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, 27 November 2009


As we count down to the publication of Circus Mania, it seems like everyone is catching the circus bug, to judge by a couple of CDs sent my way for review.

New singer-songwriter Will Kevans (his parents should have called him Than...) has decorated the cover of his disc, Everything You Do, with an attractive montage of retro circus artwork: elephant, lion and polar bear on pedestals and so on.

No circus songs, but it’s an OK album. A rootsy pop outing somewhere between Squeeze and Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

Nashville piano man Phil Vassar, who visits the UK for the first time in January, has taken things even further, calling his latest release Travelling Circus and adorning it with paintings of himself kitted out as a ringmaster.

Again, there are no circus connections in the actual music, which is a pleasing combination of contemporary Nashville meets Billy Joel. A travelling circus is just the way Phil sees life as a touring musician.

“I always say to the band, let’s get this travelling circus on the road,” Vassar told me, in a phone call from Music City. But he admits to being a big fan of the sawdust circle: “Oh yeah. I always liked the fact that it’s so much bigger than life.”

Finally in this musical interlude, the best Christmas album I’ve ever heard is Gold And Green by another Nashville act, Sugarland. I particularly like their rock’n’roll version of Winter Wonderland. You know that line about building a snowman and pretending he’s Parson Brown? Well, strange as it seems, I never realised until now that there’s a second verse that runs: “In the meadow we can build and snowman and make believe that he’s a CIRCUS CLOWN....”

So thanks to Sugarland’s gorgeous Jennifer Nettles for bringing that to my attention.

Thanks, too, to My Weekly for running a nice advance plug for Circus Mania alongside the first instalment of my Christmas comedy crime serial, The Blue Rinse Brigade. Look out for it in stores now.

With the recent release of a film called Cirque de Freak, all these circus references are nicely paving the way for the publication of Circus Mania in the New Year. Why wait until after Christmas, though? You can order now from Amazon, and all other good online stores.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Moving the Chinese State Circus

"Gypsies know not to mix it
with the circus," warns
Chinese State Circus
transport manager
Ingo Dock
as featured in
Truck and Driver magazine

Ingo Dock reveals the secrets of Britain's biggest Chinese takeaway

Moving a circus is a big deal - 13 drivers, 20 trucks and 22 loads of a big deal in the case of the Chinese State Circus. The man in charge of the operation is 34-year-old Ingo Dock, who has been a circus man all his life. He grew up on Uncle Sam’s American Circus where his father drove the lorries before him.

I spoke to Ingo recently for a feature that appeared in the April issue of Truck and Driver magazine to coincide with the publication of Circus Mania, and he told me all about life on the road, from the hazards of waterlogged grounds to travellers who have taken over a site before the circus arrives.

“It happens about once a year,” Ingo sighed, “But on the whole the Gypsies know not to mix it with the circus because we‘ve got forklifts to get them off...”

I also talked about circus transport, this time in days gone by, with retired ringmaster George Pinder, who’s family have been circus for around 200 years (Click here for pictures of the Pinder circus from yesteryear).

The Chinese State Circus
- between shows they travel in lorries...
George is full of amazing stories about the introduction of steam generated electricity in the big top in the 1890s, and the move from horse-drawn transport to lorries between the two World Wars. He supplied some great pictures which will hopefully be in Best of British magazine in the New Year also. There’s even a poster for his great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Ord’s circus, in 1817, which appears in Circus Mania.

George, incidentally, is the uncle of Carol and Gracie, the sisters who run Circus Mondao.

New edition for 2018
For the full story of the Chinese State Circus, Circus Mondao and the 200 years in the circus of Britain's oldest circus family, read Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away With The Circus.

Click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.

Click here to see the trucks of Uncle Sam's American Circus.