...the year modern circus began

Entertainment Entrepreneur

Astley’s artistry combined horses, acrobats, clowns and trick riders within a 42-foot diameter ring, creating a captivating art form that entertained both high society and the general public. At the heart of these performances, Philip Astley himself pioneered the role of Ringmaster, thrilling audiences with his trick riding alongside his wife Patty.

In 1768, Astley acquired “Ha’Penny Hatch” on the south bank of the Thames between London Bridge and Westminster Bridge. In 1770, Astley established the first of his renowned Astley’s Amphitheatres, capturing public imagination. Building on his success, Astley exported this new form of entertainment across Europe, paving the way for circus development in Russia, America and beyond.

How did he do it?

What is

The Philip Astley Project?

Collaborative celebration

Inspired by the pioneering work of Andrew Van Buren and his family, The Philip Astley Project Steering Group was officially formed in 2014 by Cllr Wenslie Naylon and Andrew Van Buren. This initiative united local groups, organisations and individuals to celebrate Philip Astley in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and beyond. The group’s initial focus, in 2016 to 2018, was a £250,000 Heritage Lottery funded project to raise awareness of Philip Astley in the town of his birth and to celebrate the 250th anniversary of his first circus.

Building on success

The Philip Astley Projects Community Interest Company (PAP CIC) was set up in 2018 to consolidate the work of the steering group. The change in name from ‘Project’ to ‘Projects’ reflects their desire to celebrate all aspects of the circus art form, and the people involved. Their purpose is to use the Astley legacy to develop, deliver and promote cultural, heritage and educational activities for the benefit of communities in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire and beyond. PAP CIC is led by a passionate and dedicated Board of Directors, supported by members of the original steering group.

Working with partners, they have delivered many highly successful events but are continuing onwards and upwards by establishing a permanent Heritage and Visitor Centre in Newcastle-under-Lyme – Philip Astley’s birthplace.

Steering group and supporting organisations

250 years of circus

Circus 250 logoIn 2018, we commemorated the 250th anniversary of Philip Astley’s revolutionary journey in creating the modern circus. Remarkable performances, exhibitions and activities celebrated this milestone throughout the UK. Philip Astley Projects CIC remains engaged with a network or partners, including the V&A Museum, Appetite, the National Fairground & Circus Archive at the University of Sheffield, Federation Mondiale Du Cirque, global education providers, and more, making connections locally, nationally and internationally.

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