For more than a century, Gandeys World Class Productions has been entertaining families with circus spectaculars.
Generations upon generations have at some point in their life visited these shows.
Yet many are unaware that some of its best-known productions, such as Gandeys Circus and the Chinese State Circus, have been coordinated from the company’s Congleton base.
Tour director Binky Beaumont reveals how it all started.
He told our sister site, Cheshire Live, said: “The Gandey family settled in this area after Bob Gandey, who was the grandfather of Philip Gandey, broke down with his family on his way home from a theatre tour in the turn of the last century.
“In those days, there weren’t garages and AA and RAC available, so he ended up on the A50 just outside Cheshire, stuck with a young family, and ended up staying for three weeks while the vehicle was fixed.
“He liked the area and eventually rented a cottage, and we’ve been based here ever since.
“The Gandey family has expanded obviously. Philip Gandey became the youngest circus director at the age of 17 after his father, Joe, who was Bob’s son, died in 1973 and took over the family business.”
The 1980s were an important decade for Gandeys Circus, as it diversified into the powerhouse it is today.
The company started to create television productions, theatre shows, ice shows and product launches.
Binky added: “By the time the late ’80s came, the direction of circus was changing.
“Carol and Philip Gandey had already looked at other options and we secured and created what is now a famous brand name, the Chinese State Circus. So we own the world rights to that and it was created here and it’s been all over the world for the last 30 years.
“We also diversified into television and theatre tours and various other forms of entertainment, but remained based here in Congleton, where we employ about 50 people in Dane Mill, who are our office-based team.
“By the turn of the millennium, we were touring various different productions and extensively working all over the world in association with the (then) Department of International Trade (DIT), with productions in the Middle East and Asia, and appearing as a flagship for British entertainment and theatre productions, which put us in line to become only the second largest production company after Cirque du Soleil in the world.”
Binky paid tribute to Newcastle-born Philip Astley, who created the modern-day circus 250 years ago. And he highlighted the importance of circuses evolving and productions no longer using animals in performances.
“Animals only really became popular 60 to 70 years after that. Prior to that, circus was all human feats of strength and oddities and that sort of thing,” he said.
“Circus evolves all the time and circus and has to evolve all the time to become the powerhouse that it is now. There are more circuses touring the UK now than there’s ever been, and they don’t have animals anymore.
“We took the decision many years ago not to use animals. About 30 years ago now, we decided not to use animals. We turned into more theatrical productions with the latest sound, lights, lasers, big production numbers with dancers.
“It’s now all about the performance and the creativity of the artists. The days are long gone from when it was a draughty old tent with sawdust on the ring and animals. That’s a very, very bygone era.”
The company now employs more than 400 people in the height of the season across several productions across the world…
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