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.

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Freedom of the Borough for Fred and Greta Van Buren

Inspirational Van Buren’s Under Spotlight for Lifetime Achievement – Freedom of the Borough for Fred and Connie Greta.

A husband and wife duo who entertained audiences all over the world for more than four decades with their magnificent magic and illusion performances have achieved their latest amazing feat – securing the Council’s highest honour.

Fred and Connie Greta Van Buren last night officially received in front of 50 special guests the honorary Freedom of the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme from Mayor Gill Heesom in appreciation of their long service and instrumental role in raising the profile of Philip Astley and his historic links to the borough.

Originally working in Gandeys circus, Fred met Constance Greta in 1955 and she became part of the act known as Van Buren and Greta, focusing on creating magic and illusions that they could perform anywhere. Marrying in 1961, Fred and Greta toured the world’s largest theatres, made numerous television appearances and performed for royalty.

One of Van Buren’s most famous illusions involved making a motorcycle and rider vanish, the only one in the world performed completely surrounded by the audience, which now features as a part of some of son Andrew’s shows that he tours around the world.

The captivating couple came up with the idea of staging show-stopping circus performances, as part of events in Newcastle in 1982, to promote the little known Philip Astley – he was born in the town in 1742 and is widely regarded as the original ringmaster and father of the modern circus.

Andrew with his father worked hard to promote Astley again in 1992 for the 250th Anniversary of Astley’s Birth.

Fred and Connie retired from performing in 1996, however in 2009, Andrew took the Astley efforts one step further by once again raising Astley’s Profile and co-creating the hugely successful Philip Astley Project which co-ordinated a large programme of circus-themed entertainment, the creation of a number of monuments and activities leading up to, during 2018, and beyond, to mark the 250th anniversary of Philip’s world famous invention.

Fred, aged 86, said: “We’re absolutely over the moon to receive the Freedom of the Borough. We really enjoyed the ceremony – it was very touching and a bit emotional at times but you’ve just got to keep it back. There comes a time when words can’t express how you feel.

“Our life has been like a jigsaw puzzle where one piece has linked into another. It’s nice to know we’re respected in our business by so many people.

“Philip Astley has been in my head and heart since I was 10-years-old when I read about him in a book. I couldn’t believe the entertainment I loved – the circus – was created by a man from Newcastle-under-Lyme. We’ve lived in Silverdale for 52 years and during that time we have as a family pushed for recognition for him but been knocked back several times. At long last things have moved in the right direction. It’s a great thing for the area.”

Connie, 83, added: “Last night was fantastic. I can’t believe we’ve received this honour but we are very proud. We’ve enjoyed an incredible life – I am a farmer’s daughter so it was all very strange in the beginning. Philip Astley was born in Newcastle and that is a good thing for the town. People come from all over to see the various statues of him.”

Freedom of the Borough is the highest award the Council can bestow on a valued member of the community who has given outstanding services to the area. It’s awarded on rare occasions and was last received by the late Gordon Banks OBE in February 2018.

Councillors unanimously supported the recommendation, proposed by Council Leader Simon Tagg, at a recent Full Council meeting.

Council Leader Simon Tagg added: “Fred is regarded as one of the world’s finest and most original illusionists and his spectacular acts, involving Connie, have been described as a 21st century miracle. They’ve also done so much work to showcase the borough as Philip Astley’s birthplace. It gave me great pleasure to recommend them for Freedom of the Borough. It’s richly deserved.”

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Freedom of the Borough for Fred and Greta Van Buren

Inspirational Van Buren's Under Spotlight for Lifetime Achievement - Freedom of the Borough for Fred and Connie Greta. A husband and wife duo who entertained audiences all over the world for more than four decades with their magnificent magic and illusion ...

AstleyFest 2018 Celebration Film Released

Click here to see the celebration AstleyFest 2018 Film which has just been released, giving highlights of the amazing outdoor event. AstleyFest 2018 was held on 4th August 2018 in Newcastle-under-Lyme, it was a new festival celebrating the father of the ...

AstleyFest 2018

On 4th August 2018 Newcastle-under-Lyme saw the first ever AstleyFest – a new festival celebrating the father of the modern circus in Newcastle-Under-Lyme. The festival started with a bang at 11:30am in Newcastle town centre where people proudly paraded their ...

Philip Astley Newcastle-under-Lyme Town Trail

Newcastle-under-Lyme BID have teamed up with Creative Art North Staffordshire to create a Philip Astley Town Trail Map that tells you about the life of Philip Astley, Father of the Modern Circus. The town trail uses window vinyls placed at specific ...

Communities come together in Celebrating AstleyFest

In February 2018, The Philip Astley Project held an open call for artists, schools and community groups to take part in AstleyFest 2018, a new outd- Our festival in Newcastle-under-Lyme to celebrate the life and legacy of Philip Astley – Father of ...

Homecoming by Night

  Homecoming by Night, held on Saturday 30th June 2018, was a fantastic summer event that brought circus acts to the people of Newcastle-under-Lyme, in celebration of Philip Astley, the father of the modern circus. Homecoming is a popular annual event ...

World Circus Day – 21st April

Newcastle-under-Lyme celebrates World Circus Day in style! In 2018, World Circus Day celebrations in Newcastle-under-Lyme are coordinated by Andrew Van Buren. Highlights include Philip Astley Project talks hosted by the New Vic Theatre, and the unveiling of a new public art project by Realise ...

Andrew Van Buren commemorates Philip Astley and the 250th Anniversary of the circus in Westminster

The legacy of Philip Astley and the 250th anniversary of the circus are commemorated by Andrew Van Buren at the Palace of Westminster. On March 6th, Showman and Performer Andrew Van Buren gave his speech in the House of Commons after ...

Town Trail – Invitation to Tender

Artists and designers! Could you create a Philip Astley Town Trail for Newcastle-under-Lyme? Newcastle-under-Lyme Business Improvement District (the BID), is looking for an artist or graphic designer to work with young people on the development of a Town Trail to support The ...

‘No Fit State Circus’ is Coming to Town!

No Fit State Circus is in town! Described by The Times as: "A huge, restless party vibe" No Fit State Circus comes to the big top in the heart of Newcastle-under-Lyme. Presenting a 21- date circus extravaganza 'LEXICON' from 28th March- 21st April, ...

First Permanent Philip Astley Monument

The UK's first permanent monument to Philip Astley and his legacy of the circus is now in place but bad weather is slowing off the completion of the ground work and delaying the official unveil. The sculptures were designed by ...

Circus themed Easter activities held at Brampton Museum

A selection of circus themed Easter activities are being held at Brampton Museum to continue the ongoing celebration of circus pioneer- Philip Astley, from Newcastle-under-Lyme. Children and families are invited to make their own circus themed posters to be exhibited in the ...

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