Gerry Cot­tle Jnr on circus an­tics at Roof East

Gerry Cot­tle Jnr has re­turned to his circus roots for rooftop pro­ject

The Wharf - - News -

Laura En­field M ost peo­ple run away to join the circus, but Gerry Cot­tle Jnr did the op­po­site.

Born into a fam­ily of per­form­ers, he spent his childhood in the big top, chas­ing clowns, jug­gling and fly­ing on the trapeze be­fore run­ning away to join a PR firm in Lon­don.

Be­fore long, the thrill of en­ter­tain­ing the masses proved ir­re­sistible and he set up Rooftop Cinema Club and, more re­cently, SFG (So­cial Fun And Games) Club.

The 36-year-old, who man­ages a team of 120 and splits his time be­tween Lon­don and Los An­ge­les, has now cre­ated a circus-themed play­ground for this year’s Roof East in Stratford.

We caught up with him to find out more about the venue. What can vis­i­tors ex­pect at Roof East? This year it is getting a com­plete makeover to celebrate 250 years of circus.

A new- look Birdies mini-golf set-up, Slug­gers bat­ting cages and hip-hop bowls will all be hon­our­ing the great art of circus en­ter­tain­ment this year with lots of as­tound­ing im­agery, colour and them­ing.

Rooftop Film Club will be screen­ing cult clas­sics and re­cent re­leases and our res­i­dent bar will be serv­ing cock­tails and street food to make this The Great­est Rooftop On Earth. Why the circus theme? It started in Bri­tain. Ma­jor Philip Ast­ley started the whole thing in 1768 on an aban­doned marsh­land in Lon­don Water­loo. All it took was a bit of old rope which he filled with as­tound­ing phys­i­cal acts – jug­glers, ac­ro­bats, clowns, strong­men and bare­back rid­ers. What’s your first mem­ory of the circus? Run­ning out of a bank safe, dressed as a mini policeman, that the clowns had just blown up.

I got to chase the clowns around and out of the circus ring. I was only a few years old and it’s a dear mem­ory of be­ing in­volved in this fun and crazy en­ter­tain­ment. What was your childhood like? A mix of circus and, I sup­pose, nor­mal life. My par­ents knew the im­por­tance of a good ed­u­ca­tion so I would be in school in term-time and then as soon as the sum­mer hol­i­days started I was off to the circus trav­el­ling up and down the coun­try. Was it all fun and games? It was for me as I was young and just hav­ing fun, but circus is not al­ways fun as it can be very tough.

It re­ally is love over gold. Circus artistes and fam­i­lies work harder than any­one I know. You per­form most evenings and then at the end of the week you pack ev­ery­thing up and it is off to the next city or ground.

On a Mon­day morn­ing you wake at 6am, in another part of the coun­try, build up the Big Top Tent and then it is back to work en­ter­tain­ing the crowds. What are your mum and dad like? They are both amaz­ing char­ac­ters. My dad was the son of a stock­bro­ker but re­belled against a nor­mal mid­dle class up­bring­ing and in­stead fol­lowed his dreams of run­ning his own circus. My mum was born into a fa­mous circus fam­ily called the Fos­setts. What circus skills did you learn? I was taught di­a­bolo skills by a won­der­ful clown called An­cient Haz­ard. As I got older I per­formed in many of dad’s shows and on stage with Robbie Wil­liams for Prince Charles’ 50th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions.

I also per­formed bungee trapeze and fire breath­ing with the Circus Of Hor­rors and had a com­edy car act my Un­cle Sonny Fos­sett taught me. Why did you go into mar­ket­ing and PR? I started do­ing it for the circus and re­alised I loved the en­ter­tain­ment side of stag­ing photo calls and work­ing with lots of in­ter­est­ing peo­ple and places. Af­ter this I ran away from the circus to join the great­est show on earth – Lon­don. I worked for Mark Borkowski on PR launches for Cirque Du Soleil, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, Dis­ney and Girls Aloud. Why did you start SFG events? To al­ways try and be ahead of the curve and give our cus­tomers some­thing new and ex­cit­ing. It is a one stop shop for en­ter­tain­ment. What’s the hard­est part of your job? The weather can some­times be an is­sue. We screen rain or shine, but make sure our cinema cus­tomers have free pon­chos, blan­kets and pop­corn to make their night as fun as pos­si­ble. The best? Trav­el­ling and the ad­ven­ture that comes with it. At the mo­ment our fo­cus is on the USA where we have venues in LA, New York and San Diego. Mi­ami, Hous­ton and Austin are in the pipe­line. We will also be open­ing in Dubai towards the end of the year. What’s the dream? To have a Rooftop Cinema in ev­ery ma­jor city in the world. Roof East is open un­til Septem­ber 30 – go to roofeast.com for more in­for­ma­tion or to make a book­ing for one of its events

Gerry Cot­tle Jnr has cre­ated a circus-themed play­ground for Roof East in Stratford

The venue fea­tures a bowl­ing green and base­ball nets

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