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, 30 December 2013

Northampton Clown inspires Clown Crime Wave

Funny, Scary or anti-social?
- The Burnley Clown

Have Britain’s clowns gone crazy, or is someone out to ruin their reputation? Tony Eldridge, the secretary of Clowns International, certainly isn’t laughing and has called for an end to a clown crime wave that has been plaguing Britain’s towns for the past three months.
Police across the land have been inundated with reports from the public concerning clowns peering through their windows while brandishing knives and guns. There has even been a speeding incident including a clown on a motorbike.
Eldridge, whose clown name is Bluebottle, said: "This is doing clowning no favours and is harming society. The people behind it might see it as a bit of a laugh, but for the victims it can be a horrible experience.
"The fear of clowns – coulrophobia – is a real thing and some people will react very badly to this.”
Bluebottle is especially worried about the harm being done to the reputation of professional clowns by the anti-social clowns who have been terrorising the streets of Britain. He added: “We have to reclaim clowning as a positive thing which brings happiness.”
Sally Beadle - who clowns as Crazy Bananas - has said she is now afraid to go out in public in her clown outfit for fear of reprisals and even her children, who have grown up around clowning, have been scared by national news stories about people acting suspiciously while wearing a clown mask.
Superintendent Carl Edwards of Norfolk Police has warned the public to stay away from anti-social clowns after a number of incidents in Kings Lynn, including news reports of a clown in full costume and red hair chasing members of the public.
The clown who started a craze
- The Northampton Clown
“I’d like to stress that it isn’t against the law to dress up as a clown,” the police chief began, but added that Norfolk’s finest would be out in force to “find those responsible and offer them strong words of advice.”
The clowning started in September, on the ominous date of Friday 13, when a student dressed like Pennywise, the scary clown from the Stephen King film It began making appearances near Northampton landmarks and inviting people to post pictures of him on Facebook.
The Northampton Clown admits he has given a few people a scare, but that they actually enjoy it and his intention is simply to give them a laugh.
A series of copycat clowns around the country, however, have taken things to another level of terror and several police forces have issued warnings to the public to beware of anti-social clowns.
Derbyshire and South Yorkshire police forces have each recorded nearly 30 clown-related incidents, including one of a clown carrying balloons and a knife and others of a clown jumping out from behind bushes to scare passers by and then chasing them.
Other clown incidents have been reported as far afield as Sussex, Wales and Northern Ireland as the clown craze grows.
So far, no one has been arrested for clowning, but it’s believed police have gathered a number of clues including some very large footprints...

Read more about clowns, from Victorian star Joey Grimaldi to todays masters of mirth, including Bippo, the Chipolatas and Clive Webb and Danny Adams, in Circus Mania! - The Ultimate Book for Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus.

Or order direct from Peter Owen Publishers by sending a cheque for £10 including post and packing to:

Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Best Circus Pictures of 2013

Continuing my look back at a great year in circus, here are some of the best pictures that appeared on the Circus Mania blog in 2013. Click on the captions to read the stories.

Roll up, roll up... for more great circus pictures and stories on the Circus Mania blog in 2014!

And if Santa brought you an e-reader for Christmas, don't forget you can download Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away With the Circus. Just click on the book cover in the top right hand corner of the blog.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

A year in the Circus - the highlights of 2013

Roman riding returns
to the ring at Zippos!

It's been a fantastic year for circus, so as 2013 shuffles into history, click on the links below to revisit some of the highlights of the past year's posts on Circus Mania.

Turning rescue horses into circus horses - an interview with Roman rider Nicky de Neumann.

Murder at the Circus! The Blue Rinse Brigade take on a riddle in the ring.

Hilarious cirque
with Clive and Danny
The funniest show on Earth - my review of Cirque de Hilarious' summer season in Southwold.

10 Facts about Clowns for International Clown Week.

The BBC sought out my opinions on the circus
- but some circus owners are less
keen to hear my views
Banned from the Big Top - Why circuses don't get reviewed. Hey, I stirred up a hornets nest with this one. But it's the truth.

Why simple ideas are often the best
Timber! - Why a bunch of lumberjacks came up with the best concept for a circus show this year.

Here's to 2014. And if Santa brought you a Kindle for Christmas, don't forget to click on the cover image up there on the right and download Circus Mania for a cracking circus read. Don't take my word for it - just click here to read what the critics have been saying in a year of fantastic reviews for the ultimate book for anyone who dreamed of running away with the circus!

Coming Next on Circus Mania: The best circus pictures of 2013

Friday, 20 December 2013

Jeremy Clarkson goes Roman riding without horses

Jeremy Clarkson is taking no risks with animal rights protesters when Top Gear Live brings its automotive circus to the Glasgow's SSE Hydro arena in January.

But this is how it should be done, Jeremy.

Click here to read an interview with the girl who turns rescue horses into circus horses, Nicky de Neumann.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Secret of Houdini's milk churn escape

Danny Adams
recreates Houdini's
milk churn escape
- a picture from
Circus Mania

One of the most memorable acts I witnessed while writing Circus Mania was Danny Adams' recreation of Houdini's escape from a padlocked milk churn.

Backstage at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome, with water still dripping from his clown nose, the daredevil revealed, "The first time I went in was horrible. You hear the padlocks go on. Your heart is racing... and I couldn't get out at all. It was the scariest thing ever."

The stunt requires the handcuffed performer to hold his breath under water for a minute and a quarter.

But, as this picture reveals, at least he doesn't have to worry about the water being too cold - it's heated up backstage before he goes in.

Danny Adams and Clive Webb - collectively Cirque du Hilarious - are appearing in pantomime in Jack & The Beanstalk at the Newcastle Theatre Royal until January 18.

Click here to read a review of their summer show on Southwold Common.

Backstage at Cirque du Hilarious
- Circus Mania takes you there
And read a full chapter on the comic duo in Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus.

Click here to buy the book

Monday, 16 December 2013

Flossy the flea that fled the circus

Proving that circus showman have always had an eye for a tall story (for surely the escape of Flossy the 'piebald' flea from Barron's Flea Circus was a purely fabricated publicity stunt) is this 100-year-old poster recently dig from the archives of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (Proni).

If you're in Belfast and still scratching your head for a last minute Christmas gift, Proni's director Maggie Smith says copies of the reward poster are proving a big hit with visitors.

And don't forget there's still time to buy the circus lover in your life a copy of Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away With the Circus. Click here and those nice people at Amazon will dispatch you a copy a lot quicker than you can find a runaway flea named Flossy.

"A brilliant account of a vanishing art form."
- Mail on Sunday

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Circus of Horrors

Trust him, he's a Doctor! See Dr Haze (above) and the rest of the Circus of Horrors (below) on the final night of their residency at London's Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, tomorrow and on tour throughout the UK throughout the winter.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Circus for sale

Waiting for the show to go on
- the 1900-seat ghost circus of Chisinau waits like
Sleeping Beauty to be reawakened.

If you'd like to buy a circus, the Moldovan government would like to hear from you. The Chisinau Circus was built in 1981, with a striking crown-like design by Semion Shokhet and A. Kirichenko, an impressive sweeping foyer and lower level accommodation for a menagerie; but war and economic strife in the region has led to the building sitting empty since 2004.
Empty for a decade, the murals and chandeliers
of the Chisinau Circus need only a sweep
and brush down - although other parts of
the building need more work
There are currently plans for circus to be reintroduced to the building's small hall. But with so much of the main building having fallen into disrepair or fallen victim to vandalism, the government say the 1900-seat auditorium will only reopen if a private buyer is found.
If you're interested, contact the head of the Circus Administration Board Aliona Strambeanu.
For Sale - One slightly used circus

If you'd just like to browse, take a photo tour through the many rooms and corridors of this slightly used circus at

It was at Britain's last circus building, the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome, that my journey into the world of circus began after I met aerial silk artiste Eva Garcia - just days before she fell to her death in the auditorium's 100th anniversary season. Read her story in Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away With The Circus by Douglas McPherson.

Click here to buy from Amazon, or buy direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special offer price of just £10 including postage in the UK (add £2.75 postage worldwide). Send cheques to:

Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road
London N8 9NP

Tel: 020 8350 1775

Thursday, 12 December 2013

See the circus girl with the strongest hair in the world on tour

Circus of Horrors star Anastasia IV has pulled off another hair-culian stunt, hauling a 2.5 tonne hearse (well, what other vehicle would suit the Horrors?) along London's Shaftsbury Avenue... with her hair.

And HAIR she is again, pulling a car along
Eastbourne seafront as the Circus of Horrors sets off
across the country on tour.
Former bio-chemistry student Anastasia, who recently set a world record for lifting 53.4 kg with her hair, seems to be making a habit of the hair-raising, or hair-pulling stunt, so look out for her when the Circus of Horrors comes to a town near you. For tour dates go to

Anastasia IV takes to the (h)air
The Circus of Horrors was the brainchild of Dr Haze who grew up in a travelling circus and went on to combine his love of rock music, horror films and circus into Britain's most striking, shocking and successful circus theatre show. Read the story of the Circus of Horrors along with a stomach churning description of how to swallow a sword and some even more wince-inducing tales of the lengths fakirs will go to in their efforts to join the troupe, in Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away With The Circus.

Click here to buy a copy of the book the Mail on Sunday called "A brilliant account of a vanishing art form."

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Tiger trainer maulled

A Circo Gottani tiger

An audience in Madrid was reminded last Friday of the dangers of life in the circus when tiger trainer Danny Gottani was mauled during a performance by Circo Gottani.
YouTube footage of the attack, filmed by an audience member, shows the tiger swiping at a stick held by the trainer. The tiger then reared up on its hind legs and appeared to grip Gottani around the shoulders while biting at his neck.
Smoke was released into the cage to confuse the tiger, which was beaten off my another circus worker. Gottani was rushed to hospital where his injuries were said to be not life-threatening, and in true show business tradition the show went on after a short interval.
The mauling follows another attack in which trainer Alexander Crispin was killed by a tiger during a performance by Circo Suarez in Mexico, in February.
How does it feel to be attacked by nature's most feared predator? I asked Britain's Martin Lacey, who survived a mauling by TWO tigers during a training session that went wrong:

Martin Lacey
who survived an attack by
two tigers.
“Suddenly I’ve got a tiger on one leg, then another tiger thought, ‘This looks like a good game, I think I’ll join in.’ So the next thing I know I’m on the ground with a tiger on each leg... it had got to the stage where I thought I was going to become a lump of meat with two tigers fighting over me.”

The aftermath, says Lacey “looked like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre,”

Yet despite needing six months before he could walk properly again, Lacey was soon back in the big cage.

Click here to read my interview with Lacey about his remarkable life with big cats.

And read a full chapter on Lacey's Great British Circus in Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus. 

Click here to buy Circus Mania. 

Circus Mania - a great gift for Christmas!

If you're looking for a last minute Christmas present - or a book to download on your new e-reader - This Is recommends Circus Mania among its list of gift ideas.

“From the travelling big top, through big name productions, theatrical circus, youth projects, circus education and resident shows right through to the weird and wonderful world of contemporary circus and freak shows, new book Circus Mania covers all the bases.”
- This is

Click here to read the full review on

Circus Mania
in the headlines
Click here to read a dozen more reviews of Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus.

Monday, 9 December 2013

How to run a circus - Zippos owner Martin Burton looks back at a "tremendous" year.

It was a pleasure last week to post pictures of full houses and long queues at Zippos this year. With Zippos currently resident at Winter Wonderland in London's Hyde Park, I thought it would be good to catch up with showman Martin Burton. In the following interview he shares his thoughts on the past season, the secrets of his success and his plans for 2014 

Martin 'Zippo' Burton
How would you describe the past year for Zippos?

"2013 has been a tremendous year for Zippos Circus. My Circus team, led by
Beau Denning, has worked fantastically well together and we created a
show that really touched people nationwide, from the south coast of
Britain to the northern shores of Scotland. Our Scottish finale was one of
my favourite moments in the 2013 season."

What was the most memorable moment of 2013?

"Ultimately our performances at the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland must create
my most memorable moments of 2013. I remember going to Paris to see Cirque
Pinder 25 years ago and commenting that I could never imagine that Zippos
could ever play to 9000 people a day, as Pinder was then (and now). At
Hyde Park to Wonderland we get 9000 people in every Saturday and every
show ends with a standing ovation. It's not the business that gives me so
much joy but support for the circus as a genre. Sometimes I hear that
traditional circus is dead but I can tell you it certainly is not!"

Bring in the circus horses
- Nicky de Neumann's
Roman riding was a big hit
with Zippos audiences
 ...and the worst?

"Listening to the vile and horrible lies sometimes chanted by animal rights
supporters outside of my circus, when I know that there is absolutely no
animal cruelty takes place in Zippos Circus - rather the animals enjoy
their life and performances and give great pleasure to their trainers and
my audiences."

To what do you attribute so many full houses?

"A great show of course but much more than that Zippos Circus is a brand
that the public can trust with the highest level of customer service. None
of us at Zippos Circus ever forget that it is our paying customers who
allow us to live the lifestyle we love so much."

You're not using the horses at Winter Wonderland.
Were there any other venues in 2013 where you had to leave out the animals
to secure a site?

"Hyde Park is of course very horse friendly. But with up to 8 shows per
day, very restricted space with no room for exercise paddocks and the huge
crowds that the event attracts I just could not guarantee the highest
standards of animal welfare that I require and expect. We miss the horses
every day!"

Was Nicky de Neuman's Roman riding a big draw, and do you find there's still a
big demand for animal acts?

"I reintroduced horses to Zippos Circus over 20 years ago. I did so because
I realised the circus going public do still want to see at least domestic
animals in a traditional circus. I was proved right because our business
increased by 25% in the moment so I re introduced horses to Zippos Circus.
Nikki de Neuman offered Zippos visitors a very different style of
equestrian presentation, and a distinct change from all the wonderful
Liberty acts presented in previous years by Tom Roberts. Zippos creative
director, David Hibling, decided to present Nicky's work in a series of
short acts throughout the show rather than one big horse number. This
proved a very popular idea with our visitors."

Married to the circus
Zippos' Queen of Clowns Andreea Delbosq
was proposed to in the ring... at every show
How much do you use publicity stunts like the strongman pulling a bus
with his teeth and how effective do you find that sort of thing as a
ticket seller?

"Brand development, publicity stunts and PR are the very lifeblood of any
circus and always have been. In 2012 my clowns chose to get married so I
had him propose to her in the ring during the clown entree every week to
get Zippos local press coverage. This year some costumes were stolen from
the backstage area and at the last minute my Clown told me he had his
clown nose stolen too. This was a true story which made national headlines
in the Scottish press. It's my job to recognise those stores which will
run and run and publicise the circus well."

...the groom, meanwhile, had his nose nicked.
How important is Facebook and Twitter etc to circus promotion today,
and have the main tools for promoting your circus changed much since you
first came into the

"Facebook and Twitter did not exist when I founded Zippos Circus. However
the birth of the Internet was something that Zippos Circus recognised at
the very beginning. We had a website designed before most people knew what
a website was. More importantly Zippos has been harvesting email addresses
and data from its visitors since the very beginning of email and we
regularly announce and promote our tour dates using that email data. More
recently Facebook has become yet another tool to keep Zippos in touch with
its visitors and tell potential customers know our plans and news."

Cirque Berserk
- the dark and fiery side of Zippos
Do you think there is a disparity between the type of new circus shows
that get reviewed in the broadsheets and the type of circus that the wider
public actually 
wants to see?

"No. It's not about traditional Circus versus new Circus. It's about good
Circus versus bad Circus. Circus artists are very willing to try new ideas
as proved by my own experiments with Cirque Berserk, which is about to
undertake a nationwide tour of English theatres in January 2014."

How would you describe the state of the British circus scene generally
as we head into 2014?

"There are more circuses touring Britain now than at any time in the
history of British Circus. Perhaps there are only two or three other truly
significant circuses touring the UK, but there are up to 50 smaller
circuses touring either for a full season or just part of the season and
finding new venues and new places to play. The British Circus industry is
expanding helped by the popularity of circus training and circus schools.
Circus will certainly change in the future, as it always has done in the
past. But I believe it will continue to thrive and I am determined that
Zippos Circus remain part of that scene for many years to come. Its time
of course, to see a great British circus back on mainstream TV regularly."

2nd Edition out now!
Read a full chapter on the birth of Zippos Circus and its involvement in the BBC comedy Big Top, among countless other stories from the circus world in Circus Mania by Douglas McPherson - described by World's Fair as "The greatest show on Earth in a book."

Click here to buy the paperback or ebook from Amazon.

Circus For Sale

Would you like to buy a slightly used circus? Click here for details.

"I looked after 11 polar bears"
- Peter Jolly
Click here to read about Peter Jolly's 50 Years Under Canvas.