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."

Friday, 26 August 2016

Jack Ryan 1939 - 2016 - May all his days be circus days

A Ringling programme book

There are some phrases that sound like they were never written, they've just been around forever. One of them is the traditional circus sign-off: "May all your days be circus days!" It sounds like a goodbye handed down through the centuries, but in fact it's a tradition that dates from just 1969.

The words were coined by Ringling Pr man Jack Ryan who sadly died yesterday, 25 August, aged 77.

Remember him next time you hear that famous ringmaster's farewell.

At Ryan's request, in lieu of flowers, donations in his memory should be made to Circus World, Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Gerry Cottle's Wow Circus, Paighton Green Seafront until August 30

Like music? Love circus? Roll up, roll up for Gerry Cottle's Wow Circus on the seafront at Paignton Green this month.

The latest venture from Britain's best-loved circus impresario promises hit songs from the past 60 years with an array of big top treats including trapeze, juggling on quad bikes and a trio of female magicians.

Cottle is, of course, the best known showman of the past 45 years - the Billy Smart, PT Barnum, John Ringling or Lord Sanger of his generation. His enduring influence became clear while writing Circus Mania! in that there is hardly anybody in the industry who either hasn’t worked with him or is related to him.

It’s 50 years since Gerry turned his back on suburban life as a stockbroker’s son growing up in Cheam and, at the age of 15, ran away with Robert Brothers circus. From humble beginnings as an apprentice, he taught himself to clown, stilt-walk and, most importantly, the tricks of running a circus.

Cottle and Austen's Circus posters
By 1970, he and his business partner Brian Austen had started the first Cottle and Austen Circus. With no cash to buy animals, the owners and their wives performed nearly all the acts themselves. From the beginning, however, Cottle proved a natural publicity magnet. The circus was featured in a BBC documentary, The Philpott Files, and on the cover of the Radio Times as ‘The smallest greatest show on earth’.

By the end of the decade, Cottle and Austen’s Circus had become Britain’s biggest circus, thanks in part to a policy of monopolising London’s parks, and providing the big top venue for Saturday night TV variety show Seaside Special.

Cottle and Austen went on to promote the Chinese State Circus and Moscow State Circus, which were soon established as the UK’s most successful shows, and Cottle became a founding partner in the Circus of Horrors, which has been another of the biggest circus success stories of the past decade.

In 2003, Cottle sold Austen his share in the Chinese and Moscow circuses so that he could buy the tourist attraction Wookey Hole. Proving that old adage that you can shake the sawdust off your shoes but you can’t shake it out of your heart, however, Cottle never gave up his love of the circus. At Wookey, he swiftly established a circus museum and a circus school for local kids.

Gerry Cottle (Left) with Circus Mania author
Douglas McPherson (Centre) and Dr Haze from
Circus of Horrors at the launch of Circus Mania 
When I interviewed Gerry for my book Circus Mania! he said his love of circus was greater than it has ever been. He sees every circus that comes within range and will talk knowledgeably and passionately about any show you mention.

As for his latest venture under the big top, Cottle says: “It’s got my name on it and I promise you a great show LIKE NO OTHER. A whole world of LIVE entertainment for all the family – we think you’ll have the time of your life!”

Gerry Cottle's Wow Circus is at Paignton Green until August 30, before moving on to Plymouth, September 2 - 18.

For times and tickets call: 0845 835 50 50

And for the full story of Gerry Cottle and many other circus stars, from trapeze artists to animal trainers, read Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus by Douglas McPherson.

Click here to buy from Amazon!