Eight Unsung UK Facts for World Circus Day

*Originally written for This Is Cabaret

World Circus Day is nearly upon us and, following the suggestion of Douglas McPherson – author of CircusMania – we have some circus facts to fill your heads.  Although circus arts currently receive more respect in other parts of the world, we Brits have a long and glorious circus history, so impress your friends with the best of British on Saturday 19th April.

This charming horse and carriage, captured by Essi Mäkelä, evokes bygone days and won her the 2013 World Circus Federation photography competition

Did you know…

1- London gave birth to the modern circus form in the 18th Century, when West Midlands born Philip Astley invented the circular ring, and engaged clowns and acrobats to perform alongside his trick riders and equestrian displays.

2- Visitors to Joseph Grimaldi Park in Islington are invited to dance upon two musical ‘graves’ to honour the father of modern clowning (Joseph ‘Joey’ Grimaldi) and his mentor – Charles Dibdin Jr. (Incidently, Charles Dibdin Senior was the man who first used the word ‘circus’ to describe the entertainment we know and love today, when he set up in business with Astley’s rival Charles Hughes)

3- Even the first circus in America was founded by a Brit, Scotsman John Bill Ricketts, in 1793.

4- There are currently over 30 touring circuses in Britain, including the Moscow State Circus and Chinese State Circus who – despite their names – are both run by UK impressario Brian Austen.

5- Circus develops differently in different regions.  According to Yohann Floch of FACE, the UK is characterised by our love of all things aerial!

6- Circus training options in the UK range from evening and weekend classes, to full time training on the road, or in school up to degree level.

7- The British clown Reg Bolton is attributed as one of the pioneers of Social Circus.

8- The unofficial circus ‘language’ is called Parlari and is made up of bits and pieces of other tongues, including “Shelta” or “Gammon” (the cant of the Irish tinkers), bits of Yiddish, Cockney rhyming slang, the less well-known Cockney backslang, and Romani.

World Circus Day is organised by the Fédération Mondiale Du Cirque on the 3rd Saturday of every April.

May all your days be circus days!



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