LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS... welcome to the circus!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

A message from Princess Stephanie, royal patron of the circus, on World Circus Day!



Here's this year's official World Circus Day greeting from Princess Stephanie of Monaco.

The drawing is by Chantal Lutzny, aged 10. The family Lutzny are owners of Circus Montana, which travels between Germany and the Netherlands. Chantal was born in the circus and travels with her parents. The circus has a Western act with horses, knife-throwing, lasso and a fire show. Chantal performs some acrobatics.

Chantal is enrolled in a special touring school for circus children, 
De Rijdende School, based in The Netherlands, which provides face-to-face learning and distance education. The school is a member of the European Network of Traveller Education (ENTE). De Rijdende School is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and the children submitted drawings to the International Circus Federation that they proposed for the Princess’s greeting card to celebrate the Sixth World Circus Day.

The Federation asked Mr. Steven High, Executive Director of The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, USA, to select the winning design.

Happy World Circus Day!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Circus Mania is best-selling circus book on Amazon

No1 Best Seller, April 16, 2015


As World Circus Day approaches this Saturday, April 18, it was gratifying to see Circus Mania back at the top of the Amazon circus chart and officially designated the #1 Best-seller in Circus.

Click here to read the 8 5-star reviews and to buy the book the Mail on Sunday called "A brilliant account of a vanishing art form!"

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

High flying Circus Knie poster




































There are some great circus posters to be seen at Mashable - you can also find out exactly what Omikron - The Living Gasometer did in his act!

Not the creases on the above poster, too. Did you know that prior to the 1980s, circus and film posters were always sent out folded rather than rolled?

For more fabulous circus art on the Circus Mania blog, click here.

Friday, 10 April 2015

20 Circus Facts for World Circus Day

Roll up, roll up... for World Circus Day!

To celebrate the sixth World Circus Day this Saturday April 18, here are 20 fabulous facts about the sawdust circle.

1 - The word circus dates from Roman times when arenas such as the Circus Maximus staged chariot races, gladiatorial contests and mock battles.

2 - The modern circus was founded in London by trick horse-rider Philip Astley, who opened his Amphitheatre of Equestrian Arts in London, in 1768.

3 - Astley’s rival Charles Hughes was the first to use the word circus in the modern sense when he founded the Royal Circus.

4 - A standard circus ring is 42-feet in diameter.

5 - Clowns are nicknamed Joeys after 19th century pantomime star Joseph Grimaldi.

6 - Leotards are named after the first star of the flying trapeze, Jules Leotard.

7 - The word jumbo, meaning large, entered the English language because of Jumbo, an 11-foot-tall elephant that the American showman PT Barnum bought from London Zoo.

8 - The traditional circus theme music is called Entrance of the Gladiators.

9 - Charlie Cairoli was the first clown to appear on This Is Your Life.

10 - Chinese acrobats first appeared in European circuses in 1866.

11 - Cirque du Soleil was created as part of the 1984 celebrations to mark the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s discovery of Canada.

12 - Enrico Rastelli (1896 - 1931) is widely considered greatest juggler of all time, being able to juggle ten balls at once.

13 - The first American circus was founded by John Bill Ricketts in Philadelphia on April 3, 1793.

14 - A ‘josser’ is an outsider who joins the circus.

15 - According to circus superstition, it’s unlucky to wear green in the ring.

16 - Foot-juggling with a person is known as a Risley act after the 19th century American pioneer of the style Richard Risley Carlisle.

17 - The mischievous clown in a double act is called the ‘auguste’ and the straight man is the ‘whiteface.’

18 - The word clown is believed to come from the Icelandic word klunni, meaning a clumsy person.

19 - The first elephant to appear in a British circus performed at Covent Garden in 1810.

20- Joshua Purdy Brown staged the first circus in a tent or big top in America in 1825. Before that, circuses were performed in buildings or the open air.

Circus Mania
"A passionate, up-to-date look
at the circus and its people"
- Gerry Cottle.
For more on the history of circus, and the lives of today’s performers, read Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away With the Circus by Douglas McPherson.

“Circus Mania is a brilliant account of a vanishing art form.”
- Mail on Sunday.

“The Greatest Show on Earth... in a Book!”
- World’s Fair.

Click here to buy the paperback or ebook from Amazon.

And may all your days be circus days!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

10 Great Circus Books for World Circus Day!


Mabel Stark tussles with a tiger
- a picture of the real life Mabel Stark
from Robert Hough's novel


With the sixth World Circus Day just a couple of weeks away on April 18, here's some recommended circus reading...


THE FINAL CONFESSION OF MABEL STARK by Robert Hough
(Atlantic)

From cooch dancer to tiger-wrestling star of the Greatest Show on Earth, with half a dozen husbands along the way, the real life of Ringling legend Mabel Stark provides plenty of material for Robert Hough’s novel. But, written like a memoir, this work of imagination probably brings the golden age of the American circus more thrillingly to life than any factual account. The descriptions of life in the big cat cage, Stark’s many maulings and her relationship with her favourite kitty, Rajah, are especially vivid and convincing - informed, as they are, by some letters about her work that Stark wrote to circus writer Earl Chapin May in preparation for a ghost-written autobiography that never materialised.

From the era to the circus trains and the animal training - and even the structure, which flashes back and forth between Stark's older and younger self - there are parallels with Water For Elephants. But this is a far, far better book, not least due to Hough’s glorious evocation of Stark’s spunky, spiky voice which snaps and snarls from every line.

THE POSTERS OF BERTRAM MILLS by Steven B Richley

The poster has always been the primary means of publicising a circus. Billed as the Quality Show and the show that put the 'O' in Olympia,  Bertram Mills was Britain's biggest and most famous circus in the first half of the 20th century and they produced the finest artwork. Often every act on the bill would have its own poster, painted by some of the best regarded artists of the day, meaning a town could be blanketed with arresting images. In 1960 alone, Bertram Mills printed more than 60,000 posters. And what became of them? Most were simply ripped down and thrown away when the circus left town, meaning surviving examples now command big sums. You'd have to be a millionaire to collect all the designs in this handsome coffee table book which makes it both a visual delight and a complete snip at under £40 including postage. Order from www.doublecrownbooks.co.uk

GIFFORDS CIRCUS - The First Ten Years
by Nell Gifford

In October 1999, Nell Gifford was invited to give a talk at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival the following May. She suggested that they book her circus and gave them a glowing description: "There will be showgirls and a dancing horse and a motorbike and a raucous atmosphere, lit by gaslight!"
The director booked the show. The problem was, Gifford didn’t have a show. Or wagons. Or costumes. Or artists. Or capital.
In Gifford's previous book Josser (by Nell Stroud, as she then was) she described her apprenticeship as a circus runaway. This beautifully illustrated follow-up tells how she and husband Toti took the next step to create a circus of their own - and one of the most successful of the past decade.
Click here to read my full review.


My Life With Lions by Martin Lacey

It was a visit to Martin Lacey's Great British Circus in 2009 that prompted my book Circus Mania. I’d already become fascinated with the daredevil lives of human circus performers and had written several articles on the subject. But when  Lacey reintroduced elephants to a British circus for the first time in a decade, they called to me with the promise of a glimpse into the history of the art form. The highlight of my visit was watching Lacey in the cage with his Bengal tigers and it was as I sat ringside that I realised I had to document a traditional form or entertainment that was - and still is - in danger of being killed off in the land of its creation. Sadly, Lacey is retired now, but this slim hardback book provides a concise and colourful account of his more than 40 years of working with animals of all kinds. Best of all is a 140-page collection of photos of Lacey and his family with not just lions, but polar bears, zebra, camels, elephants and even a rhino.
Click here to read my full review.


CONFESSIONS OF A SHOWMAN - My Life in the Circus by Gerry Cottle
(Vision)

From running away with the circus at 15-years-old to running several of Britain’s biggest big top shows, few have lived the circus life as fully as Gerry Cottle and I have met no one with a greater passion for the sawdust and canvas theatre. This candid memoir provides a fascinating look at the inside workings of the circus industry while entertaining with all the pace, daring-do and belly laughs of any show ever presented by Britain’s Barnum.



THE ADVANCE MAN by Jamie MacVicar
(Dover)

It doesn't matter how good a show is if there's no audience to see it. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus - the Greatest Show on Earth - plays in arenas that hold 12,000 to 20,000 people and the job of filling those seats falls to promoters such as Jamie MacVicar - advance men who arrive in a city two or three months before the circus train arrives and strive to ensure it's greeted by a snowstorm of publicity.
MacVicar's account of his time promoting the circus in the early 70s reads more like a novel - at times a thriller - than a memoir as he takes us into offices where deals are cut, backstage as tickets are counted, and out on publicity stunts with the advance clown and Michu, the Smallest Man in the WorldClick here for a full review.


THE SHOWMAN'S GIRL by Julia Douglas

When Emily runs away with the circus in the 1930s, she enters a magical world of perilous adventuresintense friendships and deep passions. Growing up in the big top, she admires from afar the charismatic showman Adam Strand. But Adam is torn between his wife, Jayne, a daredevil tight-wire walker and Molly the elephant trainer who's always carried a torch for him. Emily becomes a star, but will she ever be able to tell Adam how she really feels?
Click here to read this atmospheric big top romance on your Kindle - or pick up the large print version in your local library.


OLIVIA'S ENCHANTED SUMMER by Lynn Gardner

If you’re looking for a Christmas present for the 8-14-year-old girl in your life, look no further than the Olivia books by Guardian theatre critic-turned-author Lyn Gardner. Beginning with Olivia’s First Term, the six books follow the adventures of two circus girls - Olivia and her younger sister Eel - who are billeted at their grandmother’s London stage school while their dad Jack, the Great Marvello, busies himself with such stunts as walking a high-wire between the towers of Tower Bridge.
With a huge cast of characters, the books convey all the excitement of a school where students are daily called to auditions, appear in West End shows and pursue careers as pop singers.
On top of all this there are plenty of thrills as Olivia uses her tightrope skills to foil villains and rescue her pals from peril. Click here for more.


INSIDE THE CHANGING CIRCUS by David Lewis Hammarstrom
(Bear Manor Media)

Like a modern day Earl Chapin MayDavid Lewis Hammarstrom guides us through the American circus as it exists now. Things have changed from the glory days when Mabel Stark ruled the centre ring, with the Ringling Brothers having become the “Ringless Brothers” since moving out of big tops “that you could almost feel breathing in and out,” and into indoor arenas “as exciting to behold as an abandoned airstrip in the Nevada desert.” Alternately bubbling with enthusiasm and seething with frustration, Hammarstrom is rare among circus writers in pointing out the rubbish, rip-offs and peanut pitches alongside the wonderful in his quest to make you “a more discriminating circus fan.”


CIRCUS MANIA by Douglas McPherson
(Peter Owen)

Modesty forbids me saying too much about my own book, so let’s leave it to Britain’s biggest-selling Sunday newspaper, the Mail on Sunday“Circus Mania is a brilliant account of a vanishing art form.” Click on the above tabs to read an extract or go to the Amazon page and reader some of the 5-star reader reviews.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

May All Your Days Be Circus Days














There are some phrases that sound like they were never written, they've just been around forever. One of them is the traditional circus sign-off: "May all your days be circus days!" It sounds like a goodbye handed down through the centuries, but in fact it's a tradition that dates from just 1969.

The words were coined by Ringling Pr man Jack Ryan. Follow him on Facebook at May All Your Days Be Circus Days.

Oh and be sure to like Circus Mania on Facebook, too!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Ringling Elephants and the Ankus - Is it time to let circuses off the hook?

Me and the Elephant
Circus Mania author Douglas McPherson
meets one of the last elephants to
appear in a British circus






The news that the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is to phase out its iconic elephant parade has been hailed as a victory for the animal rights groups that have campaigned against them for decades.

But I think the battle has been won in the hearts and minds of legislators rather than the circus-going public, who continue to fill US arenas with audiences of several thousand per show, and who are apparently happy to watch other animals perform, including a lion and tiger act presented by Britain’s Alex Lacey.

As a spokesman for Ringling owners Feld Entertainment put it, “We looked across the legislative landscape and it’s become a patchwork quilt of unnecessary restrictions and prohibitions... we’re not in the business of fighting city hall.”

In short, Los Angeles and some other US cities have either banned or are considering banning the ankus, the traditional tool for guiding elephants. The ankus, also known as an elephant goad or bull-hook is a two or three-foot-long stick with a metal point and hook on one end and is the only means of controlling an elephant in what’s known as free contact management. That is, where elephant and handler are in an unenclosed space such as a street or circus ring. Not using an ankus would be the equivalent of walking a horse through a public space without a rein.

With the ankus outlawed, Ringling has the choice of leaving its elephants out of the show or taking its show out of the city. For an entertainment company that needs to be where the crowds are, that’s a simple decision.

But is banning the ankus justified?

Opponents see the bull-hook as an instrument of pain and punishment. Sadly, there is much video evidence of hooks being used in an abusive way. Fed a diet of such images by animal rights groups, it’s no wonder many legislators and members of the public believe that is the ankus’ only purpose.

Elephant handlers, however, maintain the ankus is a simple guiding tool which, when used correctly, is no more detrimental to an elephant than a horse rider’s crop or spurs, or the bit in a horse’s mouth.

When Anne the elephant was moved from a circus to Longleat safari park, animal rights groups were perturbed to see that her new handlers continued to use the ankus. The park’s director Dr Jonathan Cracknell defended the practise, stating it was “not a tool of domination... but more akin to that of a rope on a horse, used to guide her in the right direction and communicate what we need her to do.”

Zoo elephants have always been trained to facilitate washing, veterinary procedures and movement between enclosures. Traditionally, many have been taught circus tricks or used to give rides to the public, because the physical exercise and mental engagement is good for their health.

Without the ankus, for example, it would be impossible to take an elephant for a long walk in the countryside.

The Management Guidelines for The Welfare of Zoo Animals - Elephants, published by the British & Irish Association of Zoos & Aquariums (BIAZA) sets out how an ankus can be used in conjunction with positive reinforcement and the association with verbal commands to train elephants in a humane way.

For example, to get an elephant to move forward, the handler touches its back leg with the hook. When the elephant moves away from the hook, the action is rewarded with a treat (food) and verbal praise. With repetition, the action eventually becomes associated with a verbal command and the hook is only needed as an occasional prompt to guide direction.

To see the ankus used correctly, watch this video of Willie Thieson, the elephant manager of a zoo in Pittsburgh, showing TV news presenter Sally Wiggin how to use a hook to make an elephant lie down for a veterinary procedure. “The hook is not as sharp as it looks,” Wiggins observes, “and I barely had to touch her to get a response.”

Having interviewed several circus trainers for my book Circus Mania, I tend to believe that most treat their animals well. It’s also probably the case that most innovations in animal training grew from the uncommonly close relationship between circus trainers and their animals. The inventor of the modern circus, horseman Phillip Astley, for example, is said to have used clicker conditioning more than 200 years before it became the current buzzword for training pets.

That little is known about circus training is unsurprising - a magician doesn’t spoil his illusions with a banal explanation. But the secrecy of the circus community has fuelled the suspicion of cruelty. It’s human nature to distrust those who live differently from us and to apply sinister connotations to things we don’t understand.  

With anti-circus campaigners often seeming to have the only voice in the media, perhaps it’s time for circuses to swap mystique for openness, put more emphasis on education and show us how they work with their animals. In turn, perhaps legislators can focus on regulation, the raising of standards and the rooting out of bad apples, rather than taking the simplest option of a ban.

There’s no doubt a large part of the public still wants to see animals up close in a circus ring. Zippos operated an all-human show for ten years before introducing horses and dogs due to public demand. Giffords, the most gentrified circus in Britain, is built around the horse.

Some opponents of circuses with animals draw a distinction between domesticated and wild, forgetting that elephants and camels have been domesticated in their native regions for thousands of years. Besides, is there any difference between training a horse, an elephant or a lion, except in the sense that the circus’ biggest selling point has always been taking things to the extreme and showing us things we would not believe possible.

For more on the always thorny subject of animals in the circus read Circus Mania by Douglas McPherson - The Ultimate Book for Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away With the Circus.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Britain's Best Dressed Clowns


There was a time when every circus had a whiteface clown. Now Mr Popol - alias Paul Carpenter - pictured above, standing, with his comic partner, the traditional auguste Kakehole, is the only one left in the UK. Catch the Popolinos in Circus Wonderland, a brand new take on the classic big top, at the Apps Court Farm, Walton-on-Thames from March 18-22, and sample clowning as it used to be. Call the box office for times and tickets: 07531 612240.



What is a whiteface clown? Or an auguste? For more on the history and techniques of clowning, including interviews with some of today's finest performers, read Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus. Click here to read the 5-star reviews on Amazon.







For more clowns, click here.

Friday, 6 March 2015

100 year battle over circus animals





Jim Fitzpatrick's private members bill calling for a ban on wild animals in the circus was blocked this afternoon for the 12th and final time before the next election. But did you know the first calls to ban performing animals were made 100 years ago? In this article that originally appeared in The Stage last year, I untangle the history of opposition to animals in entertainment.

Animals have been entertaining us for as long as we’ve had professional entertainment. The word ‘circus’ dates from Roman arenas such as the Circus Maximus, where the spectacle ranged from chariot races to exhibitions of exotic breeds from across the empire. The circus as we know it was founded in London in 1768 by trick horse-rider Philip Astley, who augmented equestrian displays with clowns, acrobats and strongmen.

Animals were also part of music hall tradition. Jospeph Grimaldi, the early 19th century pantomime star regarded as the father of clowning, used a trained donkey called Neddy in his act.

The PG Tips chimps were among the most
popular TV stars of the 70s, but times change and the
long-running advertising campaign was eventually dropped.
Retired to a zoo, the chimps, including 42-year-old Choppers,
pictured here, were said to miss human interaction and
found it hard to integrate with other apes. Is that why
she looks so sad? Or does she just want a cuppa?
During the 20th century, animals were used in the film and television industries from the beginning, making stars of LassieSkippy the Bush Kangaroo and Flipper the dolphin.

Part of that tradition seemed destined to disappear when the government announced its plans to ban wild animals in circuses from December 2015. But that now looks unlikely to happen after the much anticipated Wild Animals in Circuses Bill failed to appear in the list of legislation to be brought before Parliament before the next election.

The campaign to outlaw performing animals is not new, however, and neither is the phenomenon of actors and other celebrities using their fame to endorse animal rights groups such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

The formation of the world’s oldest animal welfare organisation, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), in 1824, led to the Cruelty to Animals acts of 1835 and 1876. The latter was intended to regulate experiments on animals. But concern over the use of animals in science spread to questions about their treatment in entertainment and led to the Wild Animals in Captivity Protection Act, 1900.

Jack London
- Pulp novelist who called
for direct action against
circuses with animals
The Performing Animals Defence League was founded in 1914 to campaign against the use of performing animals. It was followed in 1918 by the Jack London Club. The latter was named after American pulp novelist Jack London who called for direct action against animal performances in the forward to his 1917 novel Michael, Brother of Jerry, which focused on alleged cruelty to animals in America. The Jack Londoners, as they were known, picketed circuses in the US and then Britain and Europe throughout the 1920s.

The first attempt at a government ban came in 1921, when Liberal MP Joseph Kenworthy introduced the Performing Animals Prohibition Bill. The bill was unsuccessful, but a select committee was set up to investigate the issue and led to the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act of 1925 which to this day requires that anyone who wishes to perform with an animal in public must possess a licence.

Calls for a ban continued and in 1927, the RSPCA wrote to the Times, asking “Will the public help to abolish this painful form of amusement by refraining from patronising exhibitions in which performing animals have a part?” The letter was signed by a list of public figures and celebrities including playwright George Bernard Shaw and the actress Sybil Thorndike.

Billy Smart's poster from
the heyday of animals in the circus
The 1950s were a boom time for circuses in Britain, and a period when animal acts by far outnumbered tightrope walkers and trapeze artists. The two biggest operators, Billy Smart’s and Chipperfields, filled their 5000-capacity big tops with hundreds of animals from tigers and polar bears to sea lions and giraffes.

Against that background, the Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) was founded in 1957 to campaign and demonstrate against the use of animals in circuses and the exotic pet trade. In 1965, CAPS president Lord Somers sponsored a bill in the House of Lords to prohibit the use of performing animals. It was defeated by just 14 votes.

The 1970s saw the emergence of a new animal rights movement spearheaded by philosopher Pete Singer. Whereas previous campaigners had focused on animal welfare, the animal rights lobby sought to end the ownership of animals for entertainment, food, experimentation and products such as leather, by granting them equal rights to humans.

In 1984, husband and wife actors Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna founded the Born Free Foundation, named after the 1966 film Born Free, in which they had starred, to campaign against zoos and circuses.

Since the 1980s, around 200 local authorities have banned performing animals from council-owned show grounds. Circuses were forced to use private land in less accessible locations where animal rights activists often demonstrated at the gates. By the late 90s, most circuses had responded by dispensing with animals. The all-human Moscow State Circus and Chinese State Circus became the most successful big top shows in the UK, while Canada’s globally successful Cirque du Soleil, which had never featured animals, became the biggest producer in circus history.

An audience for animal acts remained, however. Zippos toured for ten years as an all-human circus but eventually introduced horses and dogs because of public demand. More recently, Ashleigh and Pudsey - a dancing dog - was a hit with the public on Britain’s Got Talent.

Dr Marthe Kiley-Worthington's
report on circus animals
Click here for more.
In 1988, the RSPCA sponsored an 18-month study of circuses by Dr Marthe Kiley-Worthington. The society refused to publish the results because she concluded circuses caused animals no distress and could have benefits for conservation, education and science. Kiley-Worthington subsequently published her report in the book Animals in Circuses and Zoos - Chiron’s World? (Aardvark Publishing). In Greek mythology, Chiron was half man, half horse and symbolises the relationship between humans and animals.

In 1999, undercover film made by Animal Defenders International (ADI) led to the conviction of Mary Chipperfield for cruelty to a chimpanzee at the Hampshire farm where she was training animals for film work.

Under pressure to ban circuses from using animals, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) set up the Circus Animals Working Group. The resulting report by Mike Radford, in 2007, concluded that circuses were as capable of meeting the needs of their animals as other captive environments such as zoos, and that there were no welfare reasons for a ban.

My report in The Stage on the Great British Circus
elephant controversy
Further undercover operations by ADI, however, resulted in film of elephants being hit at the Great British Circus in 2009 and a retired elephant, Anne, being beaten by a groom at the winter quarters of Bobby Roberts Super Circus in 2011. Roberts was given a conditional discharge for failing to prevent the groom in the video from abusing the elephant.

Following the large scale media outcry over Anne, animal welfare minister Lord Taylor announced in March 2012 that the government would ban wild animals in circuses from December 2015, with a new licensing and inspection scheme introduced in the interim. Only two companies, Peter Jolly’s Circus and Circus Mondao, applied for and were granted licenses, with shows such as Zippos unaffected since they use only domestic animals.

The Stage
- The issue this article
originally appeared in.
Animal rights groups such as CAPs criticised the government for delaying the legislation necessary to bring in the ban, and when it emerged in June this year that the Wild Animals in Circuses Bill won’t be debated before the next election, its future was put in doubt.

After a hundred years of controversy, however, calls for a ban are unlikely to go away, and Britain’s stance on the matter will be closely watched by animal trainers and animal rights groups around the world. Both sides believe a ban in Britain, where circus was invented, could create a domino effect in Europe and America. And with the film and television industries largely dependent on circuses for their trained animals, that could have implications for the future of all animals in entertainment.


The 100-Year Battle To Ban Performing Animals - Timeline

1914 - Performing Animals Defence League founded.

1921 - Joseph Kenworthy MP introduces unsuccessful Performing Animals Prohibition Bill.

1925 - Performing Animals (Regulation) Act introduces licenses for performing with animals in public.

1957 - Captive Animals Protection Society founded.

Born Free
The film about a lion that gave its name
to an animal rights group.
1984 - Zoo Check Campaign, later Born Free Foundation, founded by Born Free stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers.

1980s - Many local councils ban circus animals from municipal show grounds.

1999 - Mary Chipperfield convicted of cruelty after undercover investigation by Animal Defenders International (ADI).

2000 - The Performing Animals Welfare Standards International (PAWSI) founded to promote animal welfare in audio-visual industries.

2006 Classical Circus Association founded to represent circuses with animals.

2007 - DEFRA-commissioned Radford Report finds no welfare grounds to ban animals in circuses.

2009 - ADI releases undercover film of elephants being hit at Great British Circus.

2009 - Bolivia becomes first country to ban all animals in circuses.

2011 - Media outcry over ADI film of Anne the elephant being beaten at winter quarters of Bobby Roberts Super Circus.

2012 - Animal welfare minister Lord Taylor announces ban on wild animals in circuses in 2015 and Circus Licensing Scheme in interim.

2013 - Peter Jolly’s Circus and Circus Mondao become only two UK circuses licensed to use wild animals.

2014 - With the Government's proposed ban on hold until after next year’s general election, Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick introduced a private member's bill under the 10-minute rule on September 3. It was blocked for the 12th time on March 6, 2015.

For more on the ever-thorny subject of animals in the circus, including a behind-the-scenes visit to Circus Mondao, one of only two British circuses licensed to use wild animals, read Circus Mania by Douglas McPherson. "A brilliant account of a vanishing art form," - Mail on Sunday.

Click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Happy 70th Birthday Gerry Cottle!



Here's wishing Britain's best-known circus man, Gerry Cottle a happy 70th birthday. His real birthday's April 7, but to avoid the Easter break, he's having his official birthday party this Saturday March 7 at the famous Wookey Hole in Somerset.

Gerry Cottle (left) with author Douglas McPherson
and Dr Haze from the Circus of Horrors
at the launch of Circus Mania
Click here to read the Gerry Cottle Story.