Circus! Show of Shows
6 October 2018 – 3 March 2019
Part of a nationwide celebration of 250 years of the circus, this exhibition focuses on Great Yarmouth’s historical and modern links to the British-born institution.
Featuring over 70 costumes, props, posters, photographs and objects drawn from collections across the country, this exhibition explores 250 years of the circus in Britain, including the history of black performers, historic and contemporary examples of women in circus, and the use of animals within shows.
Highlights include the costume of Norfolk’s ‘Clown Roma’, aka Marcus La Touche, which is on display for the first time, a taxidermy ‘boxing kangaroo’ that performed in Norfolk, and four clown eggs – physical records of a clown’s unique face paint recreated onto a hen’s egg.
Alongside tales of fun and laughter, the show also explores a particularly poignant local story – the Great Yarmouth suspension bridge disaster of 1845. This catastrophe saw over 70 people drowned when a bridge collapsed as a crowd of hundreds gathered to watch ‘Nelson the Clown’ travel along the river in a bathtub pulled by geese – a moment depicted vividly in an oil painting by CJW Winter.