Full Circle: Circus: Sweet Freedom


From as young as I remember there was circus. Every summer with in Ireland the traveling circuses visited our area, and we would go. My father, who I only got for weeks each year, whose presence was like the sun to me, would offer his services to performers – they threw knives at him, laid him on beds of nails, clowns squirted water pistols, put snakes around him, and I would gaze open-mouthed, silently praying that they would return my father safe to me.

They always did.

One year he took me to visit the ring mistress in her caravan. For me it was close to meeting god.

My favourite book he gave me as a child was about a real life family of trapeze artists. I longed to be them. To run away with the circus.

Trapeze artists flying through the air in shimmering silver sparkles epitomise the sweet freedom of circus. In the world of circus, the laws of the universe no longer apply. Gravity – pah! Human form- meh! Elephants dance. People fly. Bright colours, lights… the world of imagination is set loose… and people have superhuman qualities – the ability to bend themselves into incomprehensible shapes. Balancing on chairs 10 feet up. Cycling bicycles 15 feet up. Blindfolded. On a high wire. A pyramid of men skipping rope… for a lover of symbolist and surrealist art, it is like entering a painting. For a former performer and director, it is the ultimate theatrical experience.

I also have a minor terror of clowns. So it is truly life on the edge!

I go to every good circus that is within reach. With or without children.  But it is my greatest joy to take them with me. To gaze open mouthed, gasp at feats of daring together. To marvel at the beauty and wonder… together. As an adult I can see the darker side, the animal rights issues, long working hours… but still the magic prevails.

Last weekend I took my older girl up on the train to Dublin for my birthday treat, to show her my favourite circus in the world which was visiting. There was a fair there too… and pirate ships on the river!



Please, please if you have never seen Cirque du Soleil, take a moment to watch the trailer… and if you ever get a chance to see them in real life, do not hesitate.

A week later the travelling circus was in town. This time I took my youngest daughter. It was the same circus that I have been going to for over thirty years. It still has the same female ringmistress whose caravan I visited 30 years ago. We went to say hello as we left after the show. My little one in awe that this circus goddess knew her grandfather, and remembered her mama.

Full circle… circus… sweet technicolour freedom.

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  1. Mary

    I was never a fan of the circus until your enthusiasm inspired me to go to one (I had never been!!!), I loved it and loved watching my kids enjoy the magic and the showmanship!!! While I won’t be running away to join one ever, I am glad your enthusiasm rubbed off on me and I get to share this with my kids now x

  2. lucyhpearce

    🙂 So glad I converted you. Am taking Leigh to one this summer as she’s never been either… I feel it my godmotherly duty to indoctinate my godson in the way of circus!

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