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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Circus fun


A cycling chimpanzee in George St, 1948
Published on Saturday 9 July 2011


THE circus was in town last week, but Russell’s International Circus in Stockwood Park was very different to those that visited in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
MPs recently defied the government and backed a ban on wild animals being used in circuses in England after a heated debate in Parliament.
The motion was approved without a formal vote and is not binding on the government, but it will increase pressure on ministers to act over the issue. The RSPCA estimates that 46 wild animals, including tigers, zebras and camels, are currently used in circus performances in the UK.


But Russell’s, which left Luton on Sunday after a five-day stay, is like most other circuses in restricting its acts to clowns, acrobats and jugglers.
The main picture, above, of a cycling chimpanzee was taken outside Luton Town Hall in 1948 during a publicity stunt for a visiting circus, probably Billy Smart’s or Bertram Mills’.
The policeman went ape when the cheeky chimp took his eyes off the road in George Street, but several spectators obviously saw the funny side of it.
The two smaller photos show chimps, an elephant and a horse in action in a Luton big top in 1953. It is believed to be a Billy Smart’s show, but do readers recall where it was held?


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