'Audacious Mr Astley' was highly praised at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Wednesday 26th September 2018


On Friday 14th September a paving stone funded by Zippo's Circus and commemorating Astley's Amphitheatre was unveiled at the garden of St Thomas's Hospital, London, on the south side of Westminster Bridge.

The flagstone is the second commemorative item to be unveiled this year celebrating the origination in the Lambeth area of circus entertainment. 2018 is being widely celebrated as the 250th Anniversary of the first performances by Serjeant-Major (sic) Philip Astley in 1768 at a site now occupied by Roupell St, part of the Lambeth Estate, Waterloo, which was then a field known as Ha'penny (= half penny) Hatch. A plaque attached to a building in nearby Cornwall Rd was unveiled on Easter Monday 2018, the exact anniversary of Astley's first advertised performance and thus of the founding of the art-form of the modern circus, now a world-wide cultural phenomenon.

Astley was a war hero turned trick-rider and showman. Partnered in his shows by his wife Patty, and trading also on his heroic status, Astley quickly found success. By early 1769, the couple had moved on to a former timber-yard at the southern end of Westminster Bridge. Sharing his time between their performances and the daytime teaching of riding to the gentry, Astley titled his establishment Astley's British Riding School. He began to develop his open-air arena and to add other types of performer to his shows, and within a few years had constructed the first building in a series which remained in the public's hearts throughout the 19th century. Described by Dickens and recorded by Jane Austen, Thackeray and others, Astley's was closed down by the authorities in 1893 and demolished the following year.

The Amphitheatre was the world's first circus building, yet no permanent commemoration has previously been made. On 14th September the founder and director of Zippo's Circus Martin Burton brought a group of his performers to a spot in the garden of St Thomas's Hospital estimated to be close to the site of the building's main entrance. Appropriately, the group included a circus horse and its Cossack rider, Tamik Khadikov, with his wife Helena; as well as ringmaster Norman Barrett MBE; musical clowns Totti and Charlotte Alexis and their sons Charlie and Maxim; aerialists Vickki and Pablo Garcia and their sons Antonio and Connor; hand-balancer Melissa; and clown Paulo Dos Santos. Also present in authentic period costume to represent Mr Astley was ringmaster and circus historian Chris Barltrop.

A flagstone inscribed in commemoration and celebration was unveiled by Charlie and Maxim Alexis, who drew aside a segment of carpet specially laid for the moment. Mr Burton had asked the two young boys to perform the unveiling so as to also represent the ongoing nature of the Classical circus and its future; they are the seventh generation of their family to be circus artistes.

Martin ‘Zippo’ Burton commented ‘We thank St Thomas's Hospital for their enthusiastic cooperation in our plans. We are delighted to honour the tradition of circus and Philip Astley’s legacy. Circus has evolved but its core skills and ability to delight audiences of all ages haven’t changed. I believe circus will still be hugely popular in another 250 years”

ACP Parliamentary Reception

Friday 16th March 2018


The Association of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain held their celebration of 250 years of circus in the houses of parliament recently, geographically less than a mile from where it all began all those years before.

Although not the first parliamentary reception for the association it certainly was the most significant with performances and speeches demonstrating how circus has endured the test of time and showing why the art form is as relevant today as it has ever been.

After an opening welcome by the chairman Martin Burton, MPs, and members of the lords together with invited guests watched acts from Russia, Australia, Cuba and the UK and listened to a speech from Sir Peter Luff the chairman of the heritage lottery fund telling the story of his introduction to circus by Gary Smart who he went to school with.

Andrew Van Buren from the Philip Astley Project recounted the history of the art from the very beginning and Istvan Ujhelyi MEP who had travelled together with Peter Fekety director of the Hungarian State Circus especially for the reception stressed the importance of getting circus recognised as cultural heritage, something we should be rightly proud of.

international singer Kelly Banlaki was also able to sing for the guests with a couple of songs and a finale of getting everyone to join in with a happy birthday to the circus.

The reception was well received by members of all parties enjoying the proceedings. Even a visit by Matthew Hancock MP and the current head of DCMS highlighted the importance of this Great British invention.

Here’s to the next 250 years

Cirque Berserk! sells-out in London's West End

Thursday 15th February 2018


Cirque Berserk! returned in triumph to London's West End in February, with a sell-out 12-day run at Sadler's Wells' prestigious Peacock Theatre, that attracted rave reviews.

'Masterminded by touring circus company Zippos, 'Cirque Berserk!' is a thrilling show.' Time Out.

'This amazing show is like Cirque du Soleil on steroids'. Daily Express

'It’s a marvel of throwing knives, contortion, acrobatics and deathly motorcycle stunts and it is marvellous fun'. Evening Standard

'..an amazing company of talented performers… In a lifetime of theatregoing, I have never seen anything like it.' Sunday Express

'…a show that families can afford and all generations will enjoy. Prise your kids away from their screens – entertainment does not come more perfectly performed.' Johnathan Baz Reviews

'Cirque Berserk! …could give Cirque du Soleil a run for its money'. The TImes

The national Press' Showbiz reporters witnessed the many celebrity guests anxious to be seen on the red carpet: 'TV presenter Myleene Klass looked like the cat who'd got the cream when she attended the star-studded Cirque Berserk! Gala Performance in London', according to the Daily Mail; the Daily Star liked TOWIE star Lauren Pope's 'dazzling display'; the Evening Standard spotted singer-turned-farmer JB Gill, Dynasty actress Stephanie Beacham, and broadcaster Jeremy Vine.

'…@cirqueberserk playing at the Peacock Theatre… WOW! Acrobatics, trapeze, motorcycles in a metal globe, bouncing and jumping and - well take a look at this, the knife-throwing. Gulp.' Jeremy Vine

Next at Edinburgh, Dublin, Manchester and Birmingham.

More on www.cirqueberserk.co.uk

The Moscow State Circus returns to the UK

Wednesday 28th June 2017


The Moscow State Circus, the world’s most famous circus will bring it’s latest & greatest production to the UK - a show that promises to have all the spectacle and nerve-tingling, edge of your seat thrills for the whole family returns with its latest incarnation Gostinitsa.

The Circus has been planning this event for the last 2 years and the artistes have been in training ready for this world-beating performance, which promises to be breath taking.

Featuring award winning Clowns, Chervotkins Duo who will guide the audience through this incredible show which features acts like the Didyk Troupe, acrobatics on Europe’s only DOUBLE Russian swings. Flying through the air and somersaulting from one fast moving swing to another, incredible!

The Alikhanov Troupe perform on two ten meter pole’s balanced on one shoulder of a man with not 1 but 3 girls climbing and spinning to the very top of the same pole. And then 5 people walking the high wire simultaneously.....

Plus Unicyclists the Gorodetskiys Duo, Eugeniy Hochrova Foot Juggling & the sensational trapeze artistes the Peruskins Duo & Anna Rastsova. A sensational show worthy of its claim to be the worlds most famous circus.

For further details go to www.moscowstatecircus.com

Report on ACP Spring Meeting 2017

Wednesday 17th May 2017


The ACP’s newest initiative is to investigate changes in Commercial Vehicle laws and rules of operation so that the country’s leading circus owners can continue to lead by example in their transportation practices.  At a recent ACP meeting, a specialist commercial transport adviser was able to tell members about organisational changes at the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency), the successor to VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency), to explain current procedures and classifications to members, and to answer their queries.

Explaining that the Agency’s policies have recently been altered towards a tightened penalty regime, the specialist detailed a change of enforcement emphasis away from action ‘showcasing’ large group haulage operators, and advised that action for possible infringement would now be more likely to focus on individual owners and operators of vehicles as well as their drivers.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition now allows Police and DVSA inspectors to access full vehicle information ‘on the spot’, revealing insurance and Test status without the need to produce paperwork later.  Members were surprised to know that sensors in the road surface can also give inspectors instant information on the weight of vehicles passing over them.

Confirming that even a large towing van and living caravan could easily break overall train-weight limits, the specialist advised that artistes driving such loads are required to hold an appropriate HGV licence.

He reminded members that the Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) may not apply to circus operators, who benefit from the so-called 'tools of the trade' exemption. He also highlighted that, even though a specialist vehicle may conform with Construction and Use regulations, rules governing vehicle Testing have their own separate set of requirements to which due consideration must be given.

Among other business, proprietors were given an update on the Association’s work with the Circus250 organisation which is coordinating events centred around the 2018 anniversary celebration of Philip Astley as the Father of the Modern Circus. As representatives of the ‘home country’ where modern Circus began in 1768, ACP member circuses will lead the national and international programme of events which will take place throughout next year.


Doktor Haze to Stand for MP

Wednesday 17th May 2017


Doktor Haze the creator & ringmaster of The Circus of Horrors is to stand as an alternative as opposed to independent candidate for the Brighton Constituency of Kemptown.

Luckily the General Election coincided with the appearance in the City of The COH so there will be plenty of time for electioneering in the City. He will be campaigning generally on national issues such as the effect on Brexit on his companies but will also be a 'celebration of quirkiness' and his manifesto will mix the quirky with the more serious issues that effect us all.

For more details go to www.circusofhorrors.co.uk

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The ACP was formed in 1932 to promote the highest possible standards and ideals within the circus industry. Its members are leading circus proprietors in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its function is to discuss with local Government, Local Authorities and other bodies the issues that affect the circus industry and make the decisions that will ensure its continued development as a vibrant, exciting and popular art form. [More]