‘Showbusiness is in my blood’ - Peter Jay celebrates 40 years at the Yarmouth Hippodrome
From touring with The Beatles and Rolling Stones to running a world class circus show, there have been plenty of twists and turns in the career of Hippodrome owner Peter Jay.
This summer's Circus and Water Spectacular at the iconic venue on Yarmouth seafront marks 40 years since Peter Jay, now 76, took it over in 1979.
Mr Jay produced his first circus show in 1981 and restored the water feature, one of three in the world, which sees the whole stage sink and become a pool.
The building was built in 1903 by legendary showman George Gilbert and alongside the circus it also hosted political rallies by Lloyd George, illusionist Houdini and comedian Max Miller.
The Hippodrome is very much a family affair and Peter's son Jack is the ringmaster and show's producer, son Ben is the manager of the venue and technical director and his wife Estelle Clifton runs the dance school.
Peter Jay now describes himself as the artistic curator and throughout rehearsals will work with Jack to develop the show.
Peter said: "Jack creates the show and I sit with him and do improvements but I let him do it as much as possible as he is the new generation.
"I comment on things such as bits that are two short or things that are wrong and he often says exactly the same - we are on the same wavelength.
"When I used to travel to see shows with Jack I would always come out and get him to guess the things that weren't quite right and he would always guess correctly, we have mental telepathy.
"It is a great privilege to come to work with your family and although it is intense and hard work I don't see it as a job."
Peter, who now lives in Burgh Castle, took an unconventional route to the circus and growing up helped his parents run the Windmill Theatre, which is now Hollywood Adventure Golf, welcoming touring plays from all over Britain and they also owned the Empire bingo hall.
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Peter was also a talented drummer and after bonding with Ringo Starr when he was in a another group at a local holiday camp, his group Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers were asked to go on tour with them in 1963 and afterwards they toured with The Rolling Stones and Ike and Tina Turner.
Mr Jay said: "We joined The Beatles on 33 shows all over Britain and it was an amazing and crazy time with thousands of people not only in the theatre but around the venues too and they couldn't go anywhere.
"We used to sit and pay cards and chatted to them and they were such normal guys.
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"The group later fizzled out and I came back to Yarmouth and did 10 years at The Windmill with my dad Jack Jay, who my son is named after, and we saw the Hippodrome was up for sale.
"We decided to buy it as we didn't want a rival bingo hall to open and at first didn't really know what to do with it and thought about a nightclub as circus wasn't in our blood.
"The first couple of years we weren't happy with the product so in 1981 we decided to do our own show and bring back the water and came at the circus from a new angle and used our showbusiness and pop background to bring it up to date."
The Jay family now run four shows throughout the year with Pirates Live, a Halloween Spooktacular and Christmas Spectacular alongside the summer show and they fly in acts from across the globe such as Britain's Got Talent stars and Cirque du Soleil acrobats.
This year's Circus and Water Spectacular line-up includes the Motorbike Globe of Death Riders, acrobatic street talent direct from Chicago, synchronised swimming and Jack Jay will be joined by his comedy partner Johnny Mac once again.
Asked if he will ever retire from the Hippodrome, Peter Jay said: "Age is just a number and I keep going and am looking forward to the new season.
"I am gradually fading myself into the background and letting them do more but I'm still making sure it is done properly as showbusiness is in my blood and it is the most fabulous thing when people come up to you and say wow."
The Summer Circus and Water Spectacular comes to the Yarmouth Hippodrome from July 10 to September 15.
Adult tickets cost £19 to £24, concessions £16 to £20, children £11 to £15 and they can be purchased at hippodromecircus.co.uk or by phone on 01493 844172.
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