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."

Monday, 13 July 2020

Uncle Sam's Great American Circus in Rhyl, from 29 July

As Britain's big tops spring up all over the UK once more, Uncle Sam's Great American Circus has announced that it will be trucking into Rhyl on 29 July.

Click here to see my pictures of Uncle Sam's trademark American trucks when the show visited Norwich.

Also look out for Circus Wonderland - which stars Britain's best-dressed clowns, Mr Popol and Kakehole - when they recommence their 2020 tour in sunny Shoreham 23 - 26 July.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Wonder Circus announces summer season in Skegness

As circuses return to the road post-lockdown, the traditionally-slanted Wonder Circus has announced its summer season from 1 August to 6 September in the seaside town of Skegness.

Information line: 07719 877 422.

To read more about Wonder Circus ringmaster Jan Erik Brenner - also known as Mr Fips the clown - click here.

Britain's first drive-in circus opens next week.
Click HERE for more.

And if you want to know what's like to live and work in the big top, read about it in the words of the clowns, trapeze artists, tiger trainers and showmen that I interviewed for Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus. 
Click here to buy the 2nd edition from Amazon.

Friday, 10 July 2020

Gandeys Circus returns at Halloween

Following the announcement that outdoor theatre can open from 11 July, Gandeys Circus appears to be the first big top show to announce show dates, with a Halloween Spooktacular in the West Midlands from 21 October to 1 November.

Gandeys has been working with the government and Bourne Leisure, owners of Butlins holiday camps, to pilot an airflow system and other logistics to make circus safe in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

For bookings and showtimes, visit Gandeys Circus website.

Gandeys' director, third generation circus man Phillip Gandey, has a history of innovative productions including the Chinese State Circus, Spirit of the Horse and charity circus Circus Starr, which raises funds to entertain ill and disadvantaged children. For the full story of the remarkable Circus Starr, click here.

Britain's first drive-in circus opens next week.
Click HERE for more.

And if you want to know what's like to live and work in the big top, read about it in the words of the clowns, trapeze artists, tiger trainers and showmen that I interviewed for Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus. 
Click here to buy the 2nd edition from Amazon.

Britain's first drive-in circus opens Sunday

Paulos Circus has announced a change of date for the opening of Britain's first drive-in circus.

The Back 2 The 80s Drive-in Show, staged by Paulos Circus, is will now open on Sunday 19 July and run through to 31 August in Newquay, Cornwall, with a stage, screens, socially distanced car parking and a specially designed 80s-style soundtrack.

For bookings, visit the Paulos Facebook page.

For details of other circuses hitting the road post-lockdown, including Circus Wonderland and Uncle Sam's Great American Circusclick here.
Site preparations for
Britain's first drive-in circus

Post updated 13 July
Having originally scheduled opening night for 16 July, Paulos Circus has since delayed opening until Sunday 19 July.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

The day the circus marched on Downing Street

These are pictures of a circus march to 10 Downing Street to demand that the government either includes Britain's circuses in its bailout of theatre venues, or lifts the lockdown restrictions to let big tops reopen and start earning a living again.

The protesters attempted to deliver to Prime Minister Boris Johnson a letter from the Association of Circus Proprietors, which represents 18 circuses and around 500 performers.

ACP chairman and Zippos founder Martin Burton told the news crews who covered the march: "Sadly, circuses seem to have fallen through the cracks of all the rescue package schemes - we pay rent to individual landowners as we tour - and do not have business rateable properties.

"In addition, no commercial circuses have qualified for the any of the £160m emergency Arts Council funding despite generating significant income to the economy through the 30-plus UK circuses and internationally visiting shows such as Cirque du Soleil which combined are seen by around 20 million people a year."

"Its greatest slogan 'the show must go on' could well become a thing of the past if urgent assistance is not forthcoming."

Britain's circuses have been closed since the lockdown in March and remain so while easing of restrictions in other sectors has in recent weeks seen thousands of day trippers cram onto Britain's beaches and, since the reopening of pubs on Saturday 4 July, crowds of drinkers pack shoulder to shoulder in Soho with no regard for social distancing.

As circus insiders such as ringmaster Chris Barltrop have pointed out, Britain's travelling circuses are better equipped to implement social distancing precautions during performances than many permanent venues. The sides of a big top can be opened for greater air movement or reconfigured to provide any number of exits, while the seating can be spaced as required. Additionally, circus performers are largely non-verbal so there is less risk of COVID-19 being spread by airborne droplets (a risk that has been attributed to performances including actors, singers and wind instruments).

Because circus companies live together on site, and travel together, it's possible to categorise them as a family bubble, negating the need for social distancing between the performers themselves. In many cases, individual acts comprise actual family units - something seldom the case in other branches of the performing arts.

UPDATE: 10 July, 2020
The government has since announced that 'outdoor theatre' can resume from 11 July. That includes circuses, although subject to meeting the social distancing and other requirements of the individual local authorities where they perform.

Gandeys is the first big top show to announce dates, with a Halloween show in October. Click here to read more.

Paulos, meanwhile, launches Britain's first drive-in circus on 16 July. Click here for more.

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.