A festival of wonder – variety, circus and magic!

Professor Vanessa Toulmin from the University of Sheffield will bring wonder and pizzazz to Blackpool this week as she once again curates its highly-regarded annual festival of circus, magic and variety.

The spectacular 10-day Showzam! 2012 festival, curated and produced by Professor Vanessa Toulmin, the Director of the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield, and has a reputation for its innovation and delight, bringing variety and astonishment to visitors and local people with its free performances, hands-on exhibits and fabulous shows around the city.

The extraordinary and unique event, now in its fifth year, attracts thousands of visitors and includes a number of high profile performers, street artists and never before seen acts, showcased on the streets as well as in some of Blackpool's landmark buildings such as the theatres and newly-restored Winter Gardens.

Professor Toulmin, whose extensive expertise includes the history and culture of fairgrounds, film, travelling entertainment, freak shows and 19th century circus, is determined to make this year's festival better than ever.

In addition to work by a host of outstanding performers, this year Professor Toulmin will present, for one night only, Professor Vanessa's Performing Wonders – an evening of cine-variety and spectacular entertainments featuring early films from the Library of Congress, Lobster Films and the University of Sheffield's National Fairground Archive with live piano, vintage ephemera, performances by internationally renowned artists and musical accompaniment.

Professor Toulmin said: "Showzam! was established in 2008 and since then has grown each year and is now an important and popular part of Blackpool's annual events line up. The festival has seen many of the biggest names in new variety perform and with a host of family friendly and adult-only shows, there really is something for everyone."

During the half-term bonanza of events, Professor Toulmin will also lead festival tours, as well as direct and host the celebrated Carnival Ball – an evening of style and drama, music and cabaret, at the beautiful and world-famous Tower Ballroom.

Natalie Wyatt, Managing Director of Marketing Blackpool, said: "We are delighted with the fantastic line up for this year's Showzam! Since the festival first started, Showzam! has grown year on year and now many visitors can't wait for this annual event.

"We look forward to welcoming everyone to enjoy the fantastic shows and events as Showzam! 2012 is bigger and better than ever."

In addition to her work in Blackpool, in April Professor Toulmin will be hosting Professor Vanessa's Wondershow at the Roundhouse in London as part of CircusFest 2012. And in September, in her role as Head of Cultural Engagement for the University of Sheffield, she will be hosting a 10-day Festival of the Mind across Sheffield, drawing together the cultural dynamism of the city and the University around themes of Magic, Space, Identity, City and Craft.

Notes for Editors: Showzam! 2012 runs from 10-19 February 2012 and is a mix of ticketed and free events.
For more information about Showzam! 2012 visit Showman! or Visit Blackpool

For more information about the Festival of the Mind, visit Festival of the Mind

The National Fairground Archive (NFA) is a unique collection of photographic, printed, manuscript and audiovisual material covering all aspects of the culture of travelling show people, their organisation as a community, their social history and everyday life; and the artefacts and machinery of fairgrounds. The NFA collections are continuing to grow: there are now over 80,000 images in the photographic collection, in addition to audio and video material, journals and magazines, and nearly 3,000 monographs. The collection also includes a unique body of fairground ephemera (programmes, handbills, posters, charters and proclamations, plans and drawings). The NFA represents an important part of the cultural heritage of the nation. It is a primary resource of rich potential for research at every level; it provides a new and exciting source of teaching material for primary and secondary education, and provides access to a wealth of popular cultural history both for the fairground enthusiast and for the public at large.

For further information please contact: Amy Pullan, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 2229859 or email a.l.pullan@sheffield.ac.uk