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Turbo-charged entertainment for lovers of circus

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 20, 2013

The Wookey Hole trick cycling troupe who are wowing the audiences at Gerry Cottle's Turbo Circus, which is now on at the Big Top, on Bristol's Creative Common, just next to Temple Meads railway station

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Bristol bids farewell this winter to Creative Common, the temporary creative and enterprise zone created on a patch of undeveloped ground near Temple Meads station.

Since summer 2012, the area has been one of Bristol's liveliest creative quarters, with a mixed programme of circus and live music alongside markets, food events and more.

And Creative Common is taking its leave in style, with a three-week visit from veteran circus master Gerry Cottle and his reformed, Somerset-based Turbo Circus. Visitors can expect a packed bill of 50 circus acts in just 100 minutes – among them sky-high daredevils, rock 'n' roll skaters, illusionists, acrobats and jugglers.

Cottle, who retired from the circus in 2003 and bought Wookey Hole Caves near Wells for his family, has reformed his circus for this tour, which starts in Bristol. The show features the boys and girls of Cottle's Wookey Hole Circus, joined by guest artistes from around the world.

It may be time to bid farewell to Creative Common, but – despite over half a century in the circus – the end is not yet in sight for the 68-year-old Cottle himself.

"It's now over 50 years since I ran away to join the circus as a juggler at the age of 15," he reveals. "I was hooked from the age of eight, when I saw my first circus – one of the big Christmas shows they used to have in London at that time. Circus has been a lifelong obsession for me."

Though Cottle was born in London, his family have links with Somerset.

"When I arrived at Wookey, Wellington Museum in Somerset sent me my family's history. It turns out that we left Wellington in 1808 and went to Tottenham as boiler makers," he recalls.

To Wookey's existing prehistoric caves, penny arcades and restaurants, Cottle has added a circus museum and a large hotel – plus a circus school where many of his performers are trained. Cottle acquired the site as he wanted a base for a circus – but he has been running circuses since the 1980s when he founded Gerry Cottle's Circus, which has toured the world. And, three years after buying his new Somerset base, Cottle missed life on the road.

"After creating a restaurant, theatre and our hotel at Wookey, I found I was getting bored. The choice seemed obvious – to start a Circus School."

The school welcomes local boys and girls, who come three nights a week to train in a wide range of circus skills, and perform at weekends and during the holidays at the theatre.

"The Wookey Hole Troupe are very professional: they have been performing public shows here at Wookey for the last five years, and now have been two years on the road. I believe our ten-handed trick cycling troupe will be featured on Britain's Got Talent soon..."

Then, last year, he decided to take the circus back on the road.

"People kept asking me, 'why on earth are you doing all that again?' – but the truth is that I couldn't resist another crack at a touring circus.

"The local kids who'd been through my circus school for the previous four years were so talented, but they weren't finding jobs. I put them in a circus with ten African acrobats and a few performers from Europe and, right from the start, the team spirit was wonderful."

The newly formed Turbo Circus is making its debut in Bristol before heading up to Edinburgh next year.

Gerry Cottle's Turbo Circus runs until Sunday, January 5, at the Big Top, Creative Common, Bristol

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