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, 19 August 2013

National Centre for Circus Arts - A history in pictures

Juliette Hardy-Donaldson
training when Circus Space was just a dusty space.
Read her story in Circus Mania

The Generating Chamber and the Combustion Chamber are perfect names for the main training areas of the former Circus Space - now the National Centre for Circus Arts and the UK’s only school to offer a BA (Honours) degree in Circus Arts. They suggest places where explosive performances may be generated.

Wind back a hundred years, however, and the names of those towering rooms had a more literal meaning. The building that currently houses London’s university of circus was formerly the Shoreditch Electricity Generating Station, where household rubbish was burnt to power the surrounding area.

Circus Space
when the Generating Chamber generated
When Circus Space moved in, twenty years ago, the building had lay derelict for half a century. Juliette Hardy-Donaldson was among those who helped clear out decades of accumulated ash and pigeon droppings, and swung on the trapeze in what was still a building site - “Fighting the pigeons for air space.”

These pictures are from those pioneering days.

You can read the full story of Circus Space, in the words of those who teach and trained there, in Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book for Anyone who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus.

Risen from the ashes
- the Combustion Chamber
when Circus Space moved in
Also in the book, go behind the scenes of...

The Circus of Horrors!

Circus Mondao!

The UK’s oldest circus building!

Gerry Cottle’s Wookey Hole Circus School!

The BBC’s circus sitcom, Big Top!

The Chinese State Circus!

The trapeze net goes up!

Britain’s funniest clowns!

Britain’s oldest circus family!

The UK’s last tiger trainer!


The history of the circus!

The story of clowning!

The superstitions of the big top!

The secret language of the circus!

And much, much more, in what the Mail on Sunday called “A brilliant account of a vanishing art form.”

Click here to buy the new updated 2nd Edition f Circus Mania on Amazon!

For more on the future of the National Centre for Circus Arts, and in particular what the future holds for the graduates of its degree course, click to read my article: So you've got a degree in circus, what next?
Douglas McPherson, author, launches the first edition
of Circus Mania at Circus Space with
Gerry Cottle, left, and Dr Haze from Circus of Horrors

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