ROLL up, roll up... the greatest PHOTOSHOOT in town is here.
From escape artists to acrobats, clowns to gymnasts and fire-eaters to contortionists, photographer Peter Lavery has seen them all and snapped them all.
In a remarkable new book and exhibition, his work lifts the lid on life behind the Big Top.
It comes a timely 250 years after Philip Astley staged the first ever circus and hot on the heels of the cinema blockbuster The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman as legendary circus king P. T. Barnum. Lavery’s fantastic photo files have been compiled over five decades. It all started when the miner’s son from Wakefield, West Yorks, saw Winships Minicircus performing at the Queen’s Hall in Leeds. Peter, 69, said: “That’s where it started. I began to visit circuses, begging lifts and sleeping rough in travels that took me all over Britain.
“I bedded down in fields, under wild animal wagons and sometimes in them.
“Once, the most comfortable pallet I could find proved to be the straw of an empty lion’s cage. The richness and diversity of the lives of circus people fascinated me. I was struck by the disparity between the finery, the sequinned costumes, the plumes, the elaborate display and the backstage reality. I was enthralled by the sounds and smells, but I had no idea that, for the best part of five decades, the circus would capture and hold my imagination.”
Peter’s exhibition, Circus Work, is part of a nationwide celebration to mark the 250-year milestone (circus250.com).
It was in 1768, on wasteland near London’s Waterloo, that showman, entrepreneur and equestrian rider Philip Astley did something entirely new.
He put together a series of physical acts – jugglers, acrobats, clowns, strongmen and bareback riders – and drew out the very first circus ring. Astley had created a whole new art form – this was the world’s first circus. Peter, who has travelled the world on advertising
I’d beg lifts, slept rough and once even bedded down in a lion’s cage
CIRCUS SNAPPER FOR 50 YEARS