11 death-defying pictures of Blackpool circus acrobat who has been performing since she was 2-yeas-old
When Romy Bauer was a toddler, her 62-year-old grandmother Madge Summerfield would regularly take to the stage with the young Romy in tow and proceed to juggle her on her feet, tossing and catching her young granddaughter to raucous applause from the audience. Romy never thought twice about being part of a the show: she was born into the circus, so the spotlight very much felt like home.
Having travelled the world as part of Gandeys Circus for 30 years, the now-33-year-old Romy has a strong circus heritage, with her ties to the industry going back seven generations. Her mum and dad Kim, 61, and Max, 68, spent most of her life performing a gravity-defying slack wire act together, with Romy touring alongside them before eventually going on to follow in their footsteps as a roller skater and aerialist.
"For me as a kid growing up there weren't any bad bits to being in the circus,” said the Blackpool-born Romy, who has travelled to places such as Spain, Luxembourg, Italy, and Hong Kong with her work. “I didn’t know any different; I think most kids are happy just playing and running about. What I loved and still love about being in the circus is how many different people I meet - people from all over the world.
"Nobody judged each other we were all there for the same goal - to entertain people,” added Romy, whose grandfather Holley Gray once holding the world record in plate-spinning and whose grandmother’s parents were tight-rope walkers. “My grandmother would spin us round across this long pole for a very long time - I guess that was my first introduction to the circus. Since that day I have been totally absorbed in all things circus."
While she was brought up in the circus, Romy said that she was nevertheless always given the choice over what she wanted to do with her life. “I had an education,” she said. “When the circus was off I’d go to a school that was local and they would set me coursework. I was always taught that I had the freedom to do anything I wanted, even if that was outside of the circus life, but I have always felt that this was what I was meant to do.
"Then there are the perils of performing extreme stunts, which invariably leads to the occasional scrape,” added Romy, who met her partner, Joel Hatton, 34, in the circus – the pair now perform a roller-skating double act involving death-defying lifts and upside-down spins as part of a theatre show 'Cirque - The Greatest Show'. “I’ve broken a rib while performing and just had to carry on.
"It was hard and difficult to breathe - I’ve also broken my arm,” she said. “Injuries are quite common - it’s rarely something terrible, but it’s not for everyone.”
Despite her lifelong circus performing, Romy had a taste of a normal job during the pandemic when circuses weren’t running. “I volunteered to work in the NHS as a healthcare assistant," she said. "It was such a big change, but I love helping people and it was such a rewarding job. I couldn't just sit in my house while people were losing their lives, but the circus is still my real calling.”
In order to maintain their fitness, Romy said her and Joel train ‘most days of the week’. “We do a dangerous act, so we have to keep our strength up,” she explained. “We usually have just one day off per week. For four days of the week we are performing at different theatres, it’s very intense. You travel seven hours in tour bus to be in a place for three hours maximum, but at this point I’m used to it.”
Romy says one of the downsides is long stretches away from family, but insists that she will continue in the circus in some capacity for the rest of her life. "My family are also in the circus, but while we’re on tour it’s hard to see them a lot. But you do end up becoming like family with people who are on the show with you.
"There’s always a time limit on performing, maybe 50-year-old me wouldn’t look very good doing the same stunts," she said. “But there are a lot of other jobs that are part of the circus, like the box office and sales management. Both my parents still in circus, it really is a job for life.”