|Circus Mania author Douglas McPherson|
makes his TV debut in BB1's
The Last Circus Elephant
Circus Mania author Douglas McPherson recalls a day of filming for a BBC documentary on the trial of Bobby Roberts and the fate of Britain's last circus elephant.
It was a day when we both learned a new word. David Whitely, the BBC Look East presenter, learned that clowns are nicknamed Joeys, and I found out what a noddy is.
We were standing in the middle of a blustery sports field, far enough from Russells International Circus that the red big top would appear just above my left shoulder. Diana Hare, the producer, was sitting on the grass making copious notes, and the tallest camera man I’ve ever seen was filming my answers to David’s questions about the rights and wrongs of animals in the circus.
|The subject of animals in the circus is always|
a thorny one. This is how the Daily Mail
reported the return of elephants to the
Great British Circus in 2009
For me, it was fun to see the way TV programmes are pieced together. I arrived early in time to catch circus owner Rusty Russell being interviewed in the empty big top, the light gleaming off his red and gold tunic as he sat with his back to the sawdust circle.
As the audience began to arrive, Diana and the camera man scurried around taking ‘atmosphere’ shots of people taking their seats and buying popcorn. David was filmed speaking his introduction as he walked up to the box office. To the bemusement of the paying customers waiting in line it took three takes until he and the camera man were satisfied.
As the lights went down and the show began, I was ushered into a seat to be filmed watching and applauding the hoola-hoopist and hand-balancers. Then, as the circus continued, I was tapped on the shoulder and hoiked outside to be interviewed in the afternoon sun.
|The Last Circus Elephant was filmed at the all-human|
Russells International Circus
Finally, we filmed some ‘establishing footage’ of David and me and pretending to be in deep conversation as we wandered among the caravans and lorries at the back of the big top.
How much of my interview will make it into the final film remains to be seen, as does whether the programme will be broadcast only in the eastern region or nationally. As the question of animals in circuses is a national one, David reckoned the documentary could end up broadcast countrywide in the prime time regional news slot.
A case of watch this space for further details, then.
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the way circus animals are trained and treated, read about my behind-the-scenes visits and interviews with circus trainers in Circus Mania!
Or click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon - the book the Mail on Sunday called "A brilliant account of a vanishing art form."
Update: Click here to read my review of The Last Circus Elephant.