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."

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Circus lions loose in Grimsby! And hero clown takes chase!

Thirty years ago, Chipperfield Brothers Circus fans - and some local residents of Grimsby - saw a livelier show than usual.

Immediately after the opening big cat act, the audience stampeded when someone shouted, "The lions are loose!"

In the streets outside, a policeman, Sergeant Bellamy, was stunned to see a lion run past his police car... followed by a clown in full costume and make-up, complete with enormous shoes.

The funnyman was Tommy Cook - Clown Brum, who performed with Shaun Cook as Brum and Rum.

Armed with a chair, the clown cornered the lion in a blind alley, then broke the bad news: another three lions were still at large.

Local man Michael Strandt needed 24 stitches after a lion pounced on him and sank its teeth into his neck. He was only saved when another policeman rammed the beast with his car.

Another lion became trapped in the local bus station where a member of staff said, "It kept roaring and roaring."

Within an hour, the circus staff had successfully recaptured their animals.

It is thought the lions, which belonged to Mary Chipperfield, were let loose by animal rights protesters and the circus staff were praised for their bravery and efficiency in recovering them.

In true circus tradition, the following night's show went on as usual.

How do you train a tiger? Read my interview with Helyne Edmonds of the Great British Circus in Circus Mania - the Ultimate Book for Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus.


Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Gandeys Circus ROAR into 2022


A great image from Gandeys Circus for its new show, Roar!, which opens at Half Term at Trentham, Staffordshire on 18 February.

Oh, and don't be misled by the name. Roar features no animals. It's the crowd that will be roaring!

Find full tour dates and booking info HERE.

Saturday, 29 January 2022

Circus Spectacular packed houses!

What a picture! 
Bippo the clown celebrates a full house on the opening night of Circus Spectacular, a theatre show touring the UK until the end of February.

And that packed crowd was no fluke. Here are some more
from subsequent venues on the tour:

Read the story of how Bippo ran away with the circus as a child in Circus Mania, my backstage journey through the world of the big top, talking to circus owners, jugglers, trapeze artists, sword-swallowers and tiger tamers.


Friday, 8 October 2021

Northern Ireland Clown Shortage!

Forget bog rolls and petrol, Northern Ireland is suffering from a shortage of... clowns!
The news comes from David Duffy, co-owner of Duffy's Circus, as Northern Irish circuses return to the road after the lifting of lockdown restrictions, several months of after big tops elsewhere.
"Because the circuses in England and Europe have been operational for the past six months, that huge pool of EU artists are already back at work  and we haven't been able to get visas for non-EU artists," said Duffy, who has resorted to advertising for trainee clowns without experience.
"We're trying to reach out to any folks who feel that they could give it a go," he said.
So what does it take to be a Joey?
You have to be really adaptable and able to think on your feet, said the circus boss.
"When you go into a circus ring and you've got 700 or 800 people looking at you, then no matter what sort of mood you're in you have to light up that circus ring.
"A clown can be the loneliest place, because you're in there on your own and you have to be able to read your audience. In a few short minutes you have to get a rapport going and interact with them and feed off them."
In England, meanwhile, the Circus of Horrors has adapted to the fuel crisis by having Anastasia Sawicka pull her van to a filling station with her hair - a publicity stunt that got the show's current tour into the national press.

The Horrors also called on their KillerKlown to scare panic buyers away from the pumps!

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Gerry Cottle's Circus on Magpie in 1975

A lovely little look behind the scenes of Gerry Cottle's Circus
on children's TV show Magpie in the 1970s.