What happened when 15-year-old Imogene told her parents she was off to live her dream under the big Top
THURSDAY / C5
A life spent performing under the bright lights of the Big Top may sound glamorous but, as C5’s three-part documentary series reveals, hard work at an unforgiving pace is everyday life for child performers.
Very few parents would let their 15-yearold daughter leave home to join the circus, but Imogene Reynolds was so determined that her mum felt she could not stand in her way.
‘I’ve always loved performing,’ says hoopist Imogene, who left her parents and younger brother behind in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, to join Russell’s Circus, which tours the country.
‘When I was 10, I saw a girl flying through the air on the hoops. It was amazing and it looked like so much fun. After that I knew that’s what I wanted to do.’
Imogene is one of several youngsters featured in c5's three-part series Circus Kids, who wow audiences with their unique acts. Unlike most of the others she wasn’t born into a Big Top family.
‘Being in the circus is very special for me because I’m first generation,’ she says. ‘Who knows, if I ever have children, maybe they’ll do it as well. It would be amazing to start a performing family.’
Here, Imogene tells us more about her life…
What did your parents think about you wanting to join the circus?
I started going to Circus
School when I was 10 and they were really pleased I’d found something that I loved doing. As the years went by I told them I wanted to run away and join the circus, but they thought it was just a phase. As I got older they realised it was something I seriously wanted to do.
Did they attempt to change your mind?
They were actually OK about it. When I told my mum I’d been invited to spend the year with Russell’s Circus she was a bit shocked, but she began to see that
I had my mind set on it so she let me go.
Leaving home at the age of 15 must have been scary? I was quite scared for the first week or so, but I knew I had loads of people around me who made me feel welcome. We’re like one big unit and everyone gets on really well!
It must be a real thrill to work under the Big Top?
I love performing and it’s amazing when you walk off stage and you know you’ve done well in your act. The blood is pumping so fast that most of the time you don’t even realise people are applauding you.
What did your school friends say about your choice of career?
They were quite proud of me because they know it’s what I’ve wanted for years, but they were also a bit worried and thought I would never come back or get hurt. I was performing near home the other week and a few of them came to see me, which meant a lot.
How do you find time for your school work?
I try to fit in at least a couple of hours a day, but it’s difficult because they don’t teach the kind of skills that I’ll need for life as an entertainer.
What surprised you most about day-to-day routines? It was difficult cooking and doing my own laundry at the start, but the worst bit is definitely emptying the toilet. When I first did that I felt very gross and dirty and had to have a shower straight away!
Do you want to spend the rest of your life in the circus? Definitely. You forget about the outside world because your whole life is in the circus. I’d love to learn the flying trapeze and my dream is to be in Cirque de Soleil. Those guys are the best aerial performers in the world!
Do you feel you are different to other 15-year-olds?
A little bit because I like to work hard and I like being busy. Some teenagers like to stay in bed until midday, but there’s no way I could do that. The best thing about the circus is that there’s always something to do.
dressed to impress Time to shine: The teenager prepares for her big act Taking flight: Imogene wows the crowd
It would be amazing
to start a performing