Inside The Circus

I started writing The Circus Quest Series when I was waiting for my daughter Rhia to finish class at Circus school. Every now and then I would look up and see Rhia and her friends hanging upside down on silk ropes or Trapeze, waving at me. I was on the second floor balcony of a big warehouse and they were at my level. My heart used to skip a beat every time. Even though I know they trained safely they were still very high up. To take my mind off what they were doing, I wrote stories.



Circus performers are very careful about safety. Everything is triple checked and there are always mats. Circus performers will tell you that the most dangerous apparatus are Unicycles and Rolla Bolla, the balancing platform on a rolling cylinder. Kestrel is standing on one on the cover of Book One. The reason it is so dangerous is that you are close to the ground with no mats to cushion your fall. You could fall on your wrists or ankles or head all of which could be broken. Broken bones can end a circus career. If you can’t perform you can’t work at what you love. Circus performers need to stay fit and healthy and practice every day to keep themselves flexible. They will never rush back from an injury in case they make it worse. 


About The Characters

Kestrel is the youngest clown in the Falcon family. His family has been clowning for many generations. To be a good clown you have to have good balance and be able to act. This is because clowns tell stories through their movements and costumes mostly. They start from an early age learning how to tumble and balance and learning how to fall safely. Most accidents happen when you fall down so clowns have to be experts at falling down safely but also making it funny at the same time.

Here is a video of a clown act using Rolla Bolla.

Skye is a member of the Steeple family. Her parents and her big sister perform in Circus Charles and Skye is desperate to be in the act too. In smaller circus companies, aerial performers will use a range of apparatus like silk rope or trapeze and do separate acts on each one. There are three types of Trapeze - Static, where the trapeze just hangs down. Flying, where the trapeze swings. Dance, where the trapeze hangs from one point and swings around- (often with a counterweight.)

Silk rope is a long drop of stretchy cloth with no seams. The cloth is softer than rope but just as strong. Sometimes you will see Aerialists performing with rope or straps- This is harder to work with and more painful for the performer. 


Performing Poodles

Circus acts practice for years and will often swap into different companies to see new places. There are circus companies who travel the world or just travel in their own countries or continents. In the old days, the circus would often have animal acts which they would show people. Animal acts with wild animals were dangerous. People thought it was cruel to make animals perform so gradually wild animal acts were stopped in circus. Dog acts are now the only animal acts that still perform. A zookeeper told me that you measure an animal's intelligence by how much they like to play. Poodles are very intelligent and that is why you will often see them having a great time in a circus act.

Tumbling Town

The Chinese pole is about strength and balance. I asked a performer how he got interested in performing on a Chinese pole. He replied, 'I was bored at the gym doing the same old exercises. On the Chinese pole I can have a great time and get super fit doing it.' 

Like any circus apparatus, you have to check that it will take your weight safely. If you want to have strong arms you can lift weights but working with a Chinese pole will make your whole body strong.

Here is a video of two great Chinese pole performers at the royal variety concert. Irina studied their act to get the pictures right in Tumbling Town.


In Accidental Aerial I have a performer who is injured. Because safety is so important an injury that stops you from performing can be very serious. It impacts the whole circus. The show must go on is an old saying from circus shows two hundred years ago. If something went wrong in a circus act you didn’t want the crowd to panic and rush out because then more things would go wrong. Clowns are the quickest to get into a ring as they carry their props with them. That means they can do a cover-up act while the backstage crew get into action to fix the problem.

This video shows one of the famous Aerial circus families, The Flying Heroes, led by Stas Bogdanov. They perform a flying trapeze act.

Uneeda Unicycle

Unicycles- No brakes, no handlebars, just the rider and a wheel.

This apparatus is all about balance and tricking your mind that you are balanced.

I was at a circus camp with my daughter when a visiting champion unicyclist came to show us his moves. He wasn’t part of a circus act. He was a country kid who had picked up a unicycle and taught himself to do tricks on it. He just loved pushing the limits of balance. The bruises, scrapes, and potential bone breaks make it a challenging dangerous sport. Just right for Peregrine Falcon.

Clown Chaos 

Clowns are performers who tell little stories to the audience. A good clown has perfected the use of body language to tell a story without using their voice at all. Mime clowns sometimes use white makeup to make their face become like a painting. Then they use other makeup to exaggerate their eyes nose and lips. This means that even people who are in ‘the cheap seats’- right at the back of the tent can see their act.

Clowns start by making up a character that will be their performer. Will they be sad, happy, curious, a trickster, clumsy or another kind of strong emotion? Then they work on a costume to reflect that. One of my friends is a mime artist. He says that he can talk right up till he puts his hat on. From then his body must do the talking for him. It is a very skillful job and takes many years to master.