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."

Friday, 4 August 2017

Nights at the Circus Fantasia



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

Get the new edition of Circus Mania before anyone else!


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

Circus 250 celebrations launched!



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 back in the circus in Clacton

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

New Joseph Grimaldi film The Funniest Man In The World











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

Circus returns to Clacton Pier this Saturday







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.
Fantasia is an all-human show. But what must it have been like on the pier in the days of Chipperfields? Jamie Clubb and his father provide an atmospheric eyewitness account in a fabulous blog post here. With an elephant and lions stabled on the end of the pier and waves crashing over the top, it sounds like a scene from Noah's Ark!

For more on Circus Fantasia, click here to see my pictures of their transport.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Hugh Jackman stars with fake elephant in Barnum flick The Greatest Showman

PT Barnum
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
Circus Mania!
In the meantime, you can read all about Barnum and his real-life elephant Jumbo - the world's most famous elephant - in Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away With The Circus.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

What does it mean when you dream you're a clown?











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.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Douglas McPherson's review remembered... 20 years on!


Not circus, but it was nice to open the new issue of Country Music People and see my name in the above paragraph by BBC broadcaster and broadsheet writer Spencer Leigh.

It's gratifying to know that something as ephemeral as a review can stick in someone's memory twenty years on.

And if my reviews are that memorable, think of the impression my books must make!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

How to write about the circus and get published!








Ever wanted to write about the circus? A memoir of your life in the big top, perhaps?

Many people have a notion to write a book... one day. Others nurture a dream of writing a best-seller... in the same way that they dream of winning the Lottery. That is, without any real hope of it ever happening. Which of course it won’t, if they don’t buy a ticket. But writing isn’t something that anyone needs to put off. Nor is success limited to best-selling novels.


The fact is that anyone with something to say can start writing today and realistically be published in the very near future. Your first success may not be a best-seller, or even a book, but it will be a step towards growing a writing career with no limit on where it will end.

Based on a series of articles in Writers Forum, Start Writing Today, will show you how to take that first step and many others. The twenty-five chapters show you how to write, and most importantly how to sell, magazine features, reviews, news items, short stories, memoirs and books.

Start Writing Today reveals the three-step trick to selling any article or book, and how to nurture professional relationships that will help you earn for years to come.

Everything in this book is based on my personal experience of being a full time writer for more than twenty years, and at every step of the way includes examples from my own work to show how the techniques, tips, cheats and hacks worked for me and how they can work for you.

Most of all, this book will show you how you can start writing today.

Click here to buy Start Writing Today.