LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS... welcome to the big top blog of Douglas McPherson, author of CIRCUS MANIA, the book described by Gerry Cottle as "A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people."

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Big Kid Circus Cake marks 91 years in the big top for circus star Doreen Enos

Circus star at 91
Here's the cake with which circus star Doreen Enos celebrated her 91st birthday yesterday (May 20). Enos, known to her circus friends as Oma - the German word for grandmother - blew out the candles in the big top on Morecambe seafront where Big Kid Circus is currently in lockdown.

The cake was donated by one of the local residents who have supported the 35-strong circus company while it is unable to open its doors. You can help by watching their show, Cirque de Cuba online here.

And in circus summers gone by.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

The locked-down circus goes on... online!

The Big Kid Circus was built up on Morecambe seafront in the UK, about to launch its new show Circus de Cuba, when the country was locked down. Unable to open to the public, they've put their show online instead...

Friday, 16 August 2019

McDonald's serve up a beautiful clown ad

I've never put adverts on the Circus Mania blog, but take a look at this beautiful and touching depiction of clowns and circus in this advert for McDonald's.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

130-year-old circus poster found in Wisconsin bar

Circus posters are not designed to last long. Once the show has left town, the billboard promoting it is obsolete.

A couple of years ago, however, the renovations of a Wisconsin bar revealed a 9-foot-high, 55-foot-long, multi-sheet, full-colour circus poster for the Great Anglo-American Circus that had been hidden behind a wall for 130 years.

Apparently, it had been on an outside wall before the bar was built against it almost immediately after the show on 17 August, 1885.

Among the acts depicted is that of circus owner Miles Orton, who specialised in riding horses bareback, standing up, with his two children standing on his shoulders and head.

The poster was printed by Russell, Morgan & Co. from Cincinnati, which was the lithograph capital of the world.

Today, the carefully restored montage of bison, ostriches and aerialists is preserved behind glass and has pride of place in the dining room of the Corral Bar & Riverside Grill in Durand on the banks of the Chippewa River.

Monday, 29 July 2019

European Juggling Convention comes to Newark as part of Big Day Out

Roll up, roll up to Newark in Nottinghamshire this Sunday, 4 August, when the European Juggling Convention comes to Britain for the first time in 20 years, as part of the town’s Big Day Out.

The all-day event will include a parade of 2500 circus performers plus three acrobatic and fire shows, and street theatre.

Click here for 20 Juggling Facts to celebrate.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Wild animals banned from English circuses

News coverage of one of the last elephants
to appear in an English circus - in 1999

The House of Lords has today approved a ban on wild animals in English circuses that will come into effect in January 2020.

The ban defines 'wild' as animals not native to Britain so includes elephants, tigers, camels and reindeer, although horses and dogs will continue to feature in the big top.

The ban follows an existing ban in Scotland, while the Welsh government is planning to introduce similar measures in Wales.

For a history of the more than 100-year campaign to ban animals from the big top, click here.

Today's news comes ten years after I saw the last circus elephants and tigers to perform in England, at the Great British Circus. You can read about that experience in my book, Circus Mania, which the Mail on Sunday called "A brilliant account of a vanishing art form."

Click here to buy from Amazon.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Farewell to the circus elephants

The elephants parade through streets lined with onlookers, when the circus came to town in Lincoln in the 1950s. It's a sight unlikely to be seen again in the UK, especially now that the government has announced its intention to ban wild animals from the big top from the start of 2020. The ban has been hanging over the circus industry since 2012 when licensing regulations were introduced as an interim measure.

Only two British circuses, Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly's Circus still use wild animals, in the form of lamas, camels, zebras and snakes, so the chance to see the elephants and lions of old seems to have already passed.

I was lucky to see the last elephants and big cats to appear on British sawdust, and you can read about my experiences watching the animals and interviewing their trainers - alongside a host of clowns, acrobats, escapologists and circus owners - in Circus Mania, a book the Mail on Sunday called "A brilliant account of a vanishing art form."

Click here to read the 5-star reviews on Amazon.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

20 Juggling Facts for World Circus Day

The Chipolatas
Read about them in Circus Mania

Saturday 20 April 2019 is the 10th World Circus Day. Here are 20 juggling facts to celebrate.

1 - The earliest depiction of juggling is painted on an Egyptian tomb dating from almost 2000 years BC.

Comedian W.C. Fields began his career as The Eccentric Juggler.

3 - Ancient Chinese warriors would show off to their enemies by juggling before battle.

4 - George Washington watched John Bill Ricketts juggle on horseback in America’s first circus.

Sand-filled juggling balls
won't bounce away when you drop them
- Juggler Paul Cinquevalli was nicknamed the Human Billiard Table

6 - Bounce juggling became possible with the introduction of rubber balls in the late 19th century.

7 - Clubs are easier than balls to juggle on a unicycle because they require less accuracy to catch.

8Charles Hoey was the first man to juggle with four clubs - but he couldn’t stop without dropping them, so the curtain had to come down while he was still juggling.

9 - Juggling burns 280 calories an hour.
The Melvilles show how to juggle with
the dinner plates in a great DVD called
Variety Turns of the Post War Years
Read my review here.

10 - Germans such as Salerno (Adolf Behrend) introduced the ‘gentleman juggler’ style that became popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, wearing formal evening clothes and juggling with dinner party items such as plates, bottles, loaves of bread, hats, canes and chairs.

11 - Enrico Rastelli (1896 - 1931) is considered greatest juggler of all time, being able to juggle ten balls at once.

12 - Jenny Jaeger is the only person ever to juggle with ten balls in daily performance.

13 - Antipodism is another name for foot-juggling in which the juggler lies on his or her back to spin and flip objects (or another person) with their feet.

Hoop juggling
at Britain's oldest circus building
the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome.
Read about the 100-year-old
venue in Circus Mania
14 - Foot-juggling with a person is known as a Risley act after the 19th century American pioneer of the style Richard Risley Carlisle.

15 - Britain’s first juggling superstar, Paul Cinquevalli made his debut at Covent Garden in 1859.

16 - Rings are the easiest prop to juggle in large numbers because they’re light and it’s easier to hold several.

17 - Scarves are the easiest item to begin juggling with.

18 - The International Juggling Association was formed in 1947.

19 - The word juggling comes from the Middle English word jogelen, meaning to entertain by performing tricks.

20 Juggling is celebrated on World Juggling DayJune 15 this year.

For more about jugglers, trapeze artists, sword swallowers, tiger trainer, clowns, ringmasters and showmen, read Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus (Peter Owen Publishers). Click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.

"Circus Mania is a brilliant account of a vanishing art form."
- Mail on Sunday.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Circus Krone's new show for 2019, Mandana

An enchanting video trailer for Circus Krone's 2019 show, Mandana, featuring British lion king and this year's Monte Carlo Gold Clown winner Martin Lacey Jr.