Not a lot of people may know this, but 2018 is the 250th Birthday of Circus.
I wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t looked in on the Tower Circus in Blackpool in May this year.
The Tower Circus opened for the first time in May 1894. The cheapist ticket then was 6d (2.5p).
The last time I entered this historic venue was in 1976 when I introduced my first born to the talents of Charlie Cairoli and his team.
The aforementioned clown has long since joined that great Big Top in the sky, along with many of his comical company and it’s cast of performing animals. Animals last appeared in 1990.
Cairoli was born to a circus family in a town near near Milan in 1910. In 1939 the Cairolies appeared at the Circus Krone in Munich in front of a certain Adolph Hitler, who presented young Charlie with a wristwatch after the performance. In September of that year, Charlie was appearing in the Tower Circus Blackpool for the first time, when war was declared with Germany. In response to this news, Charlie walked to the end of the Central Pier and threw the wristwatch as far as he could into the sea.
He starred in the Tower Circus with his company for over 40 years, and after a period of ill health he eventually retired in 1979 and died the following year.
In February 2000 in Blackpool he was awarded a posthumous Achievement Award from the World’s Fair Circus Newspaper, and a statue of him stands proudly today in the Blackpool Tower.
I treasure the memory of his clowning and pie throwing comedy from the 70’s and I was relishing something similar to share with my grandchildren in the May Bank Holiday.
In many respects, security checks apart, the initial experience was exactly as it was around 40 years ago.
There is a long walk from security to the old circus ring, with pictorial and historical costume reminders of years gone by and posters of artists and comedians who have appeared at this venue in more recent times.
But Blackpool is Blackpool and Circus is Circus and as you enter the main ring you are bombarded by a selling tsunami offering programmes and colourful flashing toys for £5 that would cost you so much less in your local Poundworld Store. Furthermore, if you were really fortunate and quick you could part with some more folding money to have your photo taken with the star of the show, Mister Boo.
In the absence of the traditional lion tamers, performing elephants, and chimps of the 70’s, Mr. Boo and his dopey sidekick, Mookey, filled a lot of the show with their zany antics, magic and humour, but the real stars of the show were the Kossak Dancers and the Trapeze Artists, who looked so much like the programme and toy sellers that we met before the show started!
For me, the 2018 Blackpool Tower Circus fell well short of the show that so enthralled my eldest son 40 years ago. Even the famous water show which ends the performance seemed to lack the energy it once had, although to be fair that can apply to most of us I guess.
But none of that matters, because our six year old grandchildren were in awe from start to finish, and that was magical to me.
This was their first experience of Circus, and they will remember it for the rest of their days.