Marvels & Mayhem aims to develop our understanding and knowledge of the Blackpool Tower Circus collection.
Filled with clowns and humour, thrills and daring feats, equestrian and exotic animal displays, The Blackpool Tower Circus has amazed us since its opening in1894. Having obtained the Blackpool Tower Circus collection in 2010, we now have the opportunity to explore the archive, capture these fascinating stories and develop a variety of engagement for our audiences and circus community.
The Blackpool Tower Circus Collection is made up of approximately three hundred posters, several thousand photographs, programmes (1894 to present), press cuttings (1930 to present), as well as administrative and business records relating to the running of the venue since opening in 1894.
What we've done.
Blackpool Heritage Service has been working closely with a dedicated team of volunteers to preserve, document, catalogue and research this fascinating collection in order to make it more accessible to our audiences.
Our wonderful volunteers have been painstakingly cleaning and transferring the collection into suitable archival storage materials.
Two volunteers have worked on creating an inventory for all the circus collection photographs; currently standing at 6989 and counting!
A further group of volunteers have been cataloguing these photographs adding snippets of research to increase our knowledge of these images which showcase a vast array of circus acts, performers and performances throughout the history of Blackpool Tower Circus.
The staff and volunteers have recently been trained in how to digitise collections and have begun this process. We look forward to continuing this once the history centre is back open.
have put in a whopping
Blackpool has a rich history of circus and there are many surviving performers living in the region and further afield whose history and experiences we aim to uncover and share with a wider audience in this project.
Since September 2016, Showtown: Museum of Fun and Entertainment and the Heritage Service have engaged with many past and present performers from Blackpool, gathering their stories, memories and expertise of the field.
With help from our amazing volunteers, we have been able to put on talks, conduct interviews and support circus events which have all enriched the Blackpool Tower Circus collection with information and informed the planned permanent display for Showtown.
We continue to champion this community who are eager to share their tales and contribute to the preservation of their history through creating online Digital Stories. In these, the performers talk about their lives, experiences and spectacular careers, using the Tower Circus collection and their own personal collections.
Circusette Day 2019.
for some Circusette stories coming soon!
Last year, we held interviews with Carol Mireles and Sandy Griffiths who were formerly Circusettes at Blackpool Tower Circus during the sixties and seventies.
Circusettes were a group of girls who ensured the smooth running of the circus performances, held up hand boards for each act, performed dance routines and sometimes joined in with the acts.
During this fantastic event we got an insight into what it was like to work at the Blackpool Tower Circus during those times and how special it felt to be part of it.
‘I loved all of it. It was very strict but I loved being with the other girls and we had so much fun.' Sandy Griffiths
Blackpool art service delivered a creative literacy project centred around the pre-existing Save Our Stories (S.O.S.) initiative featuring a fantastical ‘story rescue vehicle’ serving as an immersive environment for storytelling and creative writing.
An open call was sent out which recruited an artist to explore the Circus Collection and personal stories of the Circus community. Emily Hennessey explored the Circus Collection and personal stories and created a spectacular story.
What we've done.
To build on this Circus story, Year two groups in schools took part in a bespoke story crafting workshop and produced creative responses to the collection and the stories it contains.
Their work was unveiled and showcased as part of the Wordpool Family Day; Blackpool’s family friendly literary festival in 2018.
Wordpool Family Day 2018.
Filled with story-telling, crafts, interactive cut-out boards, face painting and more, … people attended this day!
Blackpool & Fylde College
Marvels & Mayhem will be developing a programme with Blackpool and the Fylde College for staff and students to explore the use of Blackpool’s collections to create a positive impact in health and social care settings in the town. Watch this space!