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."

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Is the circus dead and buried? A circus in a cemetery digs its grave even deeper

If you go down to the cemetery... forget killer clowns.
Watch out for sacrilegious aerial dancers

Has the image of circus hit an all-time low? Once the big top was a magical place that whole families flocked to for wholesome entertainment. Clowns - how funny! Trapeze artists - how daring! Elephants - just look how big they are!

These days the media mostly greets the circus with contempt and outrage. The animal issue has, of course, decimated the traditional circus.

Last week, The Sun, the good old Current Bun, spat its hate at a "Sick" Ukrainian circus in which a bear is made to salute and a sea lion made to look as if he's playing the guitar. Who but the depraved could find pleasure in such degradation?

Clowns are no longer funny, nor even scary but just plain dangerous. This month a young man was given six months for chasing a couple down the street while dressed as a clown. Okay, he had an axe. But you'd think the fact he was dressed as a clown would have flagged the incident up as a harmless teenage prank. I mean, look at that guy in the clown suit - he's just playing around, right? But no. The judge said the fact the lad was wearing a clown mask was "an aggravating factor."

Clearly when you see a clown these days you don't think, "Ha, ha! Friendly, funny man!" You think, "Homicidal maniac! Run!"

At least there's all-human, clown-free new circus to pull circus tricks out of the mire and restore them to a place of respectability -right?

Well, there was. But now the Australian company Circa has caused fresh ire with its plans for a show in a cemetery.

"Abhorrent!" screams the headline on the BBC's website. "Disrespectful," say residents with loved ones buried nearby. "Sacrilegious!" says another.

Just when you thought these new circus Johnnies were almost civilised it turns out they're as bad as those buggers with the lions! Deport the lot of them! Or lock 'em up! Or... or... I don't know... just don't buy a ticket!

Still, there was one interesting thing in the report, and that was a surprisingly concise definition of the difference between old circus and new.

According to one objector: ".They are swinging from trees like acrobats, performing what is in effect a circus act."

I like that "in effect." Even the protesters know modern circus ain't quite circus as we remember it. Which is a fact one of the council bods sponsoring the show as part of Hull's City of Culture celebrations astutely confirms: "This is contemporary circus, which is best described as aerial dance."

I think that's something traditional circus fans have been trying to say for years.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Tigers back by popular demand - it's what the public wants to see says circus

An American circus that raises money for good causes is bringing back its tigers and elephants thanks to popular demand.

The Melha Shrine Circus, which supports charities including children's hospitals, lost money for the first time in its 63-year history last year, after dropping animal acts in the face of protests.

"We had people asking for refunds after finding out there were no animals," says circus chairman Allen Zippin, who has brought back elephants, tigers and dogs.

The news comes as America's longest-running circus, Ringling, prepares to pack its trunk after a fall-off in ticket sales following the retirement of its elephants last year - and proves that if circuses want to survive they have to please their friends not their enemies.

Animal rights protesters often argue that all-human shows like Cirque du Soleil don't need animal acts to thrill. But when the circuses they complain about stop using animals, those same protesters clearly don't support them by buying tickets.

Protesters make a lot of noise in the media, circus fans a lot less so. But as the Melha Shrine Circus has found, the ring of the cash register speaks louder than the shouts at the gate.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Circus Ambassador 2017

The Fédération Mondiale du Cirque has had a tradition since 2009 of awarding the prestigious title of Circus Ambassador each January to a personality whose contribution to the preservation, development and promotion of circus arts is an example to follow.The nominee in 2017 is Mr. Maxim Nikulin.

The plaque was handled by Mr. Urs Pilz, President of the Federation, at the Circus Directors’ luncheon in Monte-Carlo during the 41st International Circus Festival.