Leeds ,

Celebration of the circus red top raising the roof at Leeds Central Library

The magic and wonder of the iconic circus red top is being celebrated with a very special exhibition at a Leeds library.

Marking the 250th anniversary of the first circus in 1768 by Philip Astley, Room 700 at Leeds Central Library are pulling out all the stops to bring to life through the ‘Big Top Leeds’ exhibition, the history behind the art form famed for acts including jugglers, acrobats and strong men. Showcased from the central library collections includes circus bills featuring Pablo Fanque, the first black circus owner who is buried in Leeds, Mr Kite, who was famously immortalised in the song by The Beatles ‘Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite!’ and Mr Cooke who hosted a circus on Boar Lane for 20 years.

Open now until February 28 2018, also on offer is material from the collection of author Steve Ward, who for over 40 years has researched and written about the circus and costumes and items from Becky Truman, a former aerial performer and artist. Sitting aside the exhibition are also a number of circus themed events including a talk and handcasting workshop by Becky Truman, a lunchtime talk by Steve Ward and a performance from Urban Angels and Heritage Corner looking into the life and times of Pablo Fanque and his wife Susannah. For more information regarding these events and how to secure tickets, please see the notes to editors section.

Working in partnership with Leeds Libraries is Circus 250, which is the co-ordinating body for all activity nationwide to celebrate 250 years of circus in 2018.

Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member for communities said:

“The power of a red top circus to still today mesmerise and enthral its audience of all ages 250 years after its creation remains as powerful as ever. Through this very special ‘Big Top Leeds’ exhibition held in Room 700 at Leeds Central Library, we are exploring the origins of the circus and also its own history in our city through material from our own libraries’ collection and costumes and items kindly provided by author Steve Ward and Becky Truman, a former aerial performer and artist.”

Notes to editors:

Special events

Steve Ward talk on his new book: Philip Astley: Father of the Modern Circus

Enjoy a lunchtime talk as local author Steve Ward reveals the stories behind the great man and his contribution to the development of this very British Institution. Steve has written several books on circus over the last 40 years and his new book on Philip Astley is published in April.

Friday 9th February 2018, 1-2pm, www.ticketsource.co.uk/leedslibraryevents, Room 700, Central Library.

Oh Susannah!

A true story of love and aspiration.

A wonderful illustration of Britain's first black Victorian circus owner and his wife Susannah presented by Urban Angels and Heritage Corner. We witness the back stage stories of this extraordinary couple who started Pablo Fanques Circus Royal in 1840's Yorkshire. They contributed richly to the golden age of circus in Britain. They are both buried in Leeds (St. George's Field). Pablo was further immortalised with a mention on the Beatles' Sgt Pepper album.

13th February 2018, two performances at 1.30pm and at 6pm, www.ticketsource.co.uk/leedslibraryevents, Room 700, Central Library.

Handcasting workshop

Join Becky Truman for an exciting workshop in handcasting. Becky, a former aerial circus performer now specialises in designs for circus projects including life casting.

15th February, 2018, 10.30-12.30pm, www.ticketsource.co.uk/leedslibraryevents, Drawing Room, Central Library.

Circus Life

Becky Truman talks about her work as an aerial performer and artistic director of her own aerial performance company, Skinning the Cat - Circus of the Sky. See one of her costumes on display and equipment used as a performer.

15th February 2018, 1-1.45pm, www.ticketsource.co.uk/leedslibraryevents, Room 700, Central Library.

Big Top Leeds is part of Circus250 http://circus250.com

Circus250 is the co-ordinating body for all the activity happening nationwide to celebrate 250 years of circus in 2018.

Circus250 provides the framework and scaffolding within which all activities take place, whether in theatres, rings, outdoors, archives, museums, schools, libraries.

For media enquiries, please contact;

Colin Dickinson, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 39 51578

Email: colin.dickinson@leeds.gov.uk