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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My perfect weekend: Gerry Cottle, circus owner

Gerry Cottle, the circus owner, shares his favourite weekend.

 
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Life under the big top: Gerry Cottle with members of his circus, many of whom trained at the school he set up at Wookey Hole Photo: HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY
from: telegraph.co.uk
By Anna Tyzack
02 Apr 2012
Everything I do at the weekend seems to be tied to the business of circuses and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I’m not travelling with my – Gerry Cottle’s – circus, I’ll be at a circus festival in Eastern Europe or in London watching a magic show by the Dutch illusionist Hans Klok. I try to see shows in Florida and Las Vegas as much as I can. Honestly, for me circus has been a lifelong obsession.
If I’m travelling with my circus – which I still choose to do, even though I have excellent managers – Friday evening tends to be quite quiet. After setting up the show and rushing around doing publicity and last-minute arrangements, a relaxing night in the caravans is in order before the show starts on Saturday. We travel with beautiful American caravans which have sides extending out four feet – the living area is bigger than most people’s sitting rooms. My caravan has a dishwasher, flushing loo, shower, television and a silent generator; a far cry from when I first ran away with the circus 50 years ago and had to rough it in a tent and wash at the public baths.
On Saturday and Sunday there are usually two shows per day. It’s daredevil stuff. There’s a crossbow act who fires at a balloon on his partner’s head; a blindfolded high-wire act and a boneless boy who squeezes himself into a bottle. Two of my daughters do trapeze acts and big magic tricks – we cut them up and make them disappear – and my son, Gerry Jnr, works on publicity for the shows. (Poor lad. I probably wouldn’t have chosen that name in another life: it gets very confusing.) Then, on Sunday evening we start dismantling and moving everything on to the next town. It’s hard work and not all honey, but I adore it.
When I’m not travelling with the circus, I’ll be at home at Wookey Hole, the visitor attraction in Somerset I bought in 2003. It has prehistoric caves, penny arcades and restaurants, and I’ve created a circus museum and a large hotel. Every Saturday afternoon we host a circus at Wookey featuring local children. They’re exceptionally good, having been trained three evenings a week at my circus school.
I originally bought Wookey Hole because I wanted a permanent base for a circus. The industry was going through a tough time, largely because of the horrendous taxes in this country. It was a drastic move as I am a Londoner at heart and had been living beside the M25, a stone’s throw from my partner Anna Carter’s [of Carter’s Steam Fair] place in Maidenhead. Suddenly I was up and down the M4 like a yo-yo, trying to keep one step ahead of the speed cameras.
READ MOREl
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/my-perfect-weekend/9180575/My-perfect-weekend-Gerry-Cottle-circus-owner.html

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