Circus 250

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

Royal West of England Academy – Bristol

March 23rd – June 3rd 2018

Sawdust and Sequins/ Peter Lavery Exhibition at RWA

A major exhibition of historic and contemporary art that marks the UK’s distinct circus heritage and the contemporary circus scene alive in Bristol today. From Friday March 23rd we will be celebrating with a weekend of activity and performances for the whole family, including the launch of the Bristol Circus250 programme.


Saturday June 9th 2-4pm

Community Day

Are you are a circus performer past or present? Do you remember when Archaos came to town? Are there any circus performers in your family tree? Were you a student of Fool Time? Do you have any Bristol Circus Stories or photographs.

Come and share them with our young Circus Detectives as part of our HLF Young Roots Project in partnership with Bristol Museum.


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