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Statue of ‘the Father of the Modern Circus’ is unveiled

4th November 2015

A statue unveiling of Philip Astley took place at Newcastle-under-Lyme College’s (NULC) Performing Arts Centre yesterday.

Statue of ‘the Father of the Modern Circus’ is unveiled
Left to right: Andrew Van Buren, Mayor Sandra Hambleton and Fred Van Buren

Born in Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1742, Philip Astley’s creation of the circus began whilst performing his equestrian shows. He realised it was best performed in a circular ring of a 42ft diameter and by combining other performers into the shows, the ‘circus’ was born and he was then known as ‘the Father of the Modern Circus’.

The statue was unveiled by Councillor Sandra Hambleton and the event was delivered in partnership with the Phillip Astley Heritage Steering Group. Members comprise of local residents and organisations from both the public and private sector with skills or interests in education, history, conservation, arts, entertainment and community development.

Andrew Van Buren, Philip Astley Heritage Steering Group 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.”

Guests invited comprised of key stakeholders of the committee, which included representatives from Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, staff and students from NULC and a number of prestigious circus-related performers.

The statue will be situated in Newcastle-under-Lyme College’s Performing Arts Centre on Knutton Road, Newcastle-under Lyme until Spring 2016 and members of the public are invited to view the statue from Wednesday 4th November.

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.”

NULC opened its doors to their new £5.5 million Performing Arts Centre in early 2015. Facilitates include a 200 seat theatre, air conditioned dance studios, an outdoor amphitheatre, live recording studio and a state-of-the-art rehearsal suite.

For more information contact Joe Hambleton, Marketing & PR Officer on 01782 254265.  Email or


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