Circus Communities

Circus Communities and the mis-understandings. Memorabilia

From Collins Concise Dictionary the word ‘Commune’ (1) a group of people or family’s living together and sharing possessions. (2) Small administrative units like a medieval town enjoying a large degree of autonomy. (3) To hold in Common a singular view or philosophy.


It would appear that circus fans followers and book writers (and the press) choose this word to describe the concept of ‘circus’ ‘circus people’ ‘circuses’. I have tried to communicate on this conception but without inspiring a discussion or debate or even a reply! It appears then that minds are closed. So let us examine. I fail completely to understand why they are fixated with the word – it has never been correct as a singular description. Users do not understand circus or try to and place the title where it does not fit. Or, they are trying to re-line the truer facts. I welcome view replies to the panel. For the sake of educating the general public accurate descriptions would be beneficial and would avoid strange promotions. This must help tickets sales. It might be understood why the academics may like the word but I do not understand fan followers using it, the CFA for instance have been involved since 1934 yet the Committee still use ‘circus community’.

Point (1) ‘living together’, totally out of cinque, a touring circus does not inspire families to ‘live together! They do occupy the same area where the performing structure is placed for the purpose of ‘a performance’. The only difference to a theatrical summer show or touring show is the occupation of site living quarters rather than ‘digs’ or hotels however the CFA should know that in the case of the Moscow State Circus and the Chinese State Circus the cast stayed at (say) Travelodge. A usual circus hires individual performers who own their living caravans and do prefer privacy as persons on any caravan site.  They also own the working props so the term ‘shared possessions’ is a complete nonsense! I might add that my wonderful sister spied me practicing with her juggling items and told me to ‘best use your own! Artistes are most independent and self-promoting.

Point (2) ‘Enjoying Autonomy’ how this applies must be nonsense! This implies self-government, but from what? Each circus is strictly controlled by the hirer of the site – or the local council who charges site fees and the government who requires a local tax, over that is a definite law enforcement from DEFRA should the circus have animals. No such thing as autonomy.

(3) To hold a singular view. Nonsense for each circus is dominated by the owner/proprietor who may be wise or foolish in presentation, decides on the programme content and the value of same, and the admission price. 30 artistes have 30 views about everything and most want to be parked near the circus ring entrance. Most want their own music played in the style they wish and to suggest a sharing of props and working things is totally frowned on. Never happens other than a big favour.

The only time the word commune might apply is when a set troupe of performers are chosen to perform together in a pre-arranged production where the props and equipment is owned by that promotion (the nation or state perhaps) with funding from The Arts Council or such and the government are in overall control (i.e. Communism or Socialism). So I conclude that persons using the word lean towards state management and funding and should be honest about it.

Traditional commercial circus (with or without animals) are as I have described above with independent free thinking performers under seasonal contracts. These traditional concepts are closer to the ‘theatre’ and circus is basically an Amphitheatre as Philip Astley so wisely called it, a circus then within an Amphitheatre. Circus artistes are therefore theatricals and the union Equity is responsible for the welfare and contracts. Artistes – Proprietors are two sides of the same coin.

This thread will list the users of the word Commune to mean the whole instead of the specific and avoid a dis-service to great world-wide talent.(Incidently I have had discord concerning the word ‘artiste’! In my view this must be a person or group of persons who devise a very special novel routine that is their persona, their specific talent even something new. The old Music Hall performers union had it right with Variety (another good would meaning differences!) Artistes Federation of which circus artistes were included. An Artist is someone who interprets or re-invents an estatblished art like painting, music, sculpture. Of course persons who find great fame with brand new concept of art like Rock and Roll or music of the Beatles might also be artistes like also Elvis Presley.

Beneath the Big Top by Steve Ward

Recent post;,  Fine for fans and followers to keep/take photos and records if only accurate records were kept with each of the photos. Even now we see photos being posted around Facebook naming the circus but not always the artistes. Why is the C.F.A so opposed to naming the acts and the talents? What is the good of an historical record without the facts? I also feel the obvious that fairs and circus are very different and deserve each having their own listing section. This is no criticism of the N.F.C.A but persons placing the items. I also appeal to fans not to place critical views of acts or persons – they are supposed to be supporters.

Message to the C.F.A. this website is open for members of the C.F.A. to reply in a knowledgeable polite manner – it is here to inform. It does seem that members are always rather more keen on mythologies and passed down assumptions rather that the simple truth! Be the simple truth unpalatable (many old stories are) best to forget them. For the sake of modern circus art and incredible talent, be promotional be factual be positive and give credit to names acts and titles! Your association could have done a wonderful job in listing photos with names but instead the association have past the task to the Sheffield University with no further interest involved apparently. Not really good enough is it”!




Author: Tom Sandow

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *