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All over the UK on 9th January, circus took centre stage to celebrate its 250th anniversary! 250 years since the art-form was first born – when Philip Astley, the father of modern circus – first leapt into showbusiness with his own ring of entertainments near Waterloo in London in 1768. Now circus and its descendants have spread far and wide, and you can see just how far using hashtag #CircusEverywhere.

Natasha Rushbrook performing ‘Handstand for Hope’ underneath the Natural History Museum’s blue whale, Hope, as part of the joint birthday celebrations with the Creative Industries Federation.
The Circus250 logo, designed by Sir Peter Blake, lights up Norwich castle in the middle of one of the year’s Cities Of Circus.
In Bristol, another of the 2018 Cities of Circus, Eilidh Hoop and Chris Clayton perform on the We The Curious icerink, where a different circus photo will be projected for each of the next 250 days.

What’s happening in 2018 to celebrate Circus250?

Sensational circus events will be taking place across the UK throughout 2018, focused around the Six Cities of Circus.

These Six Cities of Circus – Bristol, Blackpool, Norwich & Great Yarmouth, Newcastle-under-Lyme, London, and Belfast & Derry – will glitter with bedazzling shows, amazing exhibitions, remarkable festivals and breath-taking events. Contemporary and traditional circuses, museums, theatres and archives will celebrate the 250th anniversary of this spectacular born-in-Britain artform.

Sir Tony Robinson, actor, historian, broadcaster and Circus250 Champion, says, ‘It’s wonderful to see 250 years of circus being celebrated UK wide in 2018, including in my own city of City of Circus – Bristol. Circus doesn’t only happen in the ring. Actors like me are influenced by circus, alongside artists, filmmakers, comedians, mime artists and writers. It has a proud past, vibrant present, and, I’m certain, a fabulous future. It’s also huge fun. From Bristol to Blackpool and Belfast, we’re going to gasp, cry, laugh, whoop and be startled at 100s of events. Circus250 in 2018 isn’t only  going to be the greatest show, it’s going to be the best fun.’

In Bristol, home to more circus companies than any other British city:

The Royal West of England Academy Circus250 exhibition ‘Sawdust and Sequins’ opens in March – an extraordinary collection of contemporary circus-inspired art, accompanied by performance from Bristol circus school Circomedia.

In Norwich, birthplace of famous 19th century black circus proprietor Pablo Fanque, and Great Yarmouth, home to the Hippodrome, Britain’s only surviving complete circus building:

The Lord Mayor’s Celebrations features a circus parade with life-sized elephant puppets winding through the streets in July and ‘Famished’, the new show by Norwich-based Lost in Translation, opens. The Hippodrome is producing four world class circus shows, with its Summer Spectacular themed around the Circus250 celebrations. Its backstage museum is open throughout the year.

In Newcastle-under-Lyme, birthplace of Philip Astley:

NoFit State circus premieres their new in-the-ring show ‘Lexicon’ under their big top in March and ‘Astley’s Astounding Adventures’ – specially commissioned for Circus250 year – opens at New Vic Theatre in July. The Philip Astley Project will host a series of events and talks about circus’s founding father.

In Blackpool, home of the Blackpool Tower Circus staging shows since 1894:

The town comes alive with circus celebrations, from the traditional Tower Circus which starts at Easter to the cutting edge Grundy Gallery.

In Derry and Belfast where, throughout the Troubles, circus schools were places where the two communities met to create great work:

Derry’s flagship FestivalCarnival of Colours will celebrate vintage circus and Belfast’s own Tumble Circus will be performing in the big top.


Circus250 is the Community Interest Company coordinating the celebration of 250 years of circus in 2018. (Think Shakespeare400, but with a few feathers and a lot of fun.)

Full resolution images of Lost in Translation performing in front of Houses of Parliament, just yards from the site of the world’s very

first circus, available here