The circus is a unique and special world. It has a very public face - but there's lots more to know!
The links below will help you find out more.
CIRCUS250: Celebrating 250 years of circus in 2018.
250 years ago showman, entrepreneur and equestrian rider Philip Astley created a whole new art form. This was the world's very first circus. Every circus, anywhere, began at this moment in 1768. 250 years later, circus is a worldwide phenomenon. There's barely an art form that isn't touched by it - from Sir Peter Blake's circus collages to contemporary cutting-edge circuses. Every schoolchild can tell you what a circus is; most of us would secretly like to run away and join one. This anniversary of the most pervasive and popular art form in Britain will be marked in 2018 by a six-month long UK-wide celebration, including astounding performances in places as far apart as Great Yarmouth, Newport and London. Traditional and contemporary circuses will work together for the first time, in recognition of their shared heritage. Museums, cinemas, designers, theatres, orchestras are all joining in - as circus is everywhere. Circus250, a not-for-profit organisation, is directing the year, led by Dea Birkett, a charity director, journalist and former circus artiste. Follow the parade.
The CIRCUS DIARIES, 'a critical exploration of the circus world'. Knowledgeable writer Katherine Kavanagh reviews and comments on all styles of circus, and lists all the circus companies she knows of in the UK (you'll be surprised just how many there are!) including links to each one's own website. There are book reviews, academic studies as well as general reading and a monthly video diary. Here's Katherine's website.
TRAINING: In the past, it wasn't easy to become a circus performer. If you weren't from a circus family, you had to learn what skills you could, using your own resources. Some notable performers didn't let that hold them back: overcoming such problems is good training in itself for life in the Classical circus! But now, training can be had at specialist centres. Space prohibits listing them here; try Googling circus training uk
The WORLD'S FAIR Long-established weekly trade newspaper - the only such in the world covering (mostly Classic) circus alongside more extensive reporting on funfairs and theme parks.
PALACE OF VARIETY An interesting and (at the time) thorough summary of the history and development of the circus up to and including the time of its publication. Sadly not updated since, but a useful read. Come up to the Palace...
ASTLEY'S LEGACY was formed to counter the misinformation and propaganda spread by animal rights activists. As well as fighting the corner for circus animals and their trainers, the site promotes and celebrates the cultural heritage of circus in general, especially in the country of its birth, Great Britain. Celebrate Astley's Legacy here
The CIRCUS FRIENDS' ASSOCIATION of Great Britain was founded in 1934 to stimulate, foster and promote enthusiasm for Circus and related performances as a popular entertainment and part of British culture. Their excellent magazine, King Pole, is published quarterly. Visit the CFA website.
CIRCUS THE TRUTH It's common to read that circus animals are badly treated and that circus life is unsuitable for them. Such false claims originate from 'animal rights' organisations which make financial and political profit from them. A public Facebook page was set up to counter them by providing photographs and video evidence that (for example) circus animals aren't 'stressed' in travel - in fact, when tested, some were more relaxed after travel than before! Learn The Truth here
WILD ANIMALS IN TRAVELLING CIRCUSES Official DEFRA Report (UK) Available here. In passing the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the then British Labour government Minister Mr Ben Bradshaw set up a Circus Working Group to discuss Regulation of circuses using animals classified in Britain as 'wild' (a somewhat misleading definition). After long-running discussions and the review of evidence by a panel of specialist scientists nominated by organisations on both sides of the debate, a Report was published which - surprisingly, in view of the extravagant claims of activist organisations - failed to condemn circuses. Instead, the conclusions of the expert panel included a unanimous statement that 'there is no scientific reason to ban any species of animal from circuses'. Subsequent legislation resulted in the current system of stringent Regulation of 'wild' animal circuses.