News, Activities and Stories from the Philip Astley Project have received not only local but also national and international coverage in all forms of media from the UK to Japan, Monaco to Australia, Canada to Brazil and more.

Here you can find some of the key news items and moments from the history of the project.

If you’d like to cover one of our events, or conduct an interview with Showman, Performer and Philip Astley Expert – Andrew Van Buren, then do get in touch.

For background on the Philip Astley Project, Download our Press Pack

AstleyFest Virtual Entertainment for 2020

AstleyFest 2020 Virtual Entertainment Online.

This year’s AstleyFest 2020 is taking place as virtual entertainment on Saturday 1st August 3030 as AstleysAtHome. With an exciting line-up of online virtual entertainment, workshops and inspiring performances for families to get stuck into. Thanks to The Philip Astley Project The AstleyFest 2020 is set to celebrate Newcastle-Under-Lyme’s Circus History and you can join in from the comfort of your home.

Originally The Philip Astley Project’s AstleyFest was due to return this year following a hugely successful event at Lyme Valley Park in 2018, which marked the 250th anniversary of the creation of the modern circus by local showman Philip Astley and was funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and associated restrictions, an in-person event was not possible this year, so activities have now been taken online – with a lively schedule of content available on The Philip Astley Project and Appetite Facebook pages during the whole day.

Entertaining You

Actor Danielle Bird, who played Patty Jones Astley in the 2018 New Vic Theatre production of Astley’s Astounding Adventures, will be ring-mistress, introducing acts throughout the virtual celebration.

Special guests include illusionist and showman Andrew Van Buren and legendary clown Tweedy who will host online workshops which families can interact with from home. Dancer Daniel Jones will be sharing his own family’s experience of creating an #AstleysAtHome show to encourage families to get involved. Joining the action as well will be juggler and inventor Matt Pangottic – as seen at The Homecoming and Astley Fest in 2018 – hula hooper and roller skater Symoné, and the amazing Gandeys Circus will be providing an exclusive Live backstage tour of their big top hosted by the Ringmaster Joel Hatton and Clown Bippo. These will be complemented by thrilling never-been-seen archive footage from Staffordshire Film Archive to spark further curiosity in the circus as an art form.

The Philip Astley Project hopes the event will inspire families to transform into their own circus troupe and share pictures and videos of themselves getting involved, whether practising juggling or creating their own clown make-up, via social media with the hashtag #AstleysAtHome.

Astley Fest is being run by the Philip Astley Project, funded by Arts Council England, and with support from Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council. It is produced in partnership with Appetite.

When is the Virtual Fest?

Astley Fest Online Extravaganza will be happening on Saturday, 1 August 2020 from 10:30am to 4:30pm via their Facebook page.

About Philip Astley

Born in Newcastle-under-Lyme on 8th January 1742, Astley was the son of a cabinet maker who went on to become a war hero, a pioneer and showman. He is written about in the works of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. His influence has shaped not only the world of entertainment but also his legacy is still prevalent in art and literature worldwide.
In 1759 Philip joined Colonel Elliot’s 15th Light Dragoons – the first Light Cavalry Regiment of the British Army. Under the direction of Lord Pembroke’s trainer, he learnt a new method of horse riding, going on to excel in the art of horse training, and becoming a master of equestrianism. Philip saw active service and was quite the wartime hero, being promoted to Sergeant Major during the “Seven Years War”. In 1766 he left the army and in 1768 at Ha’penny Hatch (now the White Hart pub, Cornwall Road, London) he created the first 42ft diameter “circus ring” – still the standard size used in circus around the world. He went on to open Astley’s riding school and by 1773 he opened his first Amphitheatre building in London. He introduced for the first time the Merryman (clown) into the circus ring, as well as jugglers, rope walkers and acrobats. In 1782 Astley built an amphitheatre building in Paris, where he later died in 1814, aged 72. Philip Astley is buried in the Paris Cemetery of Pere Lachaise. His grave is no longer visible.

About The Philip Astley Project

Over 35 years in the making The Philip Astley Project is a CIC that builds on the work of the Van Buren Family. A group of like minded organisations and individuals combined to form the Philip Astley Project with the aims to keep the Philip Astley story and legacy alive through annual events like Astley Fest as well as developing awareness of Astley’s birthplace Newcastle-under-Lyme.

About Appetite

Appetite aims to get more people in Stoke-on-Trent and the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme to experience and be inspired by the arts. We do this by working with local people to co-create world-class, unforgettable arts experiences in and for their communities. Appetite began in Summer 2013 as a programme for Stoke-on-Trent, kicking off with an inspiring Taster Menu of art and since then has presented a feast of family-friendly, breath-taking cultural events in places and spaces across Stoke-on-Trent enjoyed by thousands from across the city. Working with our community decision-makers Supper Club, over the last six years Appetite has engaged 485,061 audience members, 50,014 participants, 1189 artists and 1501 volunteers. Our work continues in Stoke-on-Trent with our third phase of funding continuing to March 2022.

In 2019 the Appetite programme was supported by Arts Council England to expand into the neighbouring Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme. We’re looking forward to collaborating with residents and partners across the area to create life-changing arts experiences in new communities.

The Appetite programme is funded by Arts Council England and is led by the New Vic Theatre in partnership with Partners in Creative Learning, 6Towns Radio, Staffordshire University, Newcastle Business Improvement District (BID), Go Kidsgrove and Keele University. Appetite also works closely with Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Newcastle Borough Council, Staffordshire County Council and Aspire Housing. Appetite is part of the Creative People and Places programme, initiated and funded by Arts Council England.

About Arts Council England

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture.  By 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where every one of us has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences.  Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from the government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help deliver this vision. Following the Covid-19 crisis, the Arts Council has developed a £160 million emergency response package, with nearly 90% coming from the National Lottery, for organisations and individuals needing support.

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