• Mark Cator

250 years of Circus and 115 years of Great Yarmouth's Hippodrome


Two hundred and fifty years ago, on an abandoned patch of land near London’s Waterloo, showman, entrepreneur and equestrian rider Philip Astley drew out a circle in the ground and filled it with astounding physical acts. This spectacle was the world’s very first circus and Astley set alive his 42 foot ring with a dazzling combination of jugglers, acrobats, clowns, strong men and bareback riders… Every circus, anywhere, began at this moment in 1768.

At the Hippodrome Circus in Great Yarmouth the 'spectacle' lives on and the show has been dubbed one of the seven wonders of the British seaside. The Hippodrome is unique in being Britain’s only surviving total circus building. Built in 1903 by the legendary circus showman George Gilbert it is home to a thriving community of performing artists.

As part of The Great Yarmouth Project, Bruer Tidman and myself worked with the Hippodrome Circus both front of house and backstage. The dedication, raw skill and camaraderie is part of an intricate level of co-operation that ensures the show goes on without a word spoken or reminder yelled. Performers perform, disappear, practise, joke, stretch, change costume and, just when you think they'll miss their cue, appear back in the ring with a split second to spare. It's beautiful to watch.

Mark Cator, 2018, the Hippodrome Circus, Great Yarmouth

Mark Cator, 2018, the Hippodrome Circus, Great Yarmouth

Mark Cator, 2017, the Hippodrome Circus, Great Yarmouth

Mark Cator, 2018, the Hippodrome Circus, Great Yarmouth

Mark Cator, 2018, the Hippodrome Circus, Great Yarmouth