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Life in the circus ring: We speak to the performers in Gandeys Circus ahead of Dudley show

By Heather Large | Dudley | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

Roll up, roll up! The circus is coming to town.

From gravity-defying aerial performers to springboard acrobatics – there will be a whole host of adrenaline-packed entertainment in the big top.

Gandeys Circus is coming back to Dudley later this month with its famous Halloween Spooktacular half-term show and original ringmaster Binky Beaumont promises it will be one to remember.

“It’s more than just a traditional circus, it’s a huge theatrical production backed up with dancers, live music and singing. It will entertain everybody from two to 100,” he says.

The new two-hour show, which takes place in a fully-heated 1,000-seat theatre big top, with state-of-the-art sound and lighting, features a cast of 30 international artists from 11 countries.

Kicking-off on Friday, it follows Gandeys successful summer season of performances at Butlin’s Minehead, Skegness and Bognor Regis.

“It’s the best of the three shows put together into one new fantastic show. There’s going to be lots of extra bits too that are not normally seen at our shows,” says Binky.

He was the primary clown at Gandeys from 1988 and began filling in as ringmaster in 1992. But now Binky, whose real name is Ian Welsby, mostly focuses on programming and promoting the tours.

Gandeys has a rich history having sprung into life at the turn of the 20th century. Conceived by founder Bob Gandey, it started out as a touring revue-style stage presentation.

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The show played in top theatres across the country, as well as many smaller venues and it quickly found success with a Western theme.

Bob Gandey, his wife Rose and young son Joe were the star acts, performing with cowboy whips, rope spinning, an educated pony and stubborn mules.

With the theatre circuit slowing, Bob decided it was time for a different approach. With a change of name and a brand new Big Top, Gandey’s Circus proudly hit the road for its debut tour in 1943.

Gandeys has been coming to the Midlands since the Second World War and performed in parks across the region as part of a national initiative to encourage people to make the most of green spaces on their doorstep.

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Joe, along with his wife Mary, carried the Gandey baton after Bob’s death in 1953. They firmly established Gandey’s as a small, intimate family show, with a reputation for quality and value for money.

The reins of Gandey’s Circus passed to Phillip Gandey after Joe’s death in 1973. At just 17 years of age, Phillip was Britain’s youngest ever circus director and with the support of his wife Carol and loyal team, he helped to produce a show which has grown ever since.

Gandeys has also created world famous shows including Sky Tv’s Cirque du Celebrite, The Chinese State Circus and Cirque Surreal.

Last year marked the 250th anniversary of the creation of the modern circus and Binky believes its lasting appeal is down to its ability to adapt to changing times and tastes.

“Circuses have gone through so many changes. It’s not enough to have a juggler juggling three tennis balls and a clown falling over a bucket.

“It’s not going to engage with the audiences. You have to give them the thrill factor, something that will make them put down their phones.

“Our fantastic production is guaranteed to get the undivided attention of even the most social media addicted family members,” says Binky.

Among the acts performing at Dudley will be Camilla, from Chile, who will be appearing for the first time in the Midlands on the solo trapeze, high in the roof of the big top.

Young contortionist Aimiri Kisingaji from Tanzania, will also be thrilling the crowds, accompanied by the Mighty African Warriors after he was snapped up by circus bosses for the show.

“We were sent a YouTube video and we were so impressed that we flew him over, auditioned him and offered him a two year contract. He’s incredible,” says Binky.

Europe’s favourite female clown Andrea will also be back by popular demand to create mayhem and mirth and there will be springboard acrobatics from the Havana Troupe.

And four motorbikes will be roaring away as they race round in the iron thunderdome in the centre of the circus ring at 45mph.

This year the show, which is the biggest touring show in Europe, is being staged at a new venue at Flood Street, Dudley after five years of being hosted at intu Merry Hill.

“The site at Merry Hill is being redeveloped and is no longer available but thanks to the help and hard work of everyone at Dudley Council, they have saved the day and we will be appearing at Flood Street car park.

“We hope it will have a positive knock-on effect for the town centre and it will benefit from the hundreds of people coming to these shows each day,” says Binky.

The shows will be raising money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. During the past year, Gandeys has raised more than £100,000 for local good causes and given away around 5,000 to charities across the country.

“Birmingham Children’s Hospital is a very important charity for people across the Midlands. We also want to give something back to a town as well as entertaining people,” says Binky.

*Performances will run from Friday, October 25 to Sunday, November 3 with a show starting at 6.30pm on the opening night.

There will be further performances at 2pm, 5pm and 7.30pm on Saturdays, noon and 5pm on Sundays and 2pm and 6.30pm each day from October 28 to November 1.

The on-site box office will be open daily between 9.30am to 8pm from Tuesday, October 22.

Tickets are also available online at gandeyscircus.com or by calling 0871 705 5507.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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