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UK’s Six Cities of Circus revealed

UK’s Six Cities of Circus – the places with the most significant circus heritage and the best of today’s circus activity – have been revealed for the 250th anniversary of the very first circus.

In 1768, in the heart of London, entrepreneur and showman Philip Astley drew out a ring and began filling it with astonishing acts – horses, tumblers, rope-dancers, jugglers, clowns. Every circus, anywhere in the world, began at that moment. (Check out this video introduction from The Philip Astley Project!).

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

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

Dea Birkett, Ringmaster at Circus250, says, ‘Circus250 celebrates the past but looks to the future. Over the last 250 years, circus – the original pop up – has continually evolved and reinvented itself. Each of our Six Cities of Circus demonstrates, through their fabulous histories and awe-inspiring current circus, just how enduring and innovative circus is.

World-renowned British artist Sir Peter Blake has designed the Circus250 logo so all participating events are instantly recognizable as part of the UK-wide celebrations.

Some of the events to expect from the Six Cities of Circus:

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 feature 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.

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

NoFit State Circus premiere 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.

In London, city of the very first circus near Waterloo…

CircusFest – the Roundhouse’s month-long celebration of contemporary circus – kicks off in April. The V&A is one of many major London museums joining in the celebrations with a Friday Late ‘Circus – Past, Present and Future’.

In Blackpool, home of The Blackpool Tower Circus, staging shows since 1894…

The town comes alive with circus celebrations, from the traditions of the Tower Circus to the cutting edge Grundy Art Gallery.

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

International award-winning Tumble Circus’s Christmas Show closes the Circus250 celebratory year in Belfast’s Writers Square.



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


Further 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