their first US tour, which kicks off in mid-September until mid-October, when they complete the trip at Sarasota and the Ringling International Arts Festival (October 15-18), where they will perform their show Khmer Metal.

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