The glitz and glamour of circus have long enthralled audiences. The sheer skill of the artistes as they perform death defying tricks on the trapeze and high wire, race motor cycles at high speeds round a narrow steel globe, perform all manner of acrobatic tricks or simply make people laugh as they clown around grabs the attention of young and old alike.
It has become a global phenomenon with top artistes performing all over the world and it owes its origins to an event that took place exactly 250 years ago in London. Until then, jugglers, acrobats and other itinerant entertainers performed on an on ad hoc basis wherever they happened to be.
Then came the innovation which created the concept of the modern day circus. It was 1768, and an out of work soldier named Philip Astley was seeking a way to make a living. He was an excellent equestrian, able to make his horses perform all kinds of tricks. Astley came up with the idea of creating a place where he and other entertainers could hold regular shows for the public in an organized fashion. People would pay to enter and watch the show. So he acquired some waste land opposite the Houses of Parliament, close to where Waterloo station is today and put up a building. Inside he drew a large circle on the ground, referring to it as a ring. People stood around the ring to watch the entertainment. As its popularity grew, so seating was installed and it became ever more lavish with ever increasing types of performers involved. This was the very first Circus – and from it, all other circuses in the world are descended. Philip Astley’s idea spread worldwide.
2018 is exactly 250 years since that first Circus opened and London is set to celebrate from April through to late autumn. So, make sure to book any of the budget hotels North London in advance as you can find numerous circus performances taking place all over the city, starring both UK and international artistes. Typical of these celebrations is the Underbelly Festival on London’s SouthBank which includes performances by groups such as the Circus Abyssina and Circa.
If you’re staying at Best Western Palm Hotel Londres, be sure not to miss any of the events. Over at Somerset House, the end of July and beginning of August sees the Circus Sampler taking over in the great courtyard. Visitors can enjoy stunning acrobatics taking place within the rise and fall of the 55 water jets of the fountains, as well as tight wire artistes and Chinese Pole artistes.