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."

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Alex Lacey, his lions and tigers, star in Ringling Brothers Greatest Show on Earth!

Man and beast in purr-fect harmony
Alex Lacey and one of his cats*

In the world of circus, every country has its own speciality. Flying trapeze troupes often come from South America, and springboard acts from Hungary. Britain is most renowned for animal trainers and clowns - ironically, considering this country’s antipathy towards Joeys and circuses with animals.

Ringling star Alex Lacey
So it’s nice to know English big cat trainer Alexander Lacey is currently starring in the world’s most famous circus, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus - the Greatest Show on Earth.

Lacey, who is presenting five lions, six tigers and a leopard, is the son of British circus trainers Martin Lacey and Susan Lacey and grew up in a house where tiger cubs roamed wild.

He was quoted in a Philadelphia newspaper as saying, “My parents loved interacting with the animals. The secret to being an animal trainer is being able to communicate with them... to find out what they like to do. Some cats are good at a couple of movements and some are good at other things. They’re all good at their own things.”

Martin Lacey
- read about his
Great British Circus
in Circus Mania
It was seeing Alex’s dad Martin Lacey in the Great British Circus that inspired me to write Circus Mania.

I’d become fascinated by the daredevilry of human performers after meeting aerial silk artist Eva Garcia just days before she fell and died during a performance at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome. After that I’d taken every opportunity to review circus shows and interview the performers. But all the circuses I’d seen up to that point were modern all-human shows.

When news broke that the Great British Circus was bringing elephants back to the British big top for the first time in a decade, it was amid a blaze of negative publicity. Animal rights protesters were up in arms. But the pictures of the elephants called to me with the promise of a glimpse into an earlier and more circus tradition that I’d witnessed so far, because it was with the trick horse-riding of Phillip Astley that the modern circus began, nearly 250 years ago.

I went along with mixed feelings, because like many people I’d been brought up with the belief that training animals to perform was wrong or cruel. But sitting in a real big top, watching the elephants, horses and Martin Lacey’s tigers told me there was a much more complex story to be told.

Read my personal journey through the circus world, talking to animal trainers, trapeze stars, clowns, sword-swallowers and showmen in Circus Mania, what the Mail on Sunday called “A brilliant account of a vanishing art form.”

Click here to read half a dozen 5-star customer reviews of Circus Mania on Amazon.

Alex Lacey relaxing with the big cats
a picture from My Life With Lions
by Martin Lacey
* The fabulous picture at the top of this post and the one of the left, of Alex Lacey relaxing with a lion and tiger are two of many fantastic circus images in Martin Lacey's book, My Life With Lions. Click here to read my review.

Last chance to see...
Britain's only big cat act
Thomas Chipperfield at
Peter Jolly's Circus
And click here for my pictures of Thomas Chipperfield's big cats - the only such act currently appearing in a British big top.

What happens to circus tigers when they retire? Click here to find out.

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