Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Send in the Clowns...

When I was a kid I used to love the circus. We didn't get to see many live ones as we lived in a small town, but it was often on the TV, especially from the Blackpool Tower ballroom. One of the most famous acts was Charlie Cairoli, a clown who looked a bit like Charlie Chaplin. He always had a very serious, white faced clown with him called Paul, with a pointed white hat, and very bright costumes. Paul was quite scary. I think a lot of clowns are scary, but because he was so serious, he was more scary than most. Now, you might wonder why I'm telling you all this!  Well, it's because tonight the University Library launched another exhibition  - this time about circus showmen. Excellently curated by Professor Vanessa, it has exhibits, posters and memorabilia from many of the great showmen, including Charlie Cairoli. And at the opening tonight was his son, also called Charlie, who played Paul.

One of his costumes was on display, as well as many posters, photos, and the horns they used to play. I was lucky enough to chat to him - he was lovely, very funny, and it was great to be able to talk about what it had been like being in the circus. I even got my photo taken with him (I'm such a luvvie!).  The exhibition was opened by Gerry Cottle, another great showman who had run away 50 years ago at the age of 15 to join the circus, and who had got his first job following the elephants! He learned to fire juggle, and then worked his way though many different acts before establishing his own circus. Despite many changes, especially the banning of animal acts in the UK, there are over 2000 circuses touring in the world at the moment. There was a sense of optimism in the room that circuses would continue to move on, change and flourish - the Circus of Horrors and Cirque du Soleil being brilliant examples.

Anyway - a lovely evening, and very unexpected. One of the many reasons I enjoy working where I do. Go and see the exhibition if you get the chance - its open to the public and free -  details here.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Loved seeing Charlie Cairoli as a child. Haven't yet seen his exhibition but hope to sometime in the future, fond memories of a wonderfully talented man. Much loved and missed.