Preserving circus history

A trapeze artist at Blackpool Tower circus in the 1950s.
A trapeze artist at Blackpool Tower circus in the 1950s.
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From clowns and tightrope walkers to jugglers and lion-tamers - Blackpool’s circus tradition is to be documented and preserved thanks to a £97,000 grant.

The cash will fund a two-and-a-half year project called Marvels and Mayhem focusing on the history of big top entertainment.

An archive picture of Tower Circus tigers and lions

An archive picture of Tower Circus tigers and lions

Volunteers will help list and catalogue hundreds of photographs and historic items from the Blackpool Tower Circus Collection.

Eventually it will contribute to displays at the Blackpool Museum proposed for the Pavilion Theatre inside the Winter Gardens.

The grant, from the Collections Fund and delivered by the Museums Association, will also fund educational programmes for schools linked to the project.

Circus performers will be invited to share their stories, experiences and expertise.

Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to invest in the Blackpool Tower Circus Collection, which has international significance and is so important to the history of Blackpool.

“2018 is the 250th anniversary of circus and the project will play a part in wider celebrations around the country and make sure Blackpool Tower Circus is a part of this milestone.

“A legacy of this project will be achieved through the support of volunteers during the life of the project.

“They will be involved in listing and cataloguing the collections, photographing and digitising items and putting the collection in materials so people can view them safely.”

A partnership with the School of Society, Health and Childhood at Blackpool and The Fylde College will enable students to explore how the circus collection can be used to support health and wellbeing.

Marvels and Mayhem will also work with Blackpool Council Arts and Library Services to produce an imaginative creative writing and storytelling offer for schools.

Joanne Hall, of Blackpool and The Fylde College, said: “This is a unique opportunity which B&FC higher education students can use as a focus for their studies.

“They will be looking at approaches to social care and how access to Blackpool’s historic and cultural collections can support people’s wellbeing.

“With this understanding our students will be equipped to make the most of Blackpool’s cultural heritage and the new museum in their working practices across the Fylde coast.”

The Collection Fund launched in 2011 and is offering a total of £3.5m in grants between 2017 and 2019.

The award for the project in Blackpool is the 12th round of awards the fund has made so far and is the largest grant awarded within this round.