North East Circus History

These North East England circus profiles and notes are created from many 1st & 2nd hand sources, researched by the Family La Bonche. Including: documents & notes from Arthur Fenwick’s Scrapbooks held in the Tyne & Wear Archives; stories from NE based or visiting circus artists and NE circus communities, and documents from their personal archives; photos and articles from local newspapers; online research and, of course, some of our own stories too. The profiles form a time line from 1237 – 2013.


20th C visits Chipperfield’s Circus is a long-running English family show based on the 300-year old Chipperfield dynasty. It can be traced back to a James Chipperfield who exhibited performing animals at the Thames Frost Fair of 1684. Through the 19th century, the circus toured the whole of England, with its growing menagerie and teams of… [Read More]

Yuri & Tonya Gridneff

Mid 20th C Yuri comes from a background of Russian circus, where his family did the ‘unsupported ladder’ act. His dad Michael was in “The Amazing Gridneffs” who were originally from Siberia and came to the UK in 1937, after 5 years in South Africa. Yuri was in Chipperfield’s Circus from 1945-49 where he used… [Read More]

Fossett’s Circus

20th C visits In the Scrapbooks there is a description of the Fossett’s in the 1940’s Picture post article – “Presenting the only family in the world which is a circus and the only circus in the world in which all the performers are the members of the same family … every relation is an… [Read More]

Touring Circuses

Late 20th C Newcastle Chronicle and Journal have an archive which includes photos of touring circuses which have mostly come to the Town Moor in Newcastle, including Austin’s, Billy Smart’s, Gandley’s, and Harlequin Circuses. This is the traditional stand where circuses pitched their tent, and has seen shows varying in scale and type. As the… [Read More]

Moscow State Circus

1990s – to date Moscow State Circus, MSC (managed by Gerry Cottle) supplied photos to local newspapers as part of it’s press campaign. On the back of a 1990 photo are the following statistics: “In a typical 38 week tour this mobile community of 80 people travels 2500 miles, uses 1000 gallons of fuel for… [Read More]

Ugly Jugglers, Nitty Gritty Circus & the Vamps

Late 1980s early 1990s Nitty Gritty Jugglers, was formed by Alex Marshall in 1987. When he returned to Oz, a few years later he left contracts (workshops & Performance) that were taken up by Simon Schofield & Tony Rogerson, Karen Bell & Michelle Weaver. Chandra Nauth-Misir relates that Simon & Tony performed “beautifully well-timed &… [Read More]

Frank Wilson & Event International

1990s – date Frank Wilson, and his company Event International, is an important figure in the International Street Arts industry, based in the North East. He is known Internationally as a Promoter and Producer. He was involved at the beginning of Stockton’s International Riverside Festival, and still programmes this, now in partnership with the Council…. [Read More]


1991 – 1993 Chimaera Trapeze and Fire Theatre was a circus cooperative based in Middlesbrough from 1991 – 1993. It performed on a 30ft high trapeze rig and fire set which toured regionally, nationally and internationally. Chimaera produced quality punk-esque shows with a strong female cast (and 17 year old gymnastic lad, AJ Hudspith/James) they… [Read More]

Neighbourhood Watch Stilt International

1993 – date Based in Newcastle, Neighbourhood Watch Stilts International (NWSI) is a Street Theatre partnership of Paul Miskin & Maysie Sharp who are Artists, administrator, maker and performers. With a core of around 50 free-lance performers: musicians, inflatablists, pyrotechnicians, stilt-walkers and aerialists, many of whom have performed with the company for ten years. Since their… [Read More]

Buddle Arts Centre

Late 1980s to 2008 The Buddle Arts Centre, Wallsend, had a few circus workshops in the late 80s early 90s but it wasn’t until 2003 when it began to develop as a Circus Incubation space. This was made possible by Joe Price, Black Box, who negotiated the use of the North Wing of the building… [Read More]