...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

Building on the work of Andrew Van Buren and his family The Philip Astley Project was officially formed by Cllr Wenslie Naylon and Andrew Van Buren in 2014, bringing together local groups, organisations and individuals to celebrate Philip Astley in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and beyond. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, and sponsorship from businesses and individuals based in Newcastle-under-Lyme, local people have been able to get involved in workshops, talks, exhibitions and performances.

The Philip Astley Project was managed by Staffordshire University throughout the celebrations on behalf of the steering group of local arts, heritage, statutory and educational institutions. The initial project focus ran from May 2017 to December 2018. The Philip Astley Project CIC has since become a new Community Interest Company that is continuing onward into the future promoting Philip Astley, his legacy and birthplace of Newcastle under Lyme.

250 years of circus

Circus 250 logo2018 was the 250th anniversary of Philip Astley starting the process of creating the modern circus, performances, exhibitions and activities took place throughout the UK to mark this important anniversary. Newcastle-under-Lyme was proud to be one of six key locations identified by the national Circus 250 network. To coordinate activities, The Philip Astley Project continues working closely with local and national partners, including the V&A Museum, Appetite and the New Vic Theatre notably with their Circus Past, Present and Future project, supported by Arts Council England.

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