at Peter Jolly's Circus
A gust of wind sends a Mexican wave through the side walls of Peter Jolly's big top. Flap, flap, flap... it sounds like a banshee; the ghost of circus past perhaps railing against the Government's Wild Animals in Circuses Bill which will be announced in the Queen's Speech to Parliament next Wednesday June 4, and which plans to ban a circus tradition that was invented in Britain nearly 250 years ago.
In the gloom beside the iron cage that is set up in the ring, ready for the evening show, 24-year-old Thomas Chipperfield, Britain's last big cat trainer, pulls up a ringside seat on the grass beneath our feet.
He tells me about his family, which has trained animals since the Frost Fair on the frozen Thames in 1684; his childhood on one of Ireland's biggest circuses; his training methods; his most frightening moment in the lions' cage; and the ban that threatens his future.
Click here to read my exclusive interview with him in the Daily Telegraph Online and buy the Daily Telegraph tomorrow, where he'll be the cover story in the Saturday Magazine.