World Circus Day is nearly upon us so we have some fun facts to fill your heads.  Although circus arts currently receive more respect in other parts of the world, they have a long and glorious history over here so impress your friends with the best of British on Saturday 19th April.

Zirkus Krone

IMAGE: Rolf Unterberg

Did you know…

1- London gave birth to the modern circus form in the 18th Century, when West Midlands born Philip Astley invented the circular ring, and engaged clowns and acrobats to perform alongside his trick riders and equestrian displays.

2. Visitors to Joseph Grimaldi Park in Islington are invited to dance upon two musical “graves” to honour the father of modern clowning Joseph “Joey” Grimaldi and his mentor Charles Dibdin Jr. Incidently, Charles Dibdin Senior was the man who first used the word “circus” to describe the entertainment we know and love today, when he set up in business with Astley’s rival Charles Hughes.

3. Even the first circus in America was founded by a Brit, Scotsman John Bill Ricketts, in 1793.

4. There are currently over 30 touring circuses in Britain, including the Moscow State Circus and Chinese State Circus who – despite their names – are both run by UK impresario Brian Austen.

5. Circus develops differently in different regions.  According to Yohann Floch of Fresh Arts Coalition Europe, the UK is characterised by our love of all things aerial!

6. Circus training options in the UK range from evening and weekend classes, to full time training on the road, or in school up to degree level.

7. The British clown Reg Bolton is attributed as one of the pioneers of Social Circus.

8. The unofficial circus “language” is called Parlari and is made up of bits and pieces of other tongues, including “Shelta” or “Gammon” (the cant of the Irish tinkers), bits of Yiddish, Cockney rhyming slang, the less well-known Cockney backslang, and Romani.

World Circus Day is organised by the Fédération Mondiale Du Cirque on the 3rd Saturday of every April.  If you want to join in the celebrations, Zippo’s Circus are holding a free open day on Friday 18th at Blackheath Common to get you in the mood.

May all your days be circus days!

Want to see some great circus around London? Read our guide to Circusfest 2014 here.