Circus Showmen: Innovators who Shaped the Circus,

Wednesday 1 February – Thursday 3 May 2012, Western Bank Library Exhibition Gallery.

Circus Showmen: Showmen who Shaped the Circus celebrates the personalities who innovated the circus for their generation. Drawing from a wide selection of material from private and public collection the exhibition incorporates flyers, posters, film, costumes and props covering 250 years of circus history.

From the late eighteenth century, the circus has travelled, developed and incorporated many elements, with each generation of circus showmen challenging the art form with the showmen celebrated defining circus for their generation. Starting with Philip Astley, the exhibition highlights Lord George Sanger, Bertram Mills, Billy Smart, and lastly to Gerry Cottle, a stockbroker’s son from London. Their stories demonstrate that circus has always been the place where the most talented can run away to. No circus exhibition can be complete without including the most famous venue for circus in the United Kingdom, Blackpool Tower Circus.

Curated by Professor Vanessa Toulmin and Amanda Bernstein of the National Fairground Archive featuring rare archival material from the National Fairground Archive and material on loan from the collections of Gerry Cottle, Charlie Cairoli Jnr, Blackpool Council, Clowns International and the Circus Friends’ Association of Great Britain.

Gerry Cottle's circus  Mill's circus