Showzam! 2016: ‘Blackpool will have seen nothing like this before’

Launch of Showzam! at the Tower Circus.  Pictured is Dizzy O'Dare.
Launch of Showzam! at the Tower Circus. Pictured is Dizzy O'Dare.
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What do you get if you cross a man who can drink a pint balanced on his head - while juggling knives, a man who can fit himself inside a giant balloon, and a classy French musical circus troupe?

The launch for this year’s Showzam! festival which kicks off today around the town, that’s what, and an overwhelming sense of pride that this kind of thing can only happen in Blackpool.

Launch of Showzam! at the Tower Circus.  Pictured is Dizzy O'Dare.

Launch of Showzam! at the Tower Circus. Pictured is Dizzy O'Dare.

Within the dazzling surrounds of Blackpool Tower Circus, the three acts gave a taste of what locals and visitors alike can experience - largely for free - during the next week.

And as the ninth annual celebration of circus and street performance gets under way, organisers have issued a rallying call to local residents.

Michael Trainor, artistic director of LeftCoast which runs the festival, said: “To reach 10 years next year would make it a real, fixed thing as part of Blackpool’s and the UK’s calendar.

“It’s among the top three circus festivals in the UK, alongside the Roundhouse in London and Great Yarmouth’s Out There Festival. Bristol does something too, and it is trying to become the ‘circus capital of Britain’, but of all those places, Blackpool is the one which can really claim it.

Companies appearing at Showzam! are truly world class. I’m looking forward to Générik Vapeur’s Bivouac, and to have it here in the UK, in Blackpool - in the age of health and safety - is a real coup for the festival.

Mike Imerson, aka Dizzy O’Dare

“You can bestow that kind of title on yourself, but you have to justify it - which Blackpool can do with its staggaring background of circus entertainment, which continues today as some of the best circus acts in the world continue to join the cast at the Tower Circus, and nowhere else has an asset like that.

“I think if you can get to year 10 of Showzam and pull off an even bigger and more spectacular festival then we can claim that title, but to do that we need people to come out and support this year’s event.”

The magic of Blackpool’s appeal is certainly not lost on those appearing as part of this year’s spectacular, and who hail from all corners of Europe and across the UK.

Claire Aldaya, a member of the French Akoreacro company, which makes its UK debut appearance this week at the Tower, said: “It’s really nice to discover places like this.

Launch of Showzam! at the Tower Circus

Launch of Showzam! at the Tower Circus

“We are so happy to be here at the Tower. The circus is a similar space to the tent we usually tour with and perform in, it’s cosy and the audience are close, yet it is so beautiful.”

She promises their show, which takes place daily, will bring music and acrobatics to the festival and it will be a ‘journey of emotions’.

And Mike Imerson, who appears as Dizzy O’Dare with his Giant Balloon Show during the free Showzam! Central at the Winter Gardens until Tuesday, is just as excited about joining the line up.

“It’s lovely to be here doing what we do, and it’s a big tick on the bucket lost of places to perform,” Mike said. “To perform in the Tower Circus ring is a really lovely thing.

Launch of Showzam! at the Tower Circus.  Akoreacro perform.

Launch of Showzam! at the Tower Circus. Akoreacro perform.

“It’s great that circus is continuing to happen here in Blackpool.

“Companies appearing at Showzam! are truly world class. I’m looking forward to Générik Vapeur’s Bivouac, and to have it here in the UK, in Blackpool - in the age of health and safety - is a real coup for the festival.”

Bivouac will take to the streets of the town centre today, from 5.15pm in St John’s Square, to create a ‘moving stage of light, music, smoke and flame’, featuring blue-painted men, 102 oil drums, bizarre abseiling figures and fire-breathing mechanical dogs.

And a group of Blackpool and The Fylde College students will be even closer to the action than most, playing a starring role alongside cult French artistic group Générik Vapeur – the anarchic minds behind Bivouac.

The performing arts students will dance in a specially-created Blackpool section of the show in the 90-minute show.

College lecturer Mykey Young said: “For the students to be able to be involved in a performance of this scale and quality is an amazing opportunity for them.

Launch of Showzam! at the Tower Circus.  Akoreacro perform.

Launch of Showzam! at the Tower Circus. Akoreacro perform.

“The show is a major highlight of the festival and is sure to be something that will be hugely memorable both for audiences and for the students who have been involved.”

The free and interactive performance, commissioned by LeftCoast, will take in a route including landmarks as the Winter Gardens, Promenade and Blackpool Tower as it moves around town, with performers using buildings and structures along the way for their moving stage.

Student Bethany Hodge said: “I think the performance will be a great way of grabbing people’s attention. LeftCoast is bringing lots of theatre events into Blackpool and events like Bivouac and Showzam! make the whole town an open attraction for visitors.”

Michael Trainor added: “This is going to be an event that will live long in the memory. Bivouac is a legendary street show that has lit up cities across Europe over the past 20 years.

“It is fully interactive, the audience is very much part of the show as all manner of audio and visual magic goes on around them.

“Blackpool has seen nothing like this before and Bivouac will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of Showzam! 2016.”

All streets will be closed to traffic while the procession takes place and local residents and traders are warned to be prepared to hear more than a few bangs, crashes, loud music… and plenty of cheers!