Students to help launch national circus celebration

A lion created by a student on the Media Make-up and Special Effects degree at Bradford College

Special effects make-up students from the Northern School of Creative Industries are set to show off their skills at the Natural History Museum on Tuesday January 9.

Six students studying for degrees in Media Make-up and Special Effects will be in the capital for the launch of a national celebration of circuses.

Showcasing their expertise in prosthetics, make-up, wig and costume design, the students will create fantastical circus characters including lion ringmasters, imaginary beasts, feathered hoola hoop artistes and fairy popcorn sellers for the event that will be attended by politicians, arts and cultural leaders, artists and leading lights from across the creative sector.  

The event will launch Circus250, a year-long project marking 250 years of circuses. The very first circus was staged in London on January 9, 1768, showman Philip Astley drew out a ring and filled it with astonishing acts – tumblers, horses, acrobats, jugglers, clowns.

The Bradford College students were invited to take part in the high-profile event after undertaking a project on circuses last term and helping launch a circus exhibition at Bradford’s Cartwright Hall Art Gallery late last year.

That exhibition, Cupola, which opened in November and runs until April, celebrates the work of local aerial circus company Skinning the Cat, whose artistic director and aerialist was Becky Truman, who is now a tutor on the highly-regarded Media Make-up and Special Effects course at Bradford College.

Becky, who will be accompanying her students to the capital for the launch, said: “This is a great opportunity for the students to showcase their skills, work on a professional project and make contacts with people from across the creative sector.

“It is also great recognition for the college and our reputation in developing graduates that are well placed to begin a career in make-up, special effects and prosthetics for film, television, theatre and photographical settings.”  

Among the guests expected at the launch, which is being organised by the Creative Industries Federation, are Deputy Leader of the Labour party Tom Watson, Ben McOwen Wilson, Director of Youtube, Europe, Middle East and Africa, the chairwoman of the UK’s largest media agency,, Karen Blackett.

The Circus250 celebrations will also see the event’s logo be projected onto a number of prominent buildings across the country including Blackpool Tower and Norwich Castle.

Sir Tony Robinson, actor, historian, broadcaster and Circus250 Champion, said: “It’s wonderful to see 250 years of circus being celebrated UK wide in 2018.

“Circus doesn’t only happen in the ring. Actors like me are influenced by circus, alongside artists, filmmakers, comedians, mime artists and writers. It has a proud past, vibrant present, and, I’m certain, a fabulous future. It’s also huge fun. From Bristol to Blackpool and Belfast, we’re going to gasp, cry, laugh, whoop and be startled at 100s of events. Circus250 in 2018 isn’t only going to be the greatest show, it’s going to be the best fun.”