Circus Image and the National Press

Circus Public Image and the National Press, a powerful universal press office is needed for the whole of commercial circus. To pay absolute respect to wonderful art and artistes. The Circus but the Proprietors Association represents less than half of the industry.

My personal career apart from being a performer has been engaged in much of circus show promotions representing four circus companies plus our own small circus company for stage and ‘under canvas’ during the 1980s and, from 1987 to 2016, the Sandow Clowns theatre company touring major Civic venues. All circus art relies upon good professional upfront promotion to the public and to the press. Over the years I have had valued successes and resulting copies can be found on this site. Generally I have found the press very helpful and constructive. For the performers, nice personal opinions count from wherever to give them confidence. All are tremendously hard working, they have to be to be a success. The negative might be that proprietors like to take all the credit totally assisted by the Circus Friends Association who never seem to refer to the actual artistes by content or name that the public pay to see. Circus posters now seem devoid of names yet the acts can be quite fantastic. To me this is strange promotion. Further, the image of a travelling ‘gypsy type formation’ seems to dominate thinking outside of the business not helped in the least by the proprietors or the fan followers. This image is a total  nonsense when 90 per cent of the fabulous artistes you pay to see are from the rest of the world! Many trained in circus schools here and abroad. This nonsense view should be confronted but the circus industry is inactive and the fans are no help. Book writers seem lost in the 19th Century. Persons engaged with animals, now few in number, do not help with statements away from the facts like this one;-

  1. 12, 2011 ... Amanda Sandow, circus artiste, with her horse Steel and pony Frosty ... I was recently contacted by a circus artiste, Amanda Sandow, who is terrified that her act with her horse and pony will be outlawed. .... Tom Sandow says:.

The above person is a distant relation using our title gaining publicity with the contact of MEP Roger Helmer. 'Terrified! that she will be unable to use a horse act fearing it will be banned! Complete nonsence she knows it is nonsense and so should Roger Helmer. But anything for publicity? But this generates attitudes in the media fuelled by parts of circus itself. The article is seven years old but never up-dated.

It is unfortunate that now and again some copy, usually a national press copy, will appear that is rather unfair biased or inaccurate even destructive. Commercial circus is getting a poor press at times. I find that the general tone now, is to elevate 'new' or 'modern' concepts of circus at the expense of the old style (even without animals). I fear that even some newer proprietors seem pleased to allow this to gain notice even if the old style suffers for it. They should be generally proud of the past surely. Some things were less than perfect of course and the same applies now but the quality of past circus and the huge crowds it drew proves that the public liked it. I would hope that my placed pages of memorabilia will prove my point? So, I intend to place items that are unfair here under 'critiques', they are thankfully few. Please note: by traditional circus I do mean - with or without animals -  a show with glamour, bright attractive costuming, fine circus music, very family friendly appeal and content with a circular enclosure. By new, or non traditional I mean, shows without promoting glamour or bright costuming, 'pop' or rock type music that is the trendy approach and aimed more for the adult and not always family friendly.

Unlike the fairgrounds who are covered very well by the Showmans Guild The Circus Proprietors Association now seem detached. Currently it represents very few touring circuses. A national unifying Press Department is ugently needed in our view - paid for by the circus industry regardless of the product being toured. For the past few years the tiny, in general, performing animal content has dominated the whole quite huge industry and this has not been helpful.

The more accurate past picture. Bertram Mills toured  a most stylish circus, Billy Smarts was performing to thousands of patrons per show. (Do please visit the Grand Charity Gala Shows thread of wonderful  photographs I have placed). Circus was the most classless of entertainents encompassing all. I have placed photographs showing children helping to construct old circus (see Reco). Circus was always a very safe place for children to attend. My memory of tours with Sangers (who, incidentally would never allow bad language!) in that period saw some patrons arriving in evening dress and bow ties.

Examples of poor prejudicial press copy

This innacurate and unkind item below appeared in The Telegraph newspaper on the 16th February 2016 by their journalist Claire Allfree. Implying that modern concepts and modern circus is so refreshing. (QUOTE) 'Unsavoury reputation of old circus in the 1960s'!

Clair Allfree wrote:

Circus is part of the English romantic mythology – after all, it began here 250 years ago in a Lambeth amphitheatre. In the 1960s the traditional traveling circus embarked on a near fatal decline, thanks in part to animal rights campaigns and a growing unsavoury reputation as a lawless underworld where no self-respecting father would let their daughter roam alone after twilight. But just as pantomime, once a staple of working class entertainment, has over the last decade been spruced up and gentrified by the middle classes, so has the circus. In the west country, Gifford’s Circus, set up ten years ago by Oxford graduate Nell Gifford, has become an integral part of the summer social calendar. It specialises in packaging nostalgia to well-heeled audiences through a determinedly un-threatening pagaentry of traditional acts such as human cannon balls and jugglers, clowns and retro-painted circus wagons. Its credentials are impeccably aspirational: past productions have taken the theme of Greek myth..

The two quotes that stand out to be the most insulting and offensive are, 'lawless underworld'! and 'no self respecting father with a daughter' etc.(The panel photograph show the famous circus Directing brothers, Bernard and Cyril Mills)


(From The Stage - Psychoville Clowning)!

(AAA) evil clown

 New wave ideas for the meaning of clowning? I am sure 'they have ideas!
Unfortunately this is the kind of image put forward by some 'new-wave' circus and parts of acting theatre with mainstream circus now abandoning a red nose and baggy pants! To the average child a clown is a red nose and baggy pants! (Preferably funny!)
This page has been running for two years - no response from Mr Konyot.

Author: Tom Sandow

born into showbusiness - full life entertaining, management, agency, engager of acts and artistes - show producer presenter.

3 thoughts on “Circus Image and the National Press”

    1. Our reply to The Times online
      Safehaven International Directory

      It is a pity that Mr Konyot has now retired he would have a further lease of life from this press cover. He is not quite correct, to make a good statement accuracy would be wise. The traditional ‘clown’ used to be in fact the straight man or the wonderfully costumed white face persona, the clown as referred to now was the fall-about-persona or Auguste. But there are so many shades of clowning active that the traditional Charlie Cairoli – very funny, suitable for children seems to have vanished from British circus, what I have seen of late is mostly unsuitable for children using adult stooges from the audience, this is cheap humour. As someone once said there is no such thing as bad publicity, I have never liked that comment but Mr Konyot seems to find it useful. I would take the press comment as a compliment for clowning unless it is personal.



  1. Mr Konyot and the whole of British circus does not, apparently, feel any anguish that various new wave – alternative -theatrical groups promote evil clowning or ghastly clowns in a church grave yard!

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