Circus! Show of shows

Saturday 6 October 2018 – Sunday 3 March 2019

This exhibition details the origins of Circus from the Ancient Greek ‘Hippodromes’ through to the Great Yarmouth ‘Hippodrome’ of modern day, and will feature a series of loans from private lenders and objects drawn from the Norfolk Museum Service collections.

Entry to the exhibition is included with the normal museum admission charge.

Many of the pieces featured have not been displayed in public since they were last used in performances and will be themed around animals in circus, women in circus, inspiring future circus performers and key local stories to Norfolk including:

  • Pablo Fanque (William Darby), the notable Black Circus owner and Equestrian trainer, who was born in Norwich, a poster advertising his circus was the inspiration for John Lennon when writing the Beatles classic “Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite!”
  • Clown Roma (Animal trainer, Marcus La Touche) who was from Swaffham in Norfolk and travelled with a Hungarian Circus before retiring back to the county with his dog Viscount
  • The Great Yarmouth Suspension bridge disaster which occurred following a stunt by Nelson the clown who sailed down the river Bure in a washtub pulled by four real geese causing the deaths of 78 people, mostly children
  • The history of the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome which turns 115 years old this year, among many other stories and images

A programme of talks and events are planned to run alongside the exhibition including a talk by co-curator Professor Vanessa Toulmin from the University of Sheffield on Friday 12 October.

The exhibition is part of a nationwide museums partnership with Museums Sheffield and Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, supported by the National Fairground and Circus Archive in Sheffield and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

For more information, why not download Professor Toulmin's insightful exploration of 250 years of circus history, What is Circus Today?