Search

‘Please don’t let lockdown be the death of the circus’

PUBLISHED: 09:52 09 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:41 09 July 2020

Tthe Circus Ginnett crew before lockdown  Picture: Circus Ginnett

Tthe Circus Ginnett crew before lockdown Picture: Circus Ginnett

Archant

A circus fears the big top could be consigned to the history books unless it can hit the road again soon.

All parked up with nowhere to go - Circus Ginnett sits in the corner of a field near King's Lynn  Picture: Circus GinnettAll parked up with nowhere to go - Circus Ginnett sits in the corner of a field near King's Lynn Picture: Circus Ginnett

Performers have delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street calling for circuses to be either included in the government’s £1.57bn support package announced for theatres and the arts on Sunday, or be allowed to resume touring again.

Circus Ginnett based at Tilney St Lawrence, near King’s Lynn, has been hit hard by lockdown.

Its director Patrick Austin, whose family associations with the sawdust ring stretch back more than 200 years, said: “Circuses all over the country are closed and struggling to survive. On my circus alone we have had to start selling vehicles to help support ourselves.

The big top before lockdown  Picture: Circus GinnettThe big top before lockdown Picture: Circus Ginnett

“The government has now announced a £1.57bn investment to protect Britain’s world-class cultural, arts and heritage institutions with not a single mention of circus.

“This is the first time we are asking for some help and support. It is only very recently that we have been celebrating 250 years of circus around the world, in towns, villages and all over mainstream and social media. It will be so sad if we are forgotten now in these times of crisis and let slip through the cracks.”

Mr Austin said he had been unable to furlough staff as all are self employed, or even plan for the future as there has been no mention of circuses in any of the government guidelines.

Trapeze artist Lisandra Austin is having to train in the back of a lorry  Picture: Circus GinnettTrapeze artist Lisandra Austin is having to train in the back of a lorry Picture: Circus Ginnett

“It has been cited that theatres, concerts and plays still cannot open for the fear of wind instruments, singers and actors spraying the audience and helping to the spread of coronavirus during performances,” he said.

“As a circus we have no singers, all of our music is played through MP3 and our ringmasters voice can be pre-recorded. Yet we are still unable to open our shows, forcing us to stay home at our farms with no income.”

There are normally more than 35 circuses touring the UK, visiting hundreds of towns and villages around the country.

Circus Ginnett director Patrick Austin, who is calling for support for circuses Picture: Circus GinnettCircus Ginnett director Patrick Austin, who is calling for support for circuses Picture: Circus Ginnett

The industry generates between five and eight million visitors each year, yet unlike other performing arts forms such as ballet and opera, circuses have never received any backing, grants or support of any kind from the government.

“I can trace my family and Ginnetts Circus back more than 200 years and it now looks as though there could be a chance that neither of my sons Luke, 13 and Logan, three, will get the opportunity to experience the wonderful life that I have led,” said Mr Austin. “I have travelled all over the word with mine and other circuses. Please don’t let this be the death of the circus. We need to be heard and we need help.”

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: “We have announced a major £1.57 billion package to support the cultural and creative sectors as we take steps towards audiences returning to live performances. We have developed a five-stage roadmap which provides a clear pathway back for the sector. The next stage of the roadmap will be performances outdoors with social distancing and pilots for indoor events with social distancing. We are working closely with the sector and medical experts on our phased approach.”

Patrick Austin and Vader, the Wonder Dog  Picture: Circus GinnettPatrick Austin and Vader, the Wonder Dog Picture: Circus Ginnett


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press