Newcastle honouring Father of Modern Circus

Newcastle honouring Father of Modern Circus Philip Astley.

Philip Astley was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1742, and started by performing equestrian shows. He then realised it was best performed in a circular ring of a 42ft diameter and by combining other performers into the shows.

The statue was unveiled inside Newcastle-under-Lyme College’s (NULC) Performing Arts Centre yesterday by Mayor Sandra Hambleton and Andrew Van Buren, the event was delivered in partnership with the Phillip Astley Project Heritage Steering Group.

Andrew Van Buren, Philip Astley Project member and World Travelled Professional Performer, said: “Yesterday was a fantastic day and was the first event scheduled over the coming years to develop this heritage story for the benefit of local people. Not many people locally know of the pioneer and innovator, Phillip Astley, who from humble beginnings in Newcastle-under–Lyme went on to become the creator of the modern circus as we know it today.”

Tina McDonald, NULC’s Performing Arts Centre Manager, said: “We’re proud that the College is involved in this initial celebration of the life and achievements of the local pioneer, Philip Astley. It is inspiring for our performing arts, music and dance students studying at the College to learn that the modern day circus was created right here in Newcastle-under-Lyme.”

Wenslie Naylon Chair of the Philip Astley Project Committee said: “I remember around 20 years ago when there was the Philip Astley Carnival thinking this is something we should celebrate”. Teresa Mason manager of the Brampton Museum added: “a lot of people don’t know about Philip Astley and his achievements, he was a phenomenal character and should be celebrated”.

A statue has been unveiled in Newcastle-under-Lyme Philip Astley Father of Modern Circus. This Philip Astley Statue was originally commissioned and funded by Andrew Van Buren to be part of the 1992 Celebrations of 250 years since Philip Astley’s birth, these original celebrations were the brainchild of Andrew and his father Fred Van Buren, but sadly shortly after 1992 the Astley story began to fade yet again.

The portable statue was built by famous sculptor Andy Edwards, Juliette Dodd and Anthony McCue, however back in 1992 few others could see the potential for Philip Astley being the unique selling point for his birthplace of Newcastle-under-Lyme. Andrew Van Buren said: “it is wonderful that after all these years we have been able to bring the statue out of storage and unveil it again for the public to view, ideally located in the Performing Arts Centre for future generations to see and learn from. This time people are listening and beginning to realise that Astley can do for Newcastle-under-Lyme what Shakespeare has done for Stratford-upon-Avon”.

Further details of Andrew Van Buren can be found on The Van Buren Organisation website. 

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