The Malcolm Airey Circus and Theatre Collection

Ref: NFA0081

Title: The Malcolm Airey Circus and Theatre Collection

Scope: This collection contains a large number of books, programmes, photographs, research and related notebooks as well as correspondence. Many programmes contain inserts of tickets, notes from Malcolm Airey and other inserts. Amongst others the collection contains examples from the Bertram Mills Circus, Blackpool Tower Ballroom and Billy Smart's circus. There are also technical plans and drawings.

Dates:1900s to 1998
Level: Fonds
Extent: 17 linear metres
Name of creator: Malcolm Airey

Administrative / biographical history: Malcolm Airey was an enthusiast and collector of books and ephemera who undertook a substantial amount of research on circuses. He was a member of the Circus Friends Association during the 1970s until the mid-1980s and held the posts of secretary and librarian. During that time, he helped restore the CFA library which is now held in the reading room at the National Fairground Archive. He published a number of articles including the history of the Chapman Circuses from 1930, which was the first, full-scale, in-depth study to be published in King Pole and set the standard for subsequent articles.

His real interest was the speciality acts in circus and variety and the history of variety theatre on which he also undertook considerable research. This is reflected in his book collection which contains many biographies of variety entertainers and other volumes on the different types of music hall and acts.

Malcolm Airey spent a large amount of time researching the circus and collected many programmes and other ephemera from the 1950s onwards from the UK, Ireland, East Germany and the former Soviet Union.

The notes that he took over his years of research were intended to compile a book upon his retirement. However, Malcolm died before his project could be realised while still in his 60s.

See obituary by David Harris in King Pole, No 118

Related Collections:
Source: Malcolm Airey Bequest
System of arrangement: Other items listed by box.
Subjects: Variety and Music Hall, Circus, Fairgrounds, Performers, Travelling Entertainment, Fixed Entertainment Venues
Conditions of access: Items are available to view by appointment in the NFA reading room
Restrictions: Some items remain restricted under the Data Protection Act. Correspondence may be looked at for research purposes only but not copied
Copyright: Copies may be supplied or produced at the discretion of National Fairground Archive, subject to copyright law and condition of the material
Finding aids: Book collection available on Star Plus, the University library catalogue. Online finding aid available here