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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 8 April, 2003, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
The circus comes to the Circus
Acrobats used springboards to fly over the statue of Eros
A series of stunts and acrobatics have turned London's famous Piccadilly Circus into a real circus for the day.

Artists from the UK, Romania, Russia, Bulgaria, Mongolia and China teamed up to celebrate National Circus Day on the anniversary of the birth of the modern circus 235 years ago.

On Tuesday performers were catapulted off giant springboards, contortionists bemused passers-by outside Hamley's toy store, and others span plates on rods.

The modern circus was invented by a former cavalry sergeant-major, Philip Astley.

He opened a riding school near Westminster Bridge on 8 April 1768, where he taught in the morning and put on trick-riding displays in the afternoon.

He performed his stunts in a ring 42 ft in diameter, which is the size used by circuses ever since.

In 1770 he brought together the elements of the modern circus by hiring acrobats, tightrope walkers and jugglers, and using a clown to fill in the pauses between acts.

He later opened the first circus in Paris. He died in 1814.

Circus stunts thrill crowd
08 Apr 03  |  Photo Gallery


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