Daredevils and Divas – a Night at the Circus

I don’t know what it is about the circus, why it reaches out to me, why I was so drawn to it. Though it had its place in my wild years and our outlawed counter-culture, and I recall vividly the soaring, inspiring, electrifying moments of those heady days and balmy nights. I can’t help feeling like it’s something within. But that may be wilful projection, and I might just be lucky enough to be engaged and employed doing something I really really love!  

Apparently I was dragged kicking and screaming from Billy Smarts after the show had finished, so determined was I not to leave! And I also recall the smell and sounds of the Circus in the Villa Marina in my home town of Douglas Isle of man back in the early 70s, my nan Vera clutching my hand. Then there was Arkaos and their Big Metal Klown in  Battersea Power station that so inspired the whole scene I was a part of to try and take to the road, reinventing Circus into some kind of new age punk rock ritual rave celebration!

I also felt it in the cobblestones and old town carnivals as I troubadored my way around Europe, standing on boxes and bins and playing the clown, amongst other things! Those ancient streets and festivals that had warmed them for centuries, in the footsteps of lord only knows who! Harlequins and Pierrots, heroes and fools! And I have also had the honour and privilege to feel that same magical force in the company of friends and strangers, in all kinds of places and spaces, big tops and derelict fire stations, cabaret clubs and backstreet dives.

But there is something incredibly special about circus buildings for me, similar to grand old theatres but in a different way, and I have been lucky to perform in but a few. The Olympia in Blackpool’s winter gardens was one such space and the circus building in Amiens was another, an incredible circular building. And of course I had similar dreams about Blackpool Tower Circus when I saw it, as well as the glorious Hippodrome building in Great Yarmouth. I had the pleasure of visiting on a couple of occasions, always immersed in the atmosphere of the place as it’s impossible not to be, when you are sitting in such a grand venue still in full swing after so many years.

So I of course dreamed of performing there, and though I didn’t get to do a show as such, I did get to be immortalised treading the heady aquatic boards, (thats right its a water circus!) for the BBC4 Documentary – Daredevils and Divas – a Night at the Circus, which I also helped name!