I have just been asked (for a possible newspaper feature) to run through my days in the circus.
Having done it, I thought I might as well put it on here:
In 1984 (at the age of 19), I worked with Sir Robert Fossett’s Circus on the advance publicity team, then for Lacey’s Lions at Gandey’s Circus (Martin Lacey now runs the Great British Circus & his sons Martin Lacey Jnr & Alex Lacey are starring in Circus Krone in Germany & Ringlings in the USA) as beast man. These two posts were intended as research for a planned circus novel, but – as well as discovering that life in the circus was nothing as I had imagined – I was well and rule bitten by the circus bug. This led to absconding from university the next year to work again with Sir Robert Fossett’s Circus, this time with the elephants & horses.
1986 saw me take on the task of ringmaster at Circus Fiesta (Tony Hopkins Entertainments, subsequently travelling as Chipperfields, Billy Smarts, Gerry Cottles & Netherlands National Circus) on an extensive UK tour which took the show as far as the Orkney Islands.
1986/87 Christmas & New Year season found me in the ring at Robert Brothers Circus in the SEC Glasgow, cementing my place as Europe’s youngest ringmaster at the age of 21.
After brief stints at the International Circus Festival in Monaco & Circo Francesca Orfei in Italy assisting with a dog act, I was back in the UK for the start of the 1987 season to ringmaster for Jay Miller’s Circus on it inaugural tour of the UK.
I was then invited to be ringmaster for the record-breaking Irish tour of the American Three Ring Circus from Christmas 1987 up until the end of 1988. This was a truly spectacular show with over 80 artistes, elephants, horses, tigers & bears.
Circus Hoffman then took me to Ireland again for Christmas 1988/New Year 1989.
Early 1989 was spent training an elephant in Ghent Zoo, Belgium, followed by one day stands in France with Circus European.
In late 1989, I went back to take over as ringmaster on the UK tour of the American Three Ring Circus.
1990 – my final season – was spent with Circus King (also in the UK).
Since then, I have resisted offers to travel again full-time (including another 3 ring circus in Ireland & a circus in France), but have done odd bits of circus work, including putting the show together & ring mastering for the first week of the inaugural tour of Circus Continental Berlin in Ireland, taking over from the ringmaster for a few weeks on the UK tour of the Moscow State Circus & numerous stints assisting my good friend wild animal presenter Marnie Dock working in Portugal (Circus Atlas), France (Arlette Gruss), Germany (Busch Roland), Austria (Louis Knie), Poland (Merano) & Spain (Mundial).
‘Beast Wagon’ – the novel resulting from this extremely prolonged research – has never been published as I sold the film rights to Working Title pre-publication & it has been in turnaround for years. A future project is, however, a series of murder mysteries featuring Amelia Wilde – an amateur sleuth with a background as a circus wild animal trainer in the fictional ‘Lord George Wilde’s Circus’.
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