Playing with Fire


Everyone always says that playing with fire is dangerous but I’ve learned that it may not be if you take the right precautions and learn how to handle fire; handle it as an artist.


Spinning fire may sound weird and mundane to you but it surely is fun if you know how to do it, besides anything involving fire looks cool and magnificent if you know how to manipulate it but terrifying if you don’t control it.

My name is Carlos, I’m from Mexico but I’ve been living in the UK for the last years. I love learning, especially science related topics however I also have many hobbies, but the two main hobbies I have are making comics and practicing poi. Today I will take you through how I got started with poi. It all started with going to NCS with the Challenge, a summer program where young people learn many skills and to be independent. On the graduation ceremony was where it all started; that day I was wearing a golden tuxedo which called the attention of someone in particular, Jay.


Jay then invited me to join a group that he was teaching, this group was learning circus skills and particularly fire performance. The group was practicing at a place called Castlefield and were preparing a big performance for the reopening of the Whitworth Art Gallery of Manchester. The day I went there Jays’ wife, Lauren, taught some tricks with different props. The one I found hardest and therefore the most interesting was the poi, and so I focused on learning how to use the poi for the next months prior to the performance.

At first when Jay invited me to learn fire performance I was excited to learn something new but unsure of how would it be since I was not too much of a fire lover. Curious enough the day I turned up  happened to be one of the first times they were going to use actual fire, next to that I ended up using a staff in fire that same night which by the way was a lot of fun. After that I was always waiting for the next chance to ‘play with fire.’


If I have to say that something was hard in my path towards learning how to use poi, it would be the part of learning. Let me explain; learning a trick using poi is a lot of fun but it will take you some time to get your head and hands around it. Poi is basically swinging two chains with Kevlar weights in fire at the ends, you got to do it in such a way that you make cool patterns without entangling the chains together. The good thing is that once you get it you can move on to a new trick.

Then we had the performance at the art gallery and it seems the group was so awesome so that the gallery decided to keep the group. Next on the agenda was to learn slacklining and some more tricks with our props. As always when trying something new there is a challenge to it but it was a lot of fun since this time I knew everyone on the group.


However every sunny day must come to a night and every happy story has an ending. My time in the UK has come to an end and it’s time for me to go back to Mexico, my country of origin. My mom brought the family to the UK as she was doing a PhD here, but now that she finished we must go back home. Though I won’t forget the people I met here and all the great skills I gained. Now I’ll have to keep learning more tricks and leave with a golden teaching: Learning things that seem very hard and complicated only requires some effort and determination as they may not be that hard in reality.

Words and artwork by Carlos, Whitworth on Fire