Roll up, roll up for original theatre in the round

Wednesday 21 February 2018

The circus is in the spotlight in 2018. And it's not just because Hugh Jackman is strutting around in a red cape on centre stage. While Jackman's star turn as P.T. Barnum, the creator of the three-ring circus in The Greatest Showman has put the modern circus and its unconventional tribes back in the spotlight, this year also marks the 250th anniversary of the #FirstDayOfCircus, which originated near Waterloo in London in 1768.  From Bristol to Belfast, here is how to get your circus on in the UK's Six Cities of Circus in 2018.

To juggle between joyful acts in Blackpool
The words bedazzling… remarkable… breathtaking have been rolled out by ringmasters at the Blackpool Tower Circus since it opened its doors in 1894. Take a seat in the oldest permanent circus arena in the world to enjoy jaw-dropping stunts and acrobatics and slapstick antics from clowns Mooky the Clown and Mr Boo.   

With 'Sawdust and Sequins' in Bristol
Bristol, in Southwest England, is home to more circus companies than any other British city. The Royal West of England Academy will celebrate Bristol's history as a City of Circus with the Circus250 Sawdust and Sequins: The Art of the Circus exhibition. Expect glitter and dare-devilry.

Step back in time in Derry and Belfast
Step back in time to enjoy Derry's flagship vintage circus festival, Carnival of Colours, and the over-the-top Tumble Circus in Belfast, which is turning circus on its head with acts such as Strong Lady, Jitterbug Jackson and Bucky Buckshire.

A collision of pop culture in London
Circus is the original 'pop-up' event. Find out how far the modern circus has evolved 250 years on as Roundhouse presents CircusFest 2018: 250 Years in the Making. The highlight of the modern circus concept has to be the parkour acts with the artists possessing all the panache of the late performer Fred Astaire.

For over-the-top fun in Newcastle-under-Lyme
The so-called Father of Modern Circus', Philip Astley, was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1742. Astley developed the 42ft diameter circus ring, which is still the standard size used in circuses across the world. What better way to celebrate the showman's legacy than in his hometown. The Philip Astley Project will include the premier of Lexicon, a daring, contemporary take on the modern circus.

At the Norwich Summer Spectacular
Norwich is the birthplace of Pablo Fanque, the famed 19th century circus proprietor. It's also home to the Hippodrome, in nearby Great Yarmouth, Britain's only surviving complete circus building. The celebrations at the Hippodrome Circus this year include four world-class circus shows including a Summer Spectacular & Water Show where the ring magically morphs into a giant pool replete with swimmers.

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VisitBritain Media Team

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