ZELLA COMPTON: Going to the circus is not the spectacle it once was

You might have heard of P T Barnum via a couple of routes.

Wednesday, 18th January 2017, 6:01 am
Has circus had its day?

One because it’s the name of a musical, recently revived with much fanfare and acclaim at Chichester (I say recently – within the past few years) and the other because P T Barnum was the original travelling circus man of America.

He pulled together a wide variety of acts and took them across the States via the railroad.

This week, the circus which bears his name (and now those of other investors) announced that it is to close after more than 100 years in business.

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The reasons given are varied. The lack of animals appeases our modern sensibilities, but puts the crowds off. The way of life is unsustainable and technology has ruined everything for everyone.

Technology gets the blame an awful lot. Seemingly children these days are so obsessed with their phones that they can’t be bothered with entertainment like the circus. Hmm.

It’s very easy to blame children, it’s very easy to blame parents, it’s very easy to blame technology for hooking people to its nefarious purposes.

But actually, and I am thoroughly expecting to be shot down by many here, the circus is okay, but not the spectacle it once was.

We expect more now because the world and the people in it can do so much more. It’s like everyone else moved on and traditional circus got left behind.

Remember the first time that you saw someone on a trapeze and how exciting that was? And then the first time you saw a person twirling themselves up and down a ribbon/rope, and how exciting that was? But when you’ve seen it once, the sparkle dulls, especially as amazing things are everywhere – like the high jump harnesses in most city centres, where you can spring around like a March hare. Like the bubble balls to roll around on water. Like zip wires and tree-climbing courses in every managed park.

Circus feels to me to have had its heyday when we didn’t know about other activities. I’m not as incredulous as once I was.

Circus acts need to change and develop. I respect the talent and hard work, but is the show entertaining enough?


Rather embarrassingly, I confess I have just shared an advert via social media.

Not a status update, or a cute picture of a dog, but a commercial advert.

It’s for, of all things, Australian lamb.

The premise is to tell the story of Australia’s population history via a BBQ on a beach, with guests turning up as if historical invaders, but bringing dips and alcohol instead of bloodshed.

If we think about the British Isles in that way too, it makes you reconsider immigration and what it adds to our cultural heritage.

Although I think the Australian version works so well as it’s set on a warm beach.

A British version would be a little soggier and probably involve chips.


You think that, as your children get a little older, the last-minute homework projects panic will disappear.

That your children will become more organised, think ahead, plan their time better.

Who am I kidding? Today I am rushing to print out pictures. They have to be in colour, on photographic paper, for an art project.

I have no problem with that, except when it’s announced and there’s no time to get organised as we have a black-and-white printer and no paper.

At least I don’t have to make anything, as those junior school costume days have long gone.

Since Muggles became acceptable disguises for World Book Day, I’m home and dry.