In this afternoon conference at PRONI, celebrating the Big Top, Richard McMinn, authority on the Irish Circus, talked about the inventiveness of Irish troupes in the Victorian and Edwardian period. Diamond Geezer Dick Diamond welcomed guests with plenty of chirpy banter, while Anita Woods of The Barren Carrousel also performed a spellbinding contemporary contortion act which pushes the human body beyond its limits, including feats of balance and flexibility.
PRONI holds a fascinating collection of images, manuscripts and memorabilia about the Irish Circus and Brett Irwin will take us through this trove.
The circus - arena of dreams and magic - took form 250 years ago in London, when Philip Astley set up the first circus ‘ring’ for the display of performing horses. Clowns, jugglers, trapeze artists and an exhilarating variety of other acts soon became part of the new spectacle. The circus has flourished in Ireland since the 1790s and the renowned ‘Duffy’s Circus’ is now the oldest circus on continuous tour in the world. Belfast is one of the liveliest circus cities in Ireland. ‘Banana’ the clown was a figure of delight in Belfast in the 1950s.
Since the early 1980s the Belfast Circus School has trained performers and brought thrills to the city every season and the School will talk about the way it has developed from show to show.