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The greatest show must go on

Features | January 2018


Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey closed down this year but other circuses, in Britain and America, have found new ways to excite their audience, says Dea Birkett

It’s a late evening at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, and there are more than 200 people standing on the stadium floor. There are acrobats, jugglers, clowns and ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson, standing tall among them – all six foot four of him, plus his red and gold top hat. He’s stood with these people for almost twenty years and for more than 10,000 performances. He was just 22 when, in 1999, he first wore the Ringling ringmaster’s scarlet jacket. But this was the final show, held earlier this year.  Iverson remains optimistic. ‘Shows don’t close,’ he tells the audience. ‘Circus is a community. This is about our culture. This is about our home.’ After 146 years on the road, the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus was shutting down. The 15,000-strong crowd – who’d come to witness the closure of an American icon older than Coca-Cola –...

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