LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS... welcome to the big top blog of Douglas McPherson, author of CIRCUS MANIA, the book described by Gerry Cottle as "A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people."

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Circus Mania a Good Read!

My thanks to Circus Mania reader Shana Kennedy for posting the following review on :

Australian circus girl
Chelsea McGuffin
- Read the
story of her
performance with
in Circus Mania
(Photo by
Sandrine Penda,
Norfolk and Norwich
‘A decent circus book for us groupies... a quote I particularly connected with: "I realize...the rows of seats behind me are going to remain empty... But as the lights go down it ceases to matter. In a theatre you would feel the emptiness of a poorly attended house sapping the atmosphere. The big top, by contrast, seems to close snugly around us, emphasizing only our proximity to the ring and the impending action."’

If you’re tempted to read some more, save £5 off the retail price by ordering Circus Mania direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special offer price of £10 postage free in the UK (£2.75 postage rest of world). Send cheques to:
Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road
London N8 9NP
Credit card orders during office hours: 020 8350 1775

Wednesday, 14 September 2011



As the nights draw in and Halloween looms, you may be wondering where to celebrate the time of ghosties, ghoulies, pumpkins, broomsticks, black cats... and witches. Where better than the 50,000-year-old tourist attraction Wookey Hole, where the caves boast their own breed of creepy cave spider... and a real live resident witch?

Luckily, witch in residence Sunny van der Pas is a witch of the friendly, rather than scary variety, and Terrance the spider who hangs from her pointed hat looks like a fake to me - although she assures me the spiders in the caves are real enough.

“I’m not certain, but I’m told they’re the only venomous spiders in England,” says Sunny, who looks pretty fit for her claimed age of 227, “But they’re absolutely beautiful.”

So are the caves, themselves, says Sunny: “Some of the chambers are 100-feet tall. They’re beautifully lit and look like cathedrals. There’s one shaped like a dome, which was created by a whirlpool and could never have been carved by man.”

As well as the caves, Wookey Hole boasts a dinosaur park, a paper museum on the site of Britain’s oldest paper mill, a Victorian penny arcade, a fairy garden and a Mirror Maze. There’s also a circus museum stuffed with showman’s wagons, circus freaks, costumes and memorabilia and, at weekends and during the school holidays, thrice daily circus shows in the Big Top Theatre. The shows are presented by Sunny who, being a witch, naturally casts a lot of spells to make things disappear and appear; and Bippo the clown, who is one of Britain’s most talented up-and-coming performers.

The rest of the cast are drawn from the students of the Wookey Circus School who perform all kinds or gymnastics and aerial feats.

The circus connection isn’t surprising, though, as Wookey Hole is owned by Britain’s most famous living circus man, Gerry Cottle, who bought the attraction after selling his share of the Chinese and Moscow State Circuses. Cottle’s idea at the time was to retire from circus. But, as they said in Cecil B DeMille’s film The Greatest Show On Earth, you can shake the sawdust off your shoes, but you can never shake it out of your heart.

For details of Wookey Hole opening times and bookings at the on-site 58-bedroom hotel, call 01749 672243 or visit

If you want the full story of Gerry Cottle’s circus career and how he came to set up the Wookey Circus School... plus the story of how Bippo ran away with the circus as a 9-year-old... buy my book:


Circus Mania retails at £14.99, but you can save £5 by ordering direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special offer price of just £10 postage free.

Send cheques to:

81 Ridge Road
London N8 9NP

Tel: 020 8350 1775