‘Please don’t let lockdown be the death of the circus’
- Credit: Archant
A circus fears the big top could be consigned to the history books unless it can hit the road again soon.
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 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.
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“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.
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“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.
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.”