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ISACS Member - Spraoi St Patrick's Parade 2017 | Photographer Graham Cullen



Happy First Day of Circus to everyone!
On 9th January 1768 equestrian, entrepreneur and showman Philip Astley drew out a ring and filled it with astonishing acts – tumblers, horses, acrobats, jugglers, clowns. He created the first circus. Every circus, anywhere in the world, began at that moment.

To mark the 250 years anniversary of Circus, several celebrations will happen in Ireland and the UK in 2018! See our article on Circus 250 Ireland - First Projects! for various projects happening in Ireland. 

Our member, Circus250, is the Community Interest Company coordinating the celebration of 250 years of circus in 2018 in UK and Ireland. (Think Shakespeare400, but with a few feathers and a lot of fun.)

Today, the Six Cities of Circus and Circus250, celebrates the day since the birth of circus with wide circus250 celebrations in the UK! Read on to know what to keep an eye on and who is involved!

Follow #firstdayofcircus and #Circus250

Picture: Lost in Translation Company performing in front of Houses of Parliament in London by Pete Maclaine.


Launch illuminations and Photo opportunity on Tuesday 9th January

#Circus250 Sir Peter Blake logo projected on to significant buildings throughout the country

The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome lights up to celebrate 250 years since circus was born

To mark 250 years on the day since the birth of circus the UK’s Cities of Circus – Bristol, Blackpool, Norwich and Great Yarmouth, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Belfast/Derry - are each projecting the Sir Peter Blake Circus250 logo on to a significant building on Tuesday 9th January:


Here’s where and when:

  • Bristol, We The Curious,  Anchor Road, Harbourside – 11am
  • Blackpool Tower Building – 4pm to 7pm
  • Norwich Castle in the city centre, clearly visible from Castle Meadow, Norwich Market and City Hall – 4pm to 10pm
  • Newcastle-under-Lyme, The Guildhall, High Street – from 4.30pm
  • Hippodrome Great Yarmouth - Britain's last surviving total circus building – from 5pm
  • Derry Walls, Opposite Guildhall Square, Derry -  from 6pm

Federation's Third Anniversary Celebration at the Natural History Museum

In London, there’s a special circus performance at the Creative Industries Federation' third anniversary celebration in the Natural History Museum at 7pm on Tuesday 9 January, attended by politicians, arts and cultural leaders, artists and leading lights from across the creative sector.  

Speakers and Performance 
- The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
- The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital
- Tom Watson, deputy Leader of the Labour Party
- Karen Blackett, Chairwoman of MediaCom, the UK's largest media agency
- Kwame Kwei-Armah, Incoming Artistic Director of the Young Vic Theatre
- Ben McOwen Wilson, Director of Youtube, Europe, Middle East and Africa
- Anna Jones, co-founder of the UK funding platform, AllBright

Performances under the blue whale include circus strong woman and ISACS member Aoife Raleigh, aka The Heavy Duty Dame, and leading contemporary circus company Lost in Translation presenting Natasha Rushbrook performing "Handstand of Hope”. Students from Bradford College’s Special Effects department present a parade of their fantastical circus characters, from lion ringmasters to imaginary beasts, feathered hoola hoop artistes to fairy popcorn sellers.

Keep an eye on the hashtag #FedParty for the highlights of the event.

More info here

Picture: ISACS member Aoife Raleigh 

What’s happening in 2018 to celebrate Circus250 in the UK and Northern Ireland?


Sensational circus events will be taking place across the UK throughout 2018, focused around the Six Cities of Circus.


These Six Cities of Circus – Bristol, Blackpool, Norwich and Great Yarmouth, Newcastle-under-Lyme, London, Belfast and Derry – will glitter with bedazzling shows, amazing exhibitions, remarkable festivals and breath-taking events. Contemporary and traditional circuses, museums, theatres and archives will celebrate the 250th anniversary of this spectacular born-in-Britain artform.


Sir Tony Robinson, actor, historian, broadcaster and Circus250 Champion, says, ‘It’s wonderful to see 250 years of circus being celebrated UK wide in 2018, including in my own city of City of Circus - Bristol. Circus doesn’t only happen in the ring. Actors like me are influenced by circus, alongside artists, filmmakers, comedians, mime artists and writers. It has a proud past, vibrant present, and, I’m certain, a fabulous future. It’s also huge fun. From Bristol to Blackpool and Belfast, we’re going to gasp, cry, laugh, whoop and be startled at 100s of events. Circus250 in 2018 isn’t only  going to be the greatest show, it’s going to be the best fun.'


In Bristol, home to more circus companies than any other British city: 

The Royal West of England Academy Circus250 exhibition ‘Sawdust and Sequins’ opens in March – an extraordinary collection of contemporary circus-inspired art, accompanied by performance from Bristol circus school Circomedia.

In Norwich, birthplace of famous 19th century black circus proprietor Pablo Fanque, and Great Yarmouth, home to the Hippodrome, Britain’s only surviving complete circus building:

The Lord Mayor’s Celebrations features a circus parade with life-sized elephant puppets winding through the streets in July and ‘Famished’, the new show by Norwich-based Lost in Translation, opens. The Hippodrome is producing four world class circus shows, with its Summer Spectacular themed around the Circus250 celebrations. Its backstage museum is open throughout the year.

In Newcastle-under-Lyme, birthplace of Philip Astley:

In Newcastle-under-Lyme, the New Vic Theatre will lead celebrations of this amazing artform with Circus Past, Present and Future – a programme of events that will showcase the wonder of circus for all ages. Astley’s Astounding Adventures, a new play – specially commissioned for Circus250 year - written by Staffordshire-born Frazer Flintham and directed by Artistic Director Theresa Heskins about Astley’s extraordinary life opens in July at New Vic Theatre as well as Cabinet of Curiosities, a new immersive play that will take audiences into the fantastical world of circus.
The New Vic will also bring national and international companies to the town for the celebrations including NoFit State circus to premiere their new in-the-ring show ‘Lexicon’ under their big top in March;
Circolombia – the inspirational Colombian circus company, and the Victoria and Albert Museum to present an outdoor exhibition all about the history of circus. NoFit State circus premieres their new in-the-ring show ‘Lexicon’ under their big top in March.

The Philip Astley Project will host a series of events and talks about circus’s founding father.

More info and events: here

In Blackpool, home of the Tower Circus staging shows since 1894:

The town comes alive with circus celebrations, from the traditional Tower Circus to the cutting edge Grundy Gallery.

In Derry and Belfast, throughout the Troubles circus schools were places where the two communities met to create great work:

Derry’s flagship Festival Carnival of Colours will celebrate vintage circus and Belfast’s own Tumble Circus will be performing in the big top.


Hello, Circus 250!
'Making Waves' - Critical Mass 2017 | ISAN Outdoor...

Irish Street Arts Circus and Spectacle Network

Irish Theatre Institute, 17 Eustace St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland
00 353 (0)87 0541812