Places to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the circus

Date Posted: 09/01/2018

Roll-up, roll-up, this year marks 250 years since the first ever circus in the UK, and there are plenty of places where your group can make the most of the occasion.

A year-long festival called Circus250 will run throughout the year with the named six Cities of Circus: Bristol, Great Yarmouth & Norwich, London, Blackpool, Belfast and Newcastle-under-Lyme, each running a series of special events as their contribution to the anniversary.

Here, we pick a highlight from the circus calendar in each of the cities to prepare you for the glittering, star-spangled, trapeze-themed year ahead. 

In Bristol… The Royal West of England Academy Circus250 exhibition Sawdust and Sequins will open on 24th March and run until 3rd June. Groups visiting will get to observe an extraordinary collection of contemporary circus-inspired art, accompanied by performances from Bristol circus school Circomedia. Fun fact: Bristol is said to be home to more circus companies than any other British city.

In Great Yarmouth & Norwich… Contemporary theatre company Lost in Translation will put on a new circus show called Famished. The show aims to ‘build a sensory world for the audience, visually, but also through smells, and taste’. Audiences can expect highlights such as real food cooked on stage in a new twist on the traditional understanding of circus. Booking details and dates will be confirmed later in the year.

In London… CircusFest will take place at the Roundhouse in a month-long celebration of contemporary circus. This annual festival will kick off in April and focus on the future of circus, from ‘the spectacular to the intimate’. Groups will get to see a number of different circus acts if desired, and see where circus collides with theatre, dance, live art, film and virtual reality. Discounts will be available when tickets go on sale in the coming months.

In Blackpool… Head to the Blackpool Tower Circus where performances take place frequently throughout the year. ‘Hilarious slapstick meets death-defying stunt work’ in the various shows on each week. Group travel organisers can upgrade seating tickets if desired to be right next to the ring, or organise the ultimate circus experience by booking for up to 20 people to sleep over in the circus arena, which dates back to 1894.

In Newcastle-under-Lyme… A local artist will be commissioned to develop a new town centre trail that includes both historical sites and new art work, illustrating highlights from the life of Philip Astley who is widely recognised as the ‘original’ ringmaster, having brought together the UK’s first known circus in 1768. The trail will launch in June and GTOs will be able to pick up free copies of the trail or be guided around the town with a lot of circus history by volunteer storytellers.

In Belfast… The award-winning Tumble Circus’s Christmas Show will close the Circus250 celebratory year in Belfast’s Writers Square. Audiences going to see the show can expect spectacles of acrobats, aerialists and jugglers plus plenty more, all infused with humour. The show is family-friendly and could make for a pleasing alternative to a traditional Christmas pantomime. Group ticket details will be released later in the year.

Group travel organisers can find out more about Circus250 and the various events, performances and exhibitions taking place throughout the year by visiting www.circus250.com.

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