Roll Up! Roll Up! is a Heritage Lottery supported project to explore the history of circus in Great Yarmouth and beyond coinciding with Circus 250 celebrations.
Since the summer of 2018, SeaChange Arts has been unearthing a rich history of the circus in Great Yarmouth. Working with local residents and volunteers we have discovered a wealth of fascinating archive materials, photos and memories of circus entertainment and its part in the history and development of Great Yarmouth.
Oral history recordings have been collected, talks posted and tours hosted, artwork created and a wealth of other heritage learning creative endeavours carried out. We hosted a final exhibition at the twelfth Out There International Festival of Circus and Street Arts.
Here is a catalogue of key events organised by SeaChange Arts, celebrating the illustrious history of circus in Great Yarmouth
Maritime Festival - Bridge Disaster Commemoration
Together with Hocus Pocus Theatre, we handed out white flowers today to drop in the water in memory of those who lost their lives in 1845 when the suspension bridge collapsed in Great Yarmouth.
People had gathered on the bridge to witness a publicity stunt performed by Nelson the Clown who was promoting the circus coming to town.
He was “to sail down the river Bure in nothing but a common washing tub pulled by four real geese!” Tragically 79 people died that day, mainly children. Remembered by many at the Maritime Festival who joined us in a simple gesture. 79 white flowers floating in the water. We took the opportunity to speak to local people about their thoughts regarding the tragedy.
Bivouac250 at Out There Festival 2018
For the Out There Festival 2018, we produced a special Circus250 commissioned performance of the legendary street arts show Bivouac, last seen in Great Yarmouth in 2010.
Bivouac250 saw street arts titans, Generik Vapeur team up with the UK’s Gorilla Circus to create a special circus rendition of the show with massive community participation and circus themed interventions.
The show was enjoyed by intergenerational 10,00 people on the Saturday night.
The Monthly Do and Open Door Events
Throughout the year we delivered a number of inter-generational circus heritage themed activities and workshops as part of our regular Open Doors and Monthly Do events. Activities included animation workshops, comic strip storytelling,circus skills, arts, crafts all coinciding and informing the circus heritage learning we set out to do. During these events we produced a range of free circus performances from artists across the world including France’s Compagnie Animotion, and Mexico’s Ohtocani Alvarez.
Great Yarmouth Circus History Walk and Talks
An opportunity for the community to explore Great Yarmouth’s circus history with an engaging tour around prominent circus places. From the site of the New Gaiety Theatre of Varieties owned by Lord George Sanger, the residence of George Gilbert and of course the iconic Hippodrome; delivered by local historian Roger Silver.
Following the walks , attendees had the opportunity to discuss what they found out and reminiscence about their own circus memories with refreshments served back at the Drill House.
Saturday Family Fun Days
We put on two special circus themed afternoons at Great Yarmouth library as part of their Saturday Family Fun days (Saturday 6th and 20th March) over the Easter holidays. These Saturdays are usually mostly attended by families that come from low income backgrounds. We hosted drop in circus skills workshop and a themed craft afternoon with Artlike, freelance children’s art coordinators, to create characters inspired by stories of the circus.
The library also put together a selection of children and adult’s literature relating to circus stories and it’s history to help promote the project.
Festa Fiesta took place on 8th June 2019 and featured a number of heritage, circus themed participatory workshops for inter-generational family audiences including comic strip story book making, circus skills, arts crafts, circus costume and badge making. Various circus performances were also part of the entertainment programme. An exhibition of archive material collected to date was also on display.
Accessing Archives and Oral History Training
We had Accessing Archive training with Community Librarian, Rachel Ridealgh, who led us through a comprehensive look into local library archives and collections and learn how to fully utilise them for our research purposes. We had two follow up sessions open to volunteers and other members of staff from the library and museum service , following similar format to the previous training sessions. A trip was also arranged for volunteers to explore the Norfolk records office. Materials found include a variety a promotional material for historical circus acts. Time and Tide Museum’s Learning Manager, Colin Stott also came to the Drill House to deliver staff training on Oral History collection.
Oral Histories Highlights
Here is a few select highlights from our oral histories collection with a brief description:
A recollection of memories of their childhood of sneaking into the Hippodrome several times a week to see the animals:
An architectural historian goes into detail about the architectural design of the Hippodrome and entertainment buildings:
Father used to shoe the horses that used to visit Great Yarmouth for the circus:
Building from what we have learned from the project, we created an education pack for local schools to learn a variety of core subjects through the theme of local circus histories.
Download the education pack here: EG Circus 250 Education Pack
Out There 2019
The International Festival of Circus and Street Arts returned for it’s twelfth edition once again producing a festival celebration of the town’s circus heritage. Highlights include Drill House creation Rimski’s Yard, Sam Goodburn, Living Room Circus, a variety of circus workshops and a special performance from Great Yarmouth’s very own Drillaz Circus School.
We also hosted an end of project Roll Up! Roll Up! exhibition where attendees immersed themselves in a wealth of archive and historical circus material.
Run 4 Schools Open Days at The Drill House
We had two schools participate in our Open Days at the Drill House. These were a joint production between Time and Tide Museum and SeaChange Arts teams. At the museum the students learnt about the history of circus in Great Yarmouth and explored the Circus 250: Show of Shows exhibition and role played the different characters and animals that would have been found within a traditional circus troupe as well as creating colourful masks inspired by these.At the Drill House students then went on to learn about the more recent history of contemporary circus and the role of the Drill House in its development. Students also learnt some physical circus skills such as juggling, balancing, hula hooping and dynamos. We also gave them a chance to create an animation inspired by the day’s workshops and the things they had learnt about the heritage.
Tricia Hall, Youth Engagement Officer from Time and Tide Museum has been working on a Podcast with her Young Comms group which will be supervised by BBC Voices. The interview included an interview with Hippodrome host and producer Jack Jay, SeaChange Arts artists in residence Pies Y Manos and director Joe Mackintosh.
Circus250 Project Film
East Coast College students have interviewed Hippodrome and Seachange staff and a variety of circus artists for a Great Yarmouth Circus250 documentary they are producing as part of the project.
Circus Heritage Opportunities for disadvantaged children
On Sunday 28th April, we organised a trip for 25 children from the full Drillaz troupe to view the final production of the Hippodrome’s Pirate show. They were also been invited to view address rehearsal of the Summer Circus and Water show on Sunday 7th July before it started on Wednesday 10th July. This gave the students a chance to see what happens behind the scenes of a more traditional circus. They were also taken to visit the Time and Tide Museum’s Circus250 Exhibition.
Roll Up! Roll Up! Information pack
We learned from the project, and there’s surely more to uncover. We created a small PDF flyer with a few key highlights of Great Yarmouth and beyond’s illustrious circus history.
You can view it here: roll up roll up leaflet