Circus 250 celebrates the birth of Circus right here in the UK 250 years ago.
It all happened on an abandoned patch of land near London’s Waterloo, showman, entrepreneur and equestrian rider Philip Astley drew out a circle in the ground and filled it with astounding physical acts. This spectacle was the world’s very first circus. It was 1768, a time of revolutions, and poet William Blake could have been one of Astley’s first customers. But the real revolution Astley created was a whole new art form. His 42 foot ring, the dazzling combination of jugglers, acrobats, clowns, strong men, bareback riders… Every circus, anywhere, began at this moment in 1768.
250 years later, circus is a worldwide phenomenon. There’s barely an art form that isn’t touched by it – from Sir Peter Blake’s circus collages to cutting edge performance art. Every schoolchild can tell you what a circus is. Many of us would secretly like to run away and join one.
The anniversary of this most pervasive, popular, born-in-Britain art form will be marked in 2018 by a UK-wide celebration. Museums, filmmakers, designers, theatres, orchestras, schools, libraries and circuses will all join in – circus is everywhere and for everyone.
Circus250 is about enabling pioneering work, forging new partnerships, building new audiences and embedding circus at the heart of our culture – in the ground-breaking spirit of Astley.
Below are a list of events being held in Bristol as part of #circus250 which will be updated throughout the year.
|THE INVISIBLE CIRCUS PRESENTS
THE RENEGADE FABULON
August 30th and 31st
A bedazzling circus show with sublime live musical score!
The Renegade Fabulon rolls into town telling the gritty urban tale of our time, where communities are forgotten and profit is king. Together we will celebrate the spontaneous, wild, and absurd heritage of humanity, in the face of ever growing obsession with profit and power. Embracing urban mythology, new rituals, circus, dance, and song. Continue dancing and drinking at The Loco Klub, til midnight in the recently refurbished bar and garden.
CHRISTMAS STEPS GALLERY PRESENTS
LULU: THE EIGHTH WONDER OF THE WORLD
September 11th – 16th
Heather Tweed explores the secret life of a 19th century acrobat, unveiling her true story in this new exhibition.
BRISTOL MUSEUM & ART GALLERY PRESENT
THE CLOWN REGISTRY AND MUSEUM
September 29th – January 6th
Roll up, roll up, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls!
Tumble into the wonderful world of clowning, explore what makes a great clown and step into their gigantic shoes.Discover the origins of clowning and unveil the personal, hilarious and often bizarre stories of the people beneath the colourful exterior.
To celebrate 250 years of circus, we’ve created an exhibition of stunning costume, fascinating archives and intriguing clown eggs, thanks to Clowns International and the London Clown Gallery-Museum.Clowns International has been painting the faces of its members on eggs for over 70 years. Each one is a record of a clown’s unique identity, preserving the unwritten rule that no clown should copy another’s look.Enter a surreal and interactive realm of light, colour, mirrors and clown cars – a place to try out circus skills and clown-around in costume.
|BLACK HISTORY MONTH PRESENTS
THE GREAT AFRICAN BLONDIN
Regional History Centre public talks at the M Shed Museum, Bristol
Carlos Trower (1850-1889) escaped slavery in America to become one of the world’s greatest ever high-rope walkers, known as ‘The African Blondin.’ Living in Victorian England for most of his life, he resided in Bristol at 7 Christmas Steps during the 1870s. He performed for thousands at Colston Hall in 1888, walking forwards and backwards, blindfolded and in shackles on a rope 50 feet high reaching 120 feet from the organ to the President’s gallery. His daring performances supported the emancipation of slaves and championed many charities helping those in need throughout his career. He died from a painful illness in 1889.
Reading from his forthcoming book High-Rope: A Poem of the African Blondin, Dr. PaulGreenunveils a true never-before-told odyssey of emancipation by an African-American hero as he balanced the narrow way towards a better world. Poetically written and beautifully illustrated, this inspiring account immerses readers in the incredible untold story of a lost legend during defining moments of American and British history. Including rare photographs, Victorian prints, portrait painting by Rachel Hemming Bray, and original illustrations by Trevor Haddrell, RWA, this visual material supports the powerful descriptions of the life and times of an incredible pioneer as he overcame deadly obstacles.
BRISTOL MUSEUM & ART GALLERY IN COLLBORATION WITH CIRCOMEDIA PRESENT
MUSEUMS AT NIGHT: CIRCUS SPECTACULAR
October 25th 7:30pm-9.30pm
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery Queens Rd Bristol BS8 1RL
Museums at Night: Step Right Up, Roll up roll up for an evening at the circus! For one night only the halls of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery will be transformed by acrobats, storytellers and family crafts as we celebrate three centuries of circus heritage in Bristol. Featuring Circomedia, The Invisible Circus, Cirque da Purr, Cirque Bijou, Creative Youth Network and much more. This is a free event made possible by Heritage Lottery Young Roots.
MYERS-INSOLE LOCAL LEARNING & CIRCOMEDIA PRESENT
BRISTOL’S STORY OF CIRCUS – A HERITAGE EXHIBITION
October 2018 – January 2019 touring venues throughout the city.
(Check this website for details.)
Circomedia’s Youth Circus and students from Orchard School, Hor eld have been investigating Bristol’s own circus heritage from St James’s Fair to Bristol becoming a Circus City. Working with Meyers-Insole Local Learning and in partnership with Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and University of Bristol Theatre Collection young people have been looking into the archives to pinpoint where circus happened, the characters and stories that made Bristol a City of Circus. Supported by a team of volunteer academics and funded by Heritage Lottery Young Roots the resulting exhibition will be launched at the Museum at Night on October 25th. It will then tour to the University of Bristol’s Theatre Collection, Creative Youth Network, Bristol Cathedral, The Central Library as well as Circomedia.
The Circus Detectives’ research will then contribute to local history website: Know Your Place. If you would like to volunteer as part of this project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
This project is funded by Heritage Lottery Young Roots.