A history of the circus:
The traditional circus of modern times is a travelling company of performers including jugglers, clowns, acrobats, trapeze artists, uni cyclists, hoopers, musicians and trained animals. The word ‘circus’ is a metathesis of the Homeric Greek κρίκος (krikos), meaning “circle” or “ring” and it aptly describes the physical shape of the 13m performance ring in which the acts take place.
The modern circus owes its success to Philip Astley (1742-1814) who is considered its founder and creator. Throughout his service in the Seven Years’ War, he had honed his horsemanship skills and, upon leaving his military service, decided to make use of his trick riding skills by opening up a riding school in London. His famous 1770 Riding School featured equestrian trick-riding, augmented with the popular visual acts of the time; jugglers, acrobats, rope dancers and clowns. His success led to the opening of the Manège Anglais, a roofless enclosure on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, and later his ampitheatre in Dublin, Ireland on Peter Street.
The endeavors of Astley and his counterparts Charles Hughes and Charles Dibdin in bringing regular, spectacular performance to the masses of the 18th century world led to the rapid expansion and growth of the circus around the globe. In 1793, equestrian John Bill Ricketts opened a one-ring circus in Philadelphia, and the attraction was so popular that word spread and President George Washington rode into town to see the show. During the early 1800’s, American democrats and their Manifest Destiny led them ever west towards the Pacific Ocean, and the circus went with them. Businessmen like Joshuah Purdy Brown developed the ‘Big Top’, a canvas tent that could be torn down and erected with ease unlike the wooden structures common in the circus at the time.
In 1871 Phineas Taylor Barnum and William Cameron Coup decided to introduce exotic animals to the circus for educational purposes. Their menagerie of animals brought more and more spectators to the circus, sparking the introduction of more acts, more rings and bigger tents. Barnum’s philosophy was, “why send out a minnow when a whale will do?”. The American Circus was well and truly born.
The explosion of the circus into our society is a reflection of our need for entertainment, the desire for a spectacle and as human beings, our primitive desire for community and atmosphere before us. The circus provides the spectacular, the surreal and the energy our mundane lives lack on a day to day basis.
We are pleased to discover then, that this month the Circus Vegas is back in Liverpool to rouse our spirits at Dobbies Garden centre, Speke, from the 8th to 24th February! We have had trouble finding a website for the event but take a look at these pictures of the flyers we found whilst in town. Ticket prices seem to vary depending on where you sit around the ring but Friday specials at £5.99 for all seats sounds like a very affordable day out for the family.
Other circus themed events in the city are not uncommon and next month Liverpool will once again be playing host to Threshold Festival, a very popular grass roots music and art festival in the city. The festival will have a circus theme with acts such as jugglers, rope dancers, fire eaters and magicians. The 3 days of festivities will take place in and around the Baltic Triangle; the ever-growing hub for artistic and creative activity in the city, and will also include a fringe festival in Baby Blue, Albert Dock. Tickets for the event can be bought via their website so do be sure to grab your ticket quick as they sell out fast.
Our involvement in the festival:
We are very pleased to announce we will also be co-hosting the opening stage on Friday 8th with our own performers and circus themed acts! It will be a mash up of our Underground Playground theme, spliced with our next event Lemon Labs. You can definitely expect fire breathing, a strongman competition and our very own puppets!
We look forward to you coming along and being part of the festival. If you need any more information or would like to get involved do not hesitate to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org and one of the team will be in touch.
The circus is like time, always packing up and moving away, but for now Liverpool has the circus in town.