Gerry Cottle Jnr on circus antics at Roof East
Gerry Cottle Jnr has returned to his circus roots for rooftop project
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