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."

Friday, 22 June 2012

Anti-Circus Campaigners Outbid Zippos Circus For Dancing Dog Act

Animal rights organisation PETA has chosen unusual celebrities for its new anti-circus ad campaign: Britain’s Got Talent winners Ashleigh and Pudsey, who are a teenage girl and her dancing dog.

Unveiling the ad in Westminster, 17-year-old Ashleigh, who appears in the ad as a clown, spoke out against the “beatings” circus animals allegedly endure “for the sake of so-called entertainment.”
Keeping animals in the circus
Zippos ringmaster Norman Barrett MBE
(Photo: Piet-Hein Out, courtesy Zippos)
Pudsey the dog, who is dressed as a lion in the ad, declined to comment on the ad’s slogan: “The Saddest Show On Earth - Get Wild Animals Out Of The Circus.” But the message was clear: it’s okay for an animal to dance on prime time TV but not in a circus ring.

Amusingly, Zippos circus had previously made several attempts to hire Ashleigh and her canine companion. According to showman Martin Burton, “It appears I didn’t offer as much money as PETA, and Ashleigh and her agent went for the higher paid job!”

But is Ashleigh right to call for a ban on animal circuses? I looked into the matter in great depth for my book Circus Mania!, making backstage visits to several circuses and speaking to several former and current animal trainers, including Britain’s last lady tiger trainer.

For the full inside story on the way circus animals are kept and trained, click here to Circus Mania! from Amazon.

Or buy direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the SPECIAL OFFER price of just £10 postage-free. Send cheques to:
Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road
London N8 9NP
Tel: 020 8350 1775

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Gerry Cottle's 50 years of Circus

Back in the Big Top!

Half a century ago, a stockbroker’s son from Cheam ran away with the circus. He went on to become the most famous showman of his time. During the 70s and 80s, Gerry Cottle became as synonymous with circus as Billy Smart had in the 50s and 60s - not least because of the Seaside Special prime time variety show broadcast each Saturday evening from Cottle’s big top. In later years, Cottle was the guiding force behind the enormous UK success of the Chinese State Circus, Moscow State Circus and Circus of Horrors. A decade ago, he retired from the road to revive the Wookey Hole Caves as one of the south west’s most colourful tourist attractions.

But, to steal a line from Cecil B. DeMille’s film The Greatest Show on Earth, you can shake the sawdust off of your shoes but you can’t shake it out of your heart. Before long, Gerry had established a thriving circus school at Wookey Hole. And this year he’s returned to the road with his first travelling circus in ten years: Gerry Cottle’s 50 Years of Circus - 50 Amazing Acts in 100 Minutes!
A selection of Gerry Cottle's Circus
posters in the programme of his
50th anniversary show

Presented in a huge big top with a cast of 35 performers and a live band, the show boasts an outstanding line up including one of Britain’s funniest clowns, Bippo, and big tricks such as Mad Max Newton using a crossbow to shoot an apple off his assistant’s head; a blindfolded high wire act and a heart-stopping Wheel of Death.

There’s also roller-skating, bicycle gymnastics, magic and large scale song and dance routines. According to a review in fairground newspaper World’s Fair, “By the finale the atmosphere inside the big top was electric, with deafening applause the like of which I have never seen at a circus.”

If you're in striking distance of Wookey Hole, why not book into Gerry’s Wookey Hole Hotel (01749 672243)?

For the full story of Gerry Cottle’s life in the circus, not to mention the story of Bippo the clown, the Circus of Horrors, the Chinese State Circus and a whole host of circus performers from trapeze flyers to tiger trainers, read Circus Mania by Douglas McPherson, a book which Gerry Cottle himself called “A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people,” and which the Mail on Sunday described as “A brilliant account of a vanishing art form.”

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 in the UK.
Send cheques to:
Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road
London N8 9NP
Tel. 020 8350 1775

Or click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.