All the fun of the circus

By Jenni DixonTHE show must go on was the message from a circus owner who has brought his big top into Southwold following the death of a trapeze artist from another troupe.

By Jenni Dixon

THE show must go on was the message from a circus owner who has brought his big top into Southwold following the death of a trapeze artist from another troupe.

Justin Appleyard, 35, owner of Circus Ricardo, is bringing his big top into the seaside town for its fifth year.

It has arrived in town after aerial artist Eva Garcia died from a fall during a performance at The Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth on Friday.

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The circus - which opened at Southwold Common yesterday for three weeks - held a minute's silence at its show in Walton on the Naze on Saturday before Mr Appleyard visited the Norfolk resort to offer his support to Ms Garcia's friends and family.

He said: “We were very sad to hear the news. Everybody in the circus industry is thinking of her family and friends. It could have been anyone of us.

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“It is very tragic that such a young person died in her prime, but the show must go on. The circus is all about bringing pleasure to others and she wouldn't have wanted anyone else to stop what they do.

“Part of circus performing is about taking risks and just because the performers make it look easy, it does not mean there is not danger there. Performers are very superstitious and are always waiting for the next thing to happen.”

Mr Appleyard knows only too well the dangers of circus life because he fell off a tightrope outside a circus tent onto concrete and compressed his ankle nine years ago and now his left leg is longer than his right.

The injury meant he had to change from being an acrobat to a clown, but he has defied his doctors by tightrope walking and riding a unicycle again.

Mr Appleyard said he always enjoyed coming to Southwold for their peak season because the town had taken the Great Blakenham-based circus as its own and made all its performers and workers feel part of the community.

He promised an ambitious show this year that combined circus acts such as juggling, hula hoop-ing, the trapeze and tightrope walking with a theatrical storyline involving two brothers.

Mr Appleyard said: “All the action takes place in the round and it requires a lot of organisation to keep the momentum and the story going, but after last weekend's show the audience said it was the best circus they had every been to.”

He was proud the circus has made its fifth anniversary as many small touring troupes failed because the business was unpredictable and did not receive any funding.

“We have the same capacity as the Wolsey Theatre, but we get no grants to help us. It takes time for a circus to get a good reputation and now we are doing well and putting on quality shows,” said Mr Appleyard.

“Artists want to come back year after year and together they and the circus learn a lot and improve.”

He got into the business by accident after leaving the army to become a drummer in a rock group before working as a sound engineer with a circus in France, where he started learning the skills.

Mr Appleyard completed a degree in performing arts in Ipswich and decided to start up his own circus when he saw a big top for sale and felt the industry looked like fun.

“It is more than a job, it's a way of life - like a religion. Most people here have degrees in performing arts, but the most important thing to me is their attitude as most things can be learnt,” he said.

“ Because we are such a small circus everyone has to get along with each other and work together.”

For more information and tickets for Circus Ricardo, contact 07946 096532 or 07990 514856.

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