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, 31 May 2016

Circus Mania publisher Peter Owen dies age 89

Peter Owen
1927 - 2016

Britain’s longest-serving publisher has died at the age of 89. Peter Owen, who has headed the company that bears his name since 1951, passed away on May 31.

Born Peter Offenstadt, Owen emigrated to the UK from Bavaria in 1933. He founded Peter Owen Publishers, with just a typewriter for equipment, and went on to head a firm the Guardian called “A byword for literary adventure and experimentation.”

Owen’s first editor was Murial Spark, who’s memories of working for him informed her novel A Far Cry From Kensington. His authors include seven Nobel Prize winners, the artist Salvador Dali, singer Yoko Ono and... Douglas McPherson who’s Circus Mania is published by the firm.

According to his obituary in the Daily Telegraph, Owen was a "a champion of the obscure, the neglected, the modern, the foreign, the difficult and the downright unpopular ." No wonder he published a circus book!

Owen was awarded the OBE for services to literature in 2014. His daughter Antonia Owen takes his place as Publisher at the company which is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year.

Managing director Nick Kent said, “Many will say that 89 was a good innings, but it is a deep shock nonetheless, Peter is irreplaceable.”

Circus ManiaPeter OwenPublishers

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A Pictorial History of Gerry Cottle's Circus and The Posters of Billy Smart's Circus

The Wells, Somerset postmark meant the sturdy package could only have come from one man: Britain's most legendary living showman, Gerry Cottle. And what a treat it was to open the jiffy bag and pull out A World of Circus - A Pictorial History of Gerry Cottle's Circus by ace photographer Andrew Payne.

This is Volume 2 and takes us from 1991 to 2015. The A4-size hardback is stuffed with glorious colour photographs from in the ring, to backstage, the transport and shots of the big top being built up and pulled down; plus hundreds of fabulous circus posters.

All Gerry's ventures from the past 25 years are here: the Moscow State Circus, Circus of Horrors, Cottle and Austin, Wookey Hole caves and theme park, the recent Wow! and Turbo shows - forming a fantastic visual journey with a year-by-year written account of the shows.

It's a book every circus fan will enjoy, although the Cottle story is far from over.

Slipped into the cover of my copy was a photocopied list of dates for Gerry's latest venture, Gerry Cottle's Electric Circus, which begins its 2016 tour on Southsea Common, July 2.

For more on Gerry Cottle, click here.

And if you like the new Gerry Cottle book, you'll also enjoy The Posters of Billy Smart's Circus by Steven B Richley. Before Cottle, Billy Smart was the showman who's name came to mind in Britain whenever the word circus was mentioned, and the Smart name is still synonymous with the big top.

2016 is the 70th anniversary of Smart's first circus, and this is another A4 hardback, beautifully printed and positively overflowing with amazing circus art that traces Smart's history through the years.

The Smart name lives on, and it was recently my pleasure to interview the Guv'nor's granddaughter, Yasmine Smart for this piece in the Daily Telegraph in which she recalled growing up in Britain's most famous circus. I hope you can download the image and blow it up large enough to read.

UPDATE September 2016: Just heard that The Posters of Billy Smart's Circus is SOLD OUT - although a reprint is scheduled for 2018, to mark the 250th anniversary of Philip Astley's first circus. In the meantime, Steven B Richley's next book, Sir Robert Fossetts Circus - The Definitive Visual History, will be out in November. More details here

Gerry Cottle, left, with Circus Mania
author Douglas McPherson
as pictured in The Stage.