At university - for clowning around

It is one of the toughest universities in the world - with a seven-day working week, the risk of broken limbs and students forced to rebuild the campus each week whatever the weather.

It is one of the toughest universities in the world - with a seven-day working week, the risk of broken limbs and students forced to rebuild the campus each week whatever the weather.

Yet every time he puts on his shiny red nose and steps into the spotlight, Alex Morley, of Stow Bedon, near Watton, is living a lifelong dream.

The business of the 18-year-old clown may be laughter, but his punishing schedule with the Academy of Circus Arts is certainly not to be scoffed at.

He is on a 25-city tour of the UK with the academy, putting on up to 15 shows a week, with the remaining time split between learning the often dangerous trade and putting up the Big Top with a 14lb sledgehammer.

Mr Morley is all too familiar with the occupational hazards: he spent two weeks nursing a broken arm following a fall from a stack of revolving pipes.

But he said his path was set from his first glimpse of a clown at a Thetford circus aged five.

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After starting with shows for friends and family aged 11, he moved on to children's parties then to performing in summer shows until May this year when he joined the academy.

Now a graduate, he is well versed in an eclectic mix of juggling, pratfalls, stand-up, unicycle riding and acrobatics and has received his first offers to join a professional touring circus.

“It can be very tough when you are out in the freezing rain for five hours hammering in the 84 stakes it takes to put the Big Top up,” he said. “There are days when it does seem too much but when you see the audience clapping and having a great time, it makes it all worthwhile. I have always wanted to entertain people.

“My parents have always been very supportive but it is still hard to get other people to realise that it is a proper job.”

With circuses out of fashion and audiences in decline, Mr Morley said it was tough to make a living as a clown but said he could never see himself doing anything else.

Mr Morley will be returning home on October 30 after finishing his tour with the academy, which is run by Zippos Circus.

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