Like many 21-year-olds Jessica Ladley is studying for a degree.
Unlike most undergraduates, the former Castleford High School pupil spends most of her time at university either upside down or spinning in a large metal hoop.
Jessica, of Front Street, Glass Houghton, is one of a select group of students enrolled at the new National Centre for Circus Arts in London which is home to the next generation of trapeze artists and tightrope walkers. Formerly Circus Space, it now has ‘national’ status by the government.
Growing up, Jessica attended classes at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and a local gymnastics club. When she heard about the circus school it was the perfect opportunity to combine her two passions.
Jessica, who is in the second year of a degree in circus skills, said: “The audition was nerve-wracking because I was completely out of my comfort zone, but I just thought this is my one chance, if I don’t give it my all then I’ll regret it.”
Since arriving at the school in North London, Jessica has chosen to specialise in the cyr wheel - a large metal hoop in which she performs tricks and spins.
She added: “I’m covered in bruises, but thankfully I’ve only had one really bad accident. The one thing they drill into you is, ‘never let go of the wheel’. One day after completing a really difficult trick, I was so shocked that I forgot to hold on. The wheel came crashing down on my head and I was left with concussion and a cartoon-style bump.”
When Jesccia graduates next year, she hopes to fulfil a long held dream of performing on some of the world’s biggest stages.
“My dream would be to join a group like Cirque du Soleil or work for one of the big Las Vegas shows.
“I’m desperate to travel the world and hopefully by being part of a big troupe will allow me to do it.”