TRIBUNAL DESK: Exactly 250 years ago on an abandoned patch of land near London’s Waterloo, showman, entrepreneur and equestrian rider Philip Astley drew out a circle in the ground and filled it with astounding physical acts. This spectacle was the world’s very first circus. Including a dazzling combination of jugglers, acrobats, clowns, strong men and bareback riders, Astley had created a whole new art form. And every circus, anywhere, began at this moment in 1768.
This January, the BBC local radio stations’ book clubs are celebrating the greatest show on earth and featuring reads with a circus theme. From Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus to Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, the gritty glamour of the circus has long held a fascination for writers. With its risk and mystery the art form is coloured by both romanticism and menace. As well as taking centre stage in fiction there are also titles which focus on the performers and their often death-defying tricks and expertise. We all need cheering up in January so let the book clubs help you run away with the circus. BBC