Circus Friends Association sad decline

Circus Friends Association sad decline.
This long established club has now sadly lost its meaning. Some very unpalatable behaviour since the arrival of social media. Very unpalatable circus behaviour – requires rules and management – who is running it?


The above proud advertisement panel was placed in the 1940 Blackpool Tower circus programme.
Its excellent beginnings

Great show-business days even if the days were dark with war. Note the list of fine dignitaries such as Dame Laura Knight and Sir Cendric Hardwicke. The Circus Fans Association was inspired in 1934 by a powerful group to include Bertram Mills the famous circus proprietor. One might question why there would be need of such an association. Personally I had never given it much thought. My early days with circus found members generally helpful if a little eccentric but then, show-business is eccentric with circus being (at times) more so*. However,  since the 1970s the association  abandoned the original wise directives and became rather opinionated in various directions. 

Not Good Enough!

What would be the need in these modern times for this association unless it had a distinct agreed purpose apart from the vast collection of memorabilia that is most worthy? Very good but, even this collection was totally transfered to the offices and management of Sheffield Univiersity without supplying the datails or names to the deposited photo some are totally wrong or listed without names, how can the University,, be expected to sort through all that? (A minority of artistes and proprietors do contribute sound copy at times but sadly some writers/CFA followers find ‘at times’ rather dull and will promote a constant eccentricity. Most artistes/proprietors are just normal hard working people – a bit dull perhaps!

It would appear in 1934, that circus was needful of a special nationwide group to help forward the cause. The then C.F.A. statement says; ‘members are true lovers and ardent admirers of the circus who are prepared to create a true understanding between Circus Artistes and others connected with the Circus and the General Public’. Note the word ‘true’. This suggested a need for the group and a purpose but a group surely under the guidance and respect of the then powerful Circus Proprietors and the employed artistes? I still do not understand the need for a national representative group in those days. Touring circus was most healthy and generally appreciated and artistes were also Variety artistes working top theatres. The situation now probably does require a supportive group but completely in tune with the needs. The huge number of Variety theatres have gone and touring circus currently is finding more hardship not only because of the animal issues. My complaints against the C.F.A. – apart from it attracting  some rude persons is, they are out of touch with the real needs.

In those days artistes were represented by the Variety Artistes Federation (currently Equity who have, since 1968,  taken the old V.A.F. over). The word ‘circus’ then was fully understood but now, it can mean anything! The C.F.A. are quite happy for it to mean anything and say so. Of course, from a work point of view circus artistes can and will accept engagements in all areas (as always) like Ice Shows, Variety shows, Cabarets, Galas. Areas where the word ‘circus’ does not always apply other than ‘circus artistes’.


The C.F.A.  have since re-named themselves as ‘friends’ and one wonders why. The Sandow family have never found them friendly! Why they have departed from the original title bestowed by these elite dignitaries to a rather meaningless title of ‘friend’ when some members show poor policy to artistes (via nasty gossips!) and use gutter language around social media i.e., viewable to the general public. By leaving aside the words ‘true understanding’ our experiences show various C.F.A. members can have ‘cranky’ opinions – circus as a meaning has no meaning! Perhaps the better title to embrace the whole business might be ‘Circus Art Followers’ or C.A.F.

In 1934 the Proprietors Association included all concepts of circus but without much variation. The Proprietors Association represented and managed wild performing animals, even to films – it no longer does anywhere. Of course, extreme variations of ‘alternative circus’ is coming forward not always family friendly along with the C.F.A that is no longer family friendly!

The current C.F.A. is sadly rather a shadow then of the old created days. No digniteries are involved. Its committee members are not named, its membership numbers are unknown, its rules of membership are unknown. As stated, touring circus now is not so unified or greatly managed (as a whole) as it once was, it needs more dynamic promotion – nationally- (their dues are high enough) for the sake of its wonderful arts and artistes (please see our call for a strong Press Office – ignored!). The C.F.A. could do much more but should be totally re-organised under new management with published rules (!), one being of dismisal but, as it is currently, it may be past salvation. One can  not  engage intelligent conversation without suffering ‘trollism’ and poor taste. Some members have also engaged in sexism, easy around un-policed social media. Our proud family history in show-business is over 100 years, personally (as shown) in top clubs — cabaret – and circus, language can be colourful at times but never before an audience. They fail to realise or care that social media is public,

A good argument should always be a polite argument. Some unfortunate examples from members.

Frazer Watson What a tw…..t


· 1d

Nigel Male

Nigel Male · Facebook (Public!)referring to a femail contributer.

Oh another gobshite!!😂😂


Tom SandowRichard Virgo Cos there c (***) – referring to a quality circus on tour July 2017 (the literacy is this persons)

Tom Sandow I think the words are ‘they are’
(Below is the best that the current C.F.A. can do upon their website as an invite for persons to join them. The sample language (there has been much more!) above will hardly ‘stimulate or promote enthusiasm’ other than to attract really base persons. Minimalist would you not agree? Perhaps the get-out clause is the word ‘objectives’! Translate; do not blame us if we fail!)
“The objectives of the CFA are to stimulate, foster and promote enthusiasm for Circus and related performances as a popular entertainment and part of British culture”.

In 2010  I asked the then Secretary what exactly were the C.F.A. set of conduct rules for members. Why not publish them? They then closed the Internet discussion pages due to language abuse hence ‘this site is closed’. Perpetrators then moved to Facebook! Have been active for the past seven years.

Andrew Lewis

Posts : 26
Join date : 2009-05-23
Age : 45
Location : Scunthorpe

Subject: Re: This site is now closed   Thu Feb 25, 2010 4:03 pm
I am not sure where this topic is going.
The CFA does have a list of ‘Rules and Objectives’. They are not printed online and really there is no need to have them so. They are i believe sent to all new members. They certainly were when i joined the CFA over twenty years ago, and as they have been updated over the years, then i have received copies of the new Rules.
If you are a current member of the CFA, then i would guess that you would have a copy of the rules.
If you are not a member, i guess you have non.
You don’t need qualifications to join. It’s quite simple really.
If you are interesting in joining an organisation that supports circus, then you are able to join. Plain and as simple as that.
If you are a circus owner, artistes etc etc, then you can join too.
Could not be any simpler.

This is the only ‘polite’ reply from the C.F.A. by the then President Lewis. The rules if any – a secret. In any case the conduct of basically out of control certain menbers, as if they constantly speak for circus, has been apparling with language to match. Artistes United – for the sake of circus art and artistes provide a set of rules for the association to consider. One might hope they adopt them if not, we do not consider the association credible.  To this date totally ignored by the Committee – whoever they are!

The Circus Friends Have Rules to Consider

(Negative example – From member Mr Steve Jacks who promotes a Facebook page; who leans to the social media use of language within the page)

PLEASE NOTE THAT FROM TODAY I WILL NOT BE ALLOWING ANYMORE ADVERTS FOR ARTISTS ON THIS GROUP. I haven’t minded but now I find it a shame that a lot of people are joining the group JUST to advertise their act and when you look at the photos pages of the group all you can see is advert photos instead of photos of what should be seen. So sorry about that, any adverts will now be deleted (and if they continue the person blocked). ‘Circus Artists! Without the required ‘e’ will be blocked! Circus Friends? Mr Jack’s does not explain what should be seen. Below is a comment on his public Facebook page. Intellectually he may have a point but destroys circus credibility using language.

Steve Jacks
11 hrs
So these cardiff vegan animal rights people think they support animals yea? So that’s a really good idea isn’t it to rush into a circus ring with horses doing their routine shouting and waving banners and TERRIFYING the horses! You love animals? You don’t love animals you are a nasty bunch of evil fucking tossers that scare animals. Think about YOUR actions you idiots. I love animals you dorks and would never do anything like you have done today you are terrorists to animals and should be locked away for life.

The Future

What should matter then to circus performing art that is 95 per cent artistes?; It must be the best possible promotion (image) to the public. (The current C.F.A. do not even appreciate its own image!)  The artistes do their bit! It must come from all the circus proprietors and their show marketing and the only representative association for artistes – Equity. The C.F.A. should be clear, do they just want to be a collector of memorabilia? . If so then opinions should be to a minimum.  The C.F.A can be useful to circus art but in its current form, with so many rudderless – rude – persons, I think not. One rule should be to use the C.F.A. title if they are to comment on Social Media instead of hiding being false titles. Its leadership (basically unknown!) should get a grip.

A call to you the general public

Maybe you have memorabilia – your stage and/or circus performing artistes photographs of fond interest,  you may send them to this website, you have the e-mail, for great promotion. We will give you total acknowledgement and thanks. Still under your control. None will be forwarded or sold off!  Your privacy is totally guaranteed. If you do post an open comment your e-mail is totally hidden and secured.



Author: Tom Sandow

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

3 thoughts on “Circus Friends Association sad decline”

  1. This item below has appeared upon the C.F.A. discussion group Facebook. Yet again it shows various circus followers taking sides with two circuses who are engaged in promotional arguments. This proves yet again the failier of any ground rules for the C.F.A. and also any credible joint management from the proprietors governing touring circus. The Association of Circus Proprietors only represent about half and most members are static like Blackpool Tower. (Tom Sandow)

    7 March at 19:27

    Circus Friends Association
    It has come to our attention that a number of circus enthusiasts and some current CFA members have commented on several personal status’s on Facebook, which themselves are a personal dispute between two UK circuses.
    The dispute however public it has become is the business of the circuses concerned and is best left that way. It should not be the business of any circus enthusiasts or indeed the CFA.
    With respect, we would ask that all CFA members (and other circus enthusiasts) refrain from commenting and from adding fuel to the fire!
    By becoming involved in private disagreements, you will not enhance the reputation of circus enthusiasts with the circus community in general.

  2. I was once interested in joining the association but generally I do not like clubs. The various details on this website confirms how unpleasant they can be. As your blog says, circus people deserve better than selfish rudeness.

  3. To its President Mr Robert Boyd. Any comment in dispute or apology will be placed here. So far your Council or members of the C.F.A. are distantly quiet. Message to all artistes, do be most careful with the provision of photographs and personal details, do make sure you have complete controlled use by the C.F.A.

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