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Future of travelling circuses hangs in balance
POSTED 03 Feb 2004 . BY
A change in licensing law could kill off a great English tradition as circus costs are set to spiral.

From April 2005, instead of needing just one license, all circuses will have to apply for an entertainment permit for each venue on their circuit. As licenses can cost up to £500 each, a circus performing at 40 different venues during a tour could face a bill of £20,000.

The new legislation has angered many circus bosses, as the financial burden might prove too much to handle.

John Haze, spokesperson for the Moscow State Circus, said: “Although, due to our size, I don’t believe the new law will force us to dramatically change our operations, I fear for the smaller circuses.

“I don’t think they have the resources to appoint a person to deal with all the license applications and then find the funds to pay for them.”

However, not even the bigger circuses are entirely safe. Once agreed and paid for, a license covers only a certain geographical area. Should weather force last minute changes to venue, obtaining a new license for a different venue close by could prove impossible.

Haze said: “What the government will also have to carefully consider is that should weather spoil the venue – fields can easily become unusable due to rain – even the bigger circuses will suffer. We wouldn’t be able to pay for a license and staff if the show is cancelled.”

Martin Burton, owner of Zippo’s circus, said: “An additional problem will occur with advertising. We can’t sell or advertise tickets before obtaining a license for a venue.”

“We need to begin advertising around a month before arriving at a site. If the application takes six weeks to clear, as we have been told, then we would need to apply for licenses nearly three months before the first show to ensure we have enough people buying tickets.”

Burton sees the legislation as slowly stifling the industry to death. “The success of a circus depends on its ability to keep moving. This new law all but prevents it. I can't see any travelling circus – no matter how big - surviving the destructive effects of the new law for very long,” he said.

Charles Holland, program director at the Circus Space – which trains and places 20 circus graduates into the industry each year – said the new legislation will have an impact on everybody in the sector.

“Operationally, the law change will not affect us as we have a permanent venue and a license to run it. However, it would affect the students we train as they will find it considerably harder to find employment after completing their degree,” he said.

Arts Council England, which last year announced large increases in its funding of circus and street arts, has written to the government on the subject and is currently awaiting a reply.

David McNeill, from the Arts Council, is concerned that due to the travelling format of the circuses, they are in danger of under representation in the debate.

He said: “Because of the nature of the industry, many circuses are literally administrated from the back of a caravan. They do not have the funds to lobby their cause in the licensing issue like, for example, the large brewers do. They do not even have a local MP to fight their cause.”

“I don’t believe there is any malign intent behind the government legislation, it is just a case of not considering every aspect of the possible consequences. However, this is serious stuff and we at the Arts Council are prepared to speak on the behalf of the circus industry.”

The circus industry attracts around 12 million visitors each year.

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Jobs    News   Products   Magazine
NEWS
Future of travelling circuses hangs in balance
POSTED 03 Feb 2004 . BY
A change in licensing law could kill off a great English tradition as circus costs are set to spiral.

From April 2005, instead of needing just one license, all circuses will have to apply for an entertainment permit for each venue on their circuit. As licenses can cost up to £500 each, a circus performing at 40 different venues during a tour could face a bill of £20,000.

The new legislation has angered many circus bosses, as the financial burden might prove too much to handle.

John Haze, spokesperson for the Moscow State Circus, said: “Although, due to our size, I don’t believe the new law will force us to dramatically change our operations, I fear for the smaller circuses.

“I don’t think they have the resources to appoint a person to deal with all the license applications and then find the funds to pay for them.”

However, not even the bigger circuses are entirely safe. Once agreed and paid for, a license covers only a certain geographical area. Should weather force last minute changes to venue, obtaining a new license for a different venue close by could prove impossible.

Haze said: “What the government will also have to carefully consider is that should weather spoil the venue – fields can easily become unusable due to rain – even the bigger circuses will suffer. We wouldn’t be able to pay for a license and staff if the show is cancelled.”

Martin Burton, owner of Zippo’s circus, said: “An additional problem will occur with advertising. We can’t sell or advertise tickets before obtaining a license for a venue.”

“We need to begin advertising around a month before arriving at a site. If the application takes six weeks to clear, as we have been told, then we would need to apply for licenses nearly three months before the first show to ensure we have enough people buying tickets.”

Burton sees the legislation as slowly stifling the industry to death. “The success of a circus depends on its ability to keep moving. This new law all but prevents it. I can't see any travelling circus – no matter how big - surviving the destructive effects of the new law for very long,” he said.

Charles Holland, program director at the Circus Space – which trains and places 20 circus graduates into the industry each year – said the new legislation will have an impact on everybody in the sector.

“Operationally, the law change will not affect us as we have a permanent venue and a license to run it. However, it would affect the students we train as they will find it considerably harder to find employment after completing their degree,” he said.

Arts Council England, which last year announced large increases in its funding of circus and street arts, has written to the government on the subject and is currently awaiting a reply.

David McNeill, from the Arts Council, is concerned that due to the travelling format of the circuses, they are in danger of under representation in the debate.

He said: “Because of the nature of the industry, many circuses are literally administrated from the back of a caravan. They do not have the funds to lobby their cause in the licensing issue like, for example, the large brewers do. They do not even have a local MP to fight their cause.”

“I don’t believe there is any malign intent behind the government legislation, it is just a case of not considering every aspect of the possible consequences. However, this is serious stuff and we at the Arts Council are prepared to speak on the behalf of the circus industry.”

The circus industry attracts around 12 million visitors each year.

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+ More catalogues  
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