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."

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Crowd fund a circus lion

Buy a lion a new home at

Crowd funding has been a trend in the music business for a while now. Instead of needing a record company to cover the cost of making an album then recouping the investment through record sales, increasing numbers of independent artists are going direct to their fans, through websites such as Kickstarter and PledgeMusic, and asking them to donate small and large amounts of money to pay for the recording process in advance.

Thomas Chipperfield
wants to double the size of his big cat accomodation
Depending how much they pledge, fans are rewarded with various packages, from a signed copy of the album to things like an invitation to the launch party, having their name on the CD sleeve, or even a private concert in your living room!

A big part of the reward for donating, of course, is the sense of involvement and the satisfaction of helping an artist you believe in bring their music to the world.

But can you crowd fund a circus?

Anthony Beckwith, Thomas Chipperfield’s partner in An Evening With Lions And Tigers has set up a Go Fund Me page to raise capital for a new, enlarged living and exercise space for the show’s big cats for a planned tour of England next year.

The company, which is currently touring Wales, needs £15,000 to double the size of the indoor and outdoor accommodation currently shared by the show’s two lions and three tigers. The new outdoor space will be four times the size required by the DEFRA (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) licence that An Evening With Lions and Tigers needs to tour in England, and the indoor overnight accommodation will also be bigger.

Work on the new enclosures is under way
but your help is needed to complete the project 
It will also show Chipperfield’s commitment to providing the best possible care for his animals while his show itself is designed to educate the public about the humane ways in which big cats are trained for circus and film work.

According to Beckwith: “I've spent the last decade of my life working in British circuses, as I feel that they are the best medium through which to educate the public about wild animals. The bond between man and beast cannot be presented better than through live presentations.”

At a time when lions and tigers have disappeared from every other British circus, and only a few have even horses, dogs and exotics such as zebra and camels, Beckwith and Chipperfield are the only two showmen fighting back against the efforts of animal rights groups to force through Parliament a ban on all animals in the big top.

Cover stars
Thomas Chipperfield and Tsavo the lion
grace the Daily Telegraph
The Go Fund Me page offers a chance for fans of traditional circus to not just support Anthony and Thomas in their current fundraising project, but to demonstrate public support for a British tradition under threat. If you want lions in your circuses, you can literally put your money where your mouth is by pledging support here.

The anti-circus brigade have, after all, been asking the public for donations for years. Why shouldn’t circuses fight back with the same tactics?

So far, there is no suggestion of music business-style rewards for crowd funders. But maybe that’s something Beckwith should consider. How about a pair of free tickets and an “I bought a lion a new home" T-shirt for a minimum donation of say £25? And for those who wish to pledge £100 or £200, your name in the souvenir brochure, or engraved in a plaque on the side of the exercise enclosure? Maybe £1000 should get you a tiger cub named in your honour. And for anyone who stumps up the full £15,000, how about a personal appearance from Tsavo the lion in your own living roo... oh, er, well maybe not.

Apart from that, could crowd funding be the new way of supporting your favourite circus?

An Evening with Lions and Tigers is in Swansea (just off Junc 45 of the m4) October 12 to October 25. Bookings: 07821155513.

Douglas McPherson is the author Circus Mania, the Ultimate Book for Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away With The Circus.


  1. Wonderful article, informative and inspiring, about so enlightened an approach to engaging the public. Circuses DO demonstrate the rare interactions between humankind and beast, which is why, I believe, a significant segment of parenting adults will tell you how delighted their children are to attend traditional circus.

    1. Be nice if the fans invested in this as a very public show of support that they want the show to travel to England next year. Just 300 fans pledging £50 each would hit the target.