Monday, 4 September 2017
The fate of the traditional circus with animals has suffered another blow with Illinois becoming the first state in America to ban elephants from the big top.
The ban is due to take effect from January 1, 2018, which means the Kelly Miller Circus, currently touring the state, could be the last opportunity for locals to see jumbos in the ring.
The circus blamed campaigners such at the Humane Society for the ban and recently posted a video on its website showing how Cindy and Jenny, the two elephants on the road with them this year, are cared for by trainer Joey Frisco. The 35-year-old Frisco describes in the clip how he literally grew up alongside the two elephants, which are now 45 and 51-years-old. View it here.
"Animal rights extremists put their agenda through without letting the public know," Tavana Brown, general manager of the Kelly Miller Circus, said of the new law passed by the state House and Senate.
The circus insists it will return to Illinois next year, without elephants, but ringmistress Rebecca Ostrof warned the absense of the elephants - which form part of the Kelly Miller logo - could hurt ticket sales as it did for America's most famous circus, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey, which was forced to close earlier this year after withdrawing its elephants in the face of local legislation in places like California that made it impossible to tour with them.
"They're part of our story," said Ostrof. "What did people want to go see at Ringling? They wanted to go see elephants. People really missed them."
For more on the story of elephants in the big top, including my visit to quite probably the last British circus to feature the giant beasts, pre-order the new edition of Circus Mania from Peter Owen Publishers by clicking here.
"A brilliant account of a vanishing art form."
-Mail on Sunday
Saturday, 26 August 2017
|A Zippos horse with ringmaster Norman Barrett MBE|
The horses and budgies of Zippos circus were blessed upon their arrival in Brighton and Hove when Jerome Lloyd, the local Archbishop of Selsey performed the formal ceremony in the big top.
The clergyman told local newspaper, the Argus: “My relationship with Zippo’s began in 2009 when I walked the tight rope without any safety harness for the Sussex Beacon. I became a sort of unofficial chaplain for them. When Reverend Roly Bain died – the renowned priest who also performed as a clown – I took over from him as their official chaplain. Every since then I’ve come back to visit the circus – there’s an affinity with the performers.”
According to Zippos owner Martin Burton: “Circus people generally are very religious. People who risk their lives are very spiritual. You’ll often see the performers crossing themselves backstage before a stunt.
“In the circus community the most wonderful thing is that we have people from all sorts of faiths,” Burton added. “They all work together for the common good. It’s a wonderful thing, I often think the world should live like a circus.”
Zippos is in Hove until September 3.
Friday, 4 August 2017
What a fantastically atmospheric, magical and inviting picture of Circus Fantasia! As well as presenting a summer show on Clacton Pier until September (click here for more) the show's big top unit is still touring as usual. Catch it on Canvey Island this weekend.
Thursday, 27 July 2017
Nothing like opening the mail and finding the new 2nd edition of Circus Mania! The book the Mail on Sunday called "brilliant" is back with a new yellow cover (seen here with one of the purple first editions) and a new chapter bringing the stories of Circus of Horrors, Danny and Clive, Circa, Gerry Cottle, Zippos and others up to date.
Timed to celebrate the forthcoming 250th anniversary of the circus, my continuing journey behind the scenes of the circus world also finds me visiting the traditional sawdust under canvas show Peter Jolly's Circus and meeting Britain's last lion tamer, Thomas Chipperfield.
You won't find the new edition on Amazon yet, but you can get it early by buying direct from Peter Owen Publishers on 020 8350 1775 (London) or clicking here to visit the Peter Owen online shop. Be sure to ask for the new edition!
|Celebrating 250 years of the circus|
with Gerry Cottle and Dr Haze from
the Circus of Horrors
(Pic from the original Circus Mania book launch)
Wednesday, 26 July 2017
A year-long nationwide festival marking 250 years of circus in 2018 was launched this week on the very spot on London‘s South Bank where horseman Philip Astley set out the first circus ring in 1768.
The Circus250 logo designed by Sir Peter Blake - the pop artist best known for the legendary cover design of the Beatles record Sgt Pepper - was also revealed.
Throughout 2018, all over UK and Ireland, contemporary and traditional circuses, museums, festivals, churches, theatres and archives will be celebrating the 250th anniversary of circus in performance, exhibitions, concerts and events.
The full programme will be announced in October.
|Bobbo returns to the ring|
A clown from one of Britain's oldest and most famous circus families is among the stars of Circus Fantasia for their summer season on Clacton Pier.
After a while away from the ring, clowning in other environments including burlesque and the Clown Gathering UK gala show at the Seagull Theatre earlier this year, Bobbo Roberts says he's tickled to be back in the ring with jugglers, a unicyclist and a flying trapeze troupe.
"Having so much fun at Clacton-on-Sea. Come and see the show three times a day. It's better than the NHS," says Bobbo.
Bobbo grew up in the circus, where he learned his craft from such legendary clowns as Jacko Fossett. Click here to read his full story. And for more on Circus Fantasia click here.
|Those daring young men and women on the|
flying trapeze in Clacton.
|Where it's all happening|
from now till September!
Tuesday, 18 July 2017
On the showbiz grapevine...
Vicki Michelle, the actress who came to fame in hit BBC sitcom 'Allo, 'Allo, tells me she's just finished making a new short film about Joseph Grimaldi, the Victorian pantomime star known as the Father of Clowning.
The film, produced by John Conway, was shot in Blackpool and the starry cast includes real life funsters The Chuckle Brothers, with Barry Chuckle playing Grimaldi. Singing star David Essex plays Charles Dickens, who was Grimaldi's biographer; and Charlie Cairoli Junior plays Charles Dibdin - an often overlooked but important historical figure who gave the modern circus its name!
Michelle stars as Grimaldi's wife, Mary, while Jonathan Thomas-Davies makes an appearance as Lord Byron.
The short film is currently in post-production, but if it's successful, could it lead to a full length feature or TV drama?
Watch this space!
Wednesday, 5 July 2017
A great circus tradition returns to Clacton in Essex this month, when Circus Fantasia sets up its ring in the Jolly Roger at the end of Clacton Pier.
Built in 1891, the Jolly Roger last hosted a circus when Chipperfields' appeared there in the 1980s. Since then, the Victorian building has been mothballed.
After a trial run during half term earlier this year, the 300-seat circus will be open every day from July 22 - September 3, with three one-hour performances each day. It promises to add a bit of sawdust magic to a salty day at the sea.
|The Jolly Roger as it used to be.|
For more on Circus Fantasia, click here to see my pictures of their transport.
Friday, 30 June 2017
Drawing by Douglas McPherson
Well, the Ringling Brothers dropped the elephants - and we know what happened next - so perhaps its unsurprising that you'll have to make do with GCI pachyderms when The Greatest Showman, a musical biopic of circus founder PT Barnum rides into cinemas this Christmas.
Talk about movie 'spoilers', I have to say I lost some enthusiasm for the film when its star, Hugh Jackman, was snapped looking completely ridiculous astride a mechanical bull on the back of a truck during filming in Manhattan... the elephant he's supposed to be riding being added later by computer trickery.
Barnum himself would probably approve. The showman was known for his far-fetched publicity stunts such as presenting a white elephant... courtesy of a bucket of whitewash. As one of his competitors once said of him, "There's a sucker born every minute!"
|Douglas McPherson met|
only real elephants, not CGI ones,
in the research for
Wednesday, 28 June 2017
I had a funny dream last night. I dreamt I was a clown doing a cookery routine with an Invisible Shelf. I kept putting things like the kettle on the Invisible Shelf and, because there wasn't a shelf there, they kept clattering to the floor and bashing me on the foot. At the end of the routine I had a tray with a plate of salmon sandwiches and a cup of tea. I put the tray on the Invisible Shelf and a pair of hands came through the wall and held it. The hands were wearing orange gloves, the same colour as the wall, so the audience couldn't see them. After the crowd applauded, I left the tray on the Invisible Shelf, drank the tea and passed around the sandwiches to show they were real.