‘I was unemployed, sad, and lost’ Northern Ireland Hula Hooper Sparks Joy Through Circus Performing

Olivia Elsey

As someone who is terribly clumsy, has two left feet, and often trips over thin air, watching circus performers tumble toss, walk tightropes, and breathe fire never ceases to amaze me.

Recently, I caught up with the wonderful Fi, a self-taught hula hooper and circus artist based in Northern Ireland. Her social media accounts are filled with twirling ribbons, theatrical outfits, and every colour of the rainbow. In short, she is a ‘Gram feed filled with joy and positivity. Speaking with her about inspirations and creative processes was a tiny glimpse into a world of magic and wonder…


OE: I love how fun and fabulous your Instagram pics are! How did you get involved in such creative performing? And how long have you been performing across Northern Ireland?

FFH: Thank you! I started hula hooping in 2015 as a hobby. I was unemployed, sad, and lost at this point in my life.  I got really addicted to learning hula hoop, my coordination was terrible back then, but I just loved putting on tunes, learning tricks, and dancing.  I probably hula hooped every day for two years! I decided to do a hula hoop teacher training course and started teaching hula hoop to share the joy with others. 

I think it was at this point that I started growing in confidence and wanted to have a go at performing. My first performance was in a back bar for charity and I accompanied a rock band.  I think I got paid fuel money and bought a couple of drinks but I didn’t care, I loved the buzz I got from it and I knew I wanted to do it more.  From there I did a couple more events for charity to get experience and then started putting an Ice princess costume together for Christmas events.

I contacted a few event organisers and I got my first couple of paid bookings.  This was winter 2018, so bar the year that time forgot I would say two years- I’m still a baby performer! 

OE: Wow! That sounds like a great introduction to hula hooping. Tell me a secret about your performances.

FFH: My big secret is that I am actually a massive introvert! But the more I perform the better I get at letting the world see me.

OE: From looking at your posts online, you’re a person of many talents, but which is your favourite skill to perform, and why?

FFH: Currently it’s the Levitation wand, which is an evolution of the magician’s dancing cane.  I’m loving the novelty of it as a prop and the fact that I’m finding it easy to learn new tricks fast which is very rewarding.  People don’t know what it is either so that’s always fun.

 I performed with an LED Levitation wand at The Academy Nightclub in Dublin a couple of weeks ago and the crowd had no idea what it was or what magic I was doing! I started performing and looked down and there was a bunch of people right at the front filming the magic on their phones, reactions like that blow my mind.  

OE: That sounds absolutely incredible! What a night it must have been! No one can perform so beautifully without a driving force close to their hearts. What does performing mean to you?

FFH: Awh, that’s such a lovely way to put it.  I think it depends on what I’m doing. If I’m doing a flowy dance performance I go inwards and tap into my emotions but I think the right audience vibe with that (I was trying not to use that word!). If I’m at an event doing a walkabout performance it’s all about the crowd and bringing joy, wonder, and smiles to people’s faces.

OE: The use of colours in your workshops/performances must be tremendous, where do you find inspiration for the outfits/looks?

FFH: That’s a tricky one! Probably online, Pinterest, googling, and looking at what other performers are doing in the mainland and Europe.  Other times it might be inspiration from books, movies or even a childhood toy. 

My recent Sea Sorceress character was inspired by Ursula from the Little Mermaid, except I wanted mine to be more glamorous and dramatic and less scary- I didn’t want to make the children cry!

‘The Sea Sorceress’ by @fiflohoops

A massive thank-you to Fi for taking the time to be interviewed! One of my biggest takeaways from Fi’s interview was to not be afraid of trying something new. Although it may be unfamiliar in the beginning, a little bit of time and effort can help you master a new skill flawlessly. I think I’ll leave the hula hooping and wand twirling to Fi though!

You can find Fi over on Instagram @fiflohoops.

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