Author Archives: Lauren Hendry

About Lauren Hendry

I set up The Production Shed in 2013, to grow contemporary circus across the UK by working with companies making great work on a small scale. Previously, I trained at the National Centre For Circus Arts, and set up So & So Circus Theatre, with whom I created and toured shows for 6 years.

The show’s now up & running at the Tron, and is heading out on tour next week before settling into Summerhall at the Edinburgh Fringe from 14th August.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the mix of watching European Championships by day, and performing Tetra-Decathlon by night. Synchronised swimming is gloriously ridiculous and if it weren’t so flipping hard, could well have tempted me into a pool. Looking at the Russians, though, I dare say I wouldn’t be getting to the World Champs any time soon.

Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

It’s show time in no time

The days are counting down, like the steady clap before jumping.

Tomorrow, Tetra-Decathlon previews at Macrobert Arts Centre in Stirling. Next week, it’ll premiere at the Tron in Glasgow, before heading out on tour.

A little bit of me wants to believe that the reason I’m not in a state of abject terror is that competing in a tetradecathlon has prepared me for such occasions. But the truth of it is that I’m incredibly lucky to have such bloody brilliant people around me, and so I know it’s going to be a winner.

Jenna Watt is directing the show. She wrote, directed and performed her solo show, and won a Fringe First Award. Oh, sorry. I mean she did all of those things…. twice.

Callum Smith (@Showroom) is a shit-hot producer. He jumped on board last year, and has made this all possible.

Ema Jayne Park is another brilliant maker who has been working with me to create the movement in the show.

Claire Halleran designed the show, and I’m really excited to be in the world she’s made for the show to live in. Giggy Argo is now making that world a reality. It’s looking so great and I’m sad that I can’t post pictures everywhere because it would spoil the fun.

Scott Twynholm is making sound for the show and that is SO VERY EXCITING! He’s also a marvellously calm person to have around and an excellent 4-square competitor to boot.

Jane Gilbey has been managing both the stage and me, and bringing cake and being great. She was the first person to bring a cup of tea and ask if I was ok when I was having a serious wobble a few weeks back, and she’s a rock solid woman who I’m glad is on my side.

And Kyle McAslan has made a really cool thing, which is kind of a secret but it’s a bit like this….

As ever I’ve had a ridiculous amount of support from this chump (now known as my “long suffering marathon-running boyfriend”- Daily Record). As if 600 days of making post-training dinner wasn’t enough, Arron’s been supporting me through every step of making the show too. I couldn’t have done the tetra or the show without him. Not one bit.


I’m excited. I’m terrified.
I’m so bloody delighted.


To see if I could

To have a laugh

To forge an identity

To make a show that people might be interested in

To have a story

To show off

To only be able to improve

To look a fool

To be taken seriously

To push myself

To be pushed

To trust a process

To set a deadline

To be a hero

Competing without training

People who want to train but not compete have always baffled me, even as a kid. In my gymnastics club, lots of the girls would try to weedle out of competitions. However, without exception everybody loved Gymfest- a non-competitive team event.

Athletics doesn’t have a Gymfest- it’s racing or nothing. I just can’t understand those who go through the indignity of almost vomiting on their feet three times a week without the pay-off of racing to the finish line. Many times I’ve said that I’d like to compete without having to train.

So that’s what I’ve just signed up for.

It’s been 4 months since I’ve so much as picked up a shot, and I’ve just entered the Scottish Indoor Pentathlon the weekend after next. Given that there were only 4 seniors in last year’s heptathlon and one of them has now moved to London, I might strike it lucky. I genuinely don’t know if I can remember how to hurdle, but the 2018 column is blank on my Power of 10 and I’d like to fix that.


Me: “What events are you competing today?”
Her: “Long jump, shot, 200m, sprint hurdles…”
Me: “Oh- we’ll be together for hurdles”
Her: “Behind me. You’ll be behind me.”

Silence as I’m taken aback by her words. She continues.

“What are you running? 18.5? I’m at 17.5. You’ll be behind me.”

I picked up the shot, the made the throw of my life to (briefly) overtake her.

I first met Sandra at the South of England Heptathlon in 2016. My first track race had been 3 months prior and I’d only picked up a javelin the week before. From afar I saw the pale pink cap and the hunched shoulders I came to recognise instantly.  For the next 2 days I was subjected to patronising advice and backhanded compliments. “The good thing about doing a really low high jump is that you get more time to recover before shot.”

In that competition, every time I closed my eyes and hoped for a moment of calm, without exception she was in my ear, talking about her training programme, her times, her achievements. Maybe it takes one to know one- I am after all making a show about all of these things in my own sporting existence. However, Sandra’s story always features herself as the heroine, and never, never the idiot.

On every start-line, up until the moment the official shouts “on your marks”, Sandra’s competitors are subjected to tales from her athletic treasure chest. In the case of the race pictured above, she recounted how irritating it was that Moe had always been against her in multi-events, always nudging ahead of her. Moe, who competes for both GB & Nigeria, did indeed just pip us all to the line by several hurdles.

With the pink cap popping up when you least expect it, no athlete is safe from misplaced bragging and pointed criticism.

Yesterday entries opened for the 2018 World Championships in Delft, Netherlands. Have there been any early entries to the TetraDecathlon, I wondered? Lo and behold. One female competitor has signed up. I cannot bloody believe it.

Missing out

Photos of friends across Europe on podiums for indoor pentathlons.
This photo of ducks on track at Finsbury Park on a sunny day.
Slight pangs that I’m missing out.

I start netball tomorrow.

Thanks to Noelle for the photo.

Things I didn’t know about before.

Leg lube
That running makes you feel sick
Which direction to clear a hurdle
Winter training
Warm-weather training
A-string / B-string
That 400m hurdles would be grim
That 800m would be the worst
Throwing the captain in the water jump
Hurdling and split leaps are not the same
36 year olds are “veterans”

Sticking it out

“You are the Emily Dixon of sports,” an old friend told me.

Emily Dixon is a mutual friend, who lives her passions fully. She once took up Rubik’s cube, and rose rapidly to become one of the UK’s fastest female solvers. That not being enough, she learned to solve it with her feet. She is now about to embark on a leg of the Clipper race, despite hanging off the side of a boat for weeks with seasickness on a previous voyage. Emily is one of the most incredible women I know. The comparison is a flattering one.

I recently joined a badminton club. With only a single court in the hall, we always play doubles. I am more hindrance than help as I become an obstacle for my partner, who has to reach at least 90% of the shots. I’ve also just signed up to a netball team for the new year, having (of course) never played netball before.

In 2010, though I was initially incapable of hitting the ball, I played ping pong every single day (except when on tour). It took 6 months to win my first game. Like a gambler, each and every time I was sure I’d simply been unlucky, and the next game would be the one- not realising the odds were stacked against me.  My skill level went from abysmal to slightly above average… and then I stopped playing.

There were other reasons why I didn’t go back to track training after this summer’s World Championships- but there is definitely a part of me which wondered if continuing for another year would have brought any progress. Having made some big improvements in 2017, there was significant risk of stagnation. By throwing it away and starting over again, I can once again play the “I’m new” card. I can roll my eyes at missing shuttlecocks well within my reach, knowing there’s no reason that I should be any better than this. In track and field, my newness was wearing off, and as newer members asked for my advice during competition season, I definitely realised I was losing it.

It was certainly tough last winter- it felt like it went on forever. But realistically, I cannot compare one season of self-inflicted hardship to the difficulty of returning year after year, trying to keep making minor improvements after the steep part of the learning curve is over. This was a huge problem in my acrobatics training- perhaps best shown in the show, Box Of Frogs. It’s all fun and games, until you’ve been working on the same trick for 3 years, and it’s not going anywhere and you still don’t want to take the safety harness off.

I never got the “beginner’s kudos” in circus. I did it the easy way- I did gymnastics as a kid- but then struggled to cope with the pressure of continually improving. These new sports that I’ve taken up- people say things like “oh, you’re so brave. I’d never be able to do that.” I thrive off that. But really-  starting out is the easy part. It’s sticking it out that I can’t manage.

Image: Screenshot from Mark Morreau’s video of Box Of Frogs by Stumble danceCircus

Glasgow 2018

I’m absolutely delighted to announce that the show about my athletic journey, Tetra-Decathlon, will be presented during Festival 2018, part of Glasgow 2018.

A year ago, when doing a reccy of Glasgow to see if I might like to live here, I met with Lorenzo Mele at Glasgow Life. I told him about what I’d been up to, and the show I wanted to make about it. I couldn’t believe it when he told me that 6 sports would join forces to hold their European Championships in and around the city in 2018, and that there would be a cultural festival alongside it. What a perfect fit.

The show will be produced by Showroom. The wonderful Jenna Watt will continue to direct the piece, and I’m very pleased to once again be working with Sue Mayes as the show’s designer (this will be our third production together) . Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling are our generous co-producers, and it’s really exciting to have a link through them to University of Stirling; Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence (who can hopefully teach me a thing or two about what I should have been doing in training).

Festival 2018 runs alongside the sporting events, from 2-12 August. Tetra-Decathlon will premiere at the Tron- located near the Festival hub in Glasgow’s Merchant City- and will go on to tour several venues close to the sporting action. More details coming soon.

Huge thanks to Glasgow 2018 and Macrobert; as well as to TronLab, Tom McGrath Trust, and as ever my teammates and coaches, without whom we couldn’t have got to this stage.



Weeks later…

I will write about the competition in Turnhout itself soon. But now it is finished- what am I doing?

It’s been one month since the World Championships. With the exception of a slightly impromptu club competition for Giffnock North (by virtue of being the only senior woman, I won), I haven’t set foot on a track since.

“Will you continue?” It seemed as though all my fellow tetradecathletes and their spectating friends knew this was a question on my mind. It seems rude to say to one’s competitors, “I only started this to make a show- it seemed funny at the time!” When making a pact with myself to compete in the World Champs, 20 months seemed an impossibly long commitment to such a silly pursuit. I never dreamed that I’d end up in this quandary.

But now. Now in the cold light of autumn, with no senior women by my side; without the infallible optimism of my Heathside coaches, and the thought of chugging along in the dark until March…

I can’t.

But in the moments when the competition was going well- after sprint hurdles, or high jump-  in fact, after any event that lasts less than a minute-and-a-half; I wanted to carry on, beyond this year. When sitting in the water jump with a dozen women, who just put themselves through a tetradecathlon just for shits and giggles. And the many moments in Turnhout, when people who I met in Cambridge said with some surprise, “you must have been training a lot” – I wanted to come back in 2018 and show them that I can keep improving.

Looking back over videos from last year’s European Championships, I now feel like I’ve really been through it with these women. Photos from races where at the time, I didn’t know who I was racing- I’ve now been in 28 events with them all. Christelle, Janneke, Kirsten, Maren, Sophia, Barbara, Gerda. Catching up with the same group of people, year after year, to go through this extraordinary experience together- it’s something I’d dearly like to hold onto.

But those things- excellent as they are- can they balance out the hours put in through the year? Do I enjoy the pay-offs enough? In reality, it’s unlikely I’ll compete in a tetra next year. If all goes to plan, I hope to be busy next August when the European Championships will be held; and that’s likely, weak as it sounds, to make the decision for me.