The Circus Community
Members of the Classical circus world will remind you that their audience is made up of families, and that the show is largely performed by families. ‘Families entertaining families’ is what we say.
The performing families can often be traced back several generations. A member of the Chipperfield family showed a trained bear on the frozen River Thames during the Frost Fair of 1684. The first Robert Fossett’s circus (later ‘Sir’ Robert Fossett’s) appeared around 1850. ‘Lord’ Sanger’s Circus was founded in the 1830s. Ginnett’s Circus began when a French former prisoner-of-war showed his trained canaries at the kerbside in Leicester Square. Paulo’s Circus began in the mid-19th century; Pinders’ dates back to 1812.
But ask a member of these families, or of a French or Italian or Spanish circus family, if they ‘know’ another circus person you’ve met, and they’ll very likely tell you ‘That’s my cousin!’ For a long time, I thought this was just a way of speaking; but eventually I realised it’s true, and that because of the long history of such families in the circus, and because their way of life means that circus people even now tend to marry circus people, they really are all related to one another – even though ‘cousin’ may truly signify ‘several times removed’!
You might say that the circus family network is the original World Wide Web!