I love the circus. I love it for the fun, the laughter, the sense of transgression. For me the never-never land of the travelling circus is a compelling place. Deep friendships and intense romance happen. It is an outsider folk art — beautiful and rough, good and bad, sad and happy, mad and sensible — which is why I helped found one 10 years ago and am touring with it this summer.
I am sad that the circus has been overlooked in the UK and, as a result, it has wilted. Switzerland has a wonderful national circus full of glossy horses. Paris at Christmas has intriguing travelling shows set up in every corner of the city. The most rock ’n’roll circus I know, Flic Flac, prospers in Germany.
When I first joined a circus in Britain in the mid-Nineties I was amazed by the skill of the performers. A cat-eyed Romanian girl stood on her head on a trapeze bar while it swung and rotated at a terrifying height — without a safety wire or net. She shrugged off my admiration of her work, saying it felt like dancing — dancing with death, more like…
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