Leading circus performers have called for fellow acts to boycott television talent show Britain’s Got Talent.
Big-top bosses Gerry Cottle, of the travelling Wow! Circus, and Blackpool Circus School director Yuri Gridneff have told how they won’t enter their acts on the ITV show because they are given “a raw deal”.
Mr Cottle has written an open letter to other circus acts calling on them not to appear before judge Simon Cowell after he said his troupe were humiliated by their appearance on the prime-time show.
His Wow! Circus amazed audiences in Blackpool during a residency at the Pleasure Beach’s Globe Theatre in 2012.
On Saturday night, the programme showed some of a two-minute bike act his Wookey Hole Turbo Jets put together specially for the show, having been invited on by producers, Mr Cottle said.
But Simon Cowell told them: “I don’t like circuses and I don’t like clowns.”
Mr Cottle said: “They asked us to do our spectacular cycling act which culminates with seven people riding one bike.
“We choreographed an act using modern upbeat music and, on the night, we were given three yeses, thinking we would qualify for the next round.”
The 67-year-old said he was then “horrified” to see the footage shortened and played to an old-fashioned circus song.
He added: “If Simon Cowell doesn’t like circuses and he hates these type of acts, why on earth do his researchers contact every circus in the UK asking them to perform on BGT?
“They are like lambs to the slaughter. This will seriously damage our business.”
And the Blackpool Circus School boss Mr Gridneff added: “I’m absolutely with Gerry Cottle on this. We have boycotted it for the last few years.”
Mr Gridneff, 75, who co-founded Blackpool Circus School in 1999, started performing in his native Russia when he was 14, travelling the world before sharing his skills.
He said: “They don’t take it seriously, Simon Cowell hates circus acts but they need them on to make some sort of variety. We’re asked every year but I refuse. One of our students entered off his own back, juggler Thomas Bounce, and did well, but as soon as he dropped a ball Simon Cowell buzzed him, he didn’t give him a fair shot.”
A spokesman for Britain’s Got Talent said: “Simon is known for having forthright views but his comments were a judgment on the act and were not meant to be taken personally.
“All the other judges gave positive feedback and the group received three yeses.
“Unfortunately, we aren’t always able to show acts full auditions due to time constraints of the programme.”