...the year modern circus began

Entertainment Entrepreneur

Bringing together acrobats, clowns and trick riders in a 42-foot diameter ring, for over 40 years, Astley entertained both high society and the general public with a series of acts that combined risky and tense displays of skill with comic relief. Astley himself was at the heart of these performances, simultaneously riding up to three horses whilst performing ever more daring tricks.

In 1768, Astley acquired “Ha’Penny Hatch” a small piece of land on the south bank of the Thames between London Bridge and Westminster Bridge. In 1770, Astley established the first of his amphitheatres. Astley’s Amphitheatre – and his promotional skills – captured the public’s imagination. Building on his success, Astley toured across Europe and had particular success in Paris, performing for Louis XV at Versailles.

How did he do it?

What is The Philip Astley Project?

Collaborate to celebrate

The Philip Astley Project was formed in 2015 to celebrate Philip Astley in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and beyond. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, and sponsorship from businesses based in Newcastle-under-Lyme, local people will be able to get involved in workshops, talks, an exhibition, and performances.

The Philip Astley Project is managed by Staffordshire University on behalf of a steering group of local arts, heritage, statutory and educational institutions. The project runs from May 2017 to December 2018.

250 years of circus

Circus 250 logo2018 is the 250th anniversary of the modern circus. Performances, exhibitions and activities will be taking place throughout the UK to mark this important anniversary. Newcastle-under-Lyme is proud to be one of six key locations identified by the national Circus 250 network. To coordinate activities, The Philip Astley Project is working closely with local and national partners, including the V&A Museum and the New Vic Theatre’s Circus Past, Present and Future project, supported by Arts Council England.

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Upcoming Events

Talk: Son of Newcastle-under-Lyme, father of the modern day circus

Philip Astley was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme on 8th January 1742, the son of a cabinet maker who went on to become a war hero, a pioneer and a showman. He is written about in the works of Charles Dickens and ...

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Circus Film Screening: The Circus

Ray Johnson MBE presents ... The Circus (1928, Director Charlie Chaplin). Join Ray Johnson MBE and invited guests to view this great silent film by Charlie Chaplin. The ringmaster of an impoverished circus hires the Little Tramp as a clown, but discovers ...

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Circus themed Easter Activities held at Brampton Museum to celebrate Philip Astley

Brampton Museum is hosting a variety of circus themed activities to celebrate Philip Astley and his work in the circus throughout its 250 years. Philip Astley- Newcastle-under-Lyme's greatest showman and entrepreneur, is described as the 'father of modern circus'. It is worth ...

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Circus Friends Association visit Newcastle-under-Lyme

The Philip Astley Project is delighted to welcome the Circus Friends Association to Newcastle-under-Lyme for a special talk about Philip Astley and his link to the town. Hosted by Andrew Van Buren and the New Vic Theatre, local audiences and ...

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