Gerry Cottle

Gerry Cottle | 7 April 1945 – 13 January 2021

I met Gerry Cottle at one of my first gigs in 2003, he was kind and treated me like a seasoned pro. What I remember of Gerry was that he warm, sharp and deeply cared about circus. Having lived the cliché and run away with the circus when he was 15, Gerry went on to found his own companies, direct shows and reached the rare status of self-made circus proprietor.

Everybody’s favourite circus intellectual, John Ellingsworth did a nice write up on Gerry’s 2006 autobiography here. In summation; Gerry Cottle had done and seen it all and probably sold you the T-shirt.

And yet despite historic Yo-Yoing financial circumstances and a life time of Big Top touring Gerry seemed to still really care about circus. A few years ago when I listened to Gerry engage in debate at a circus networking event and he still had opinions and a genuine passion for his art-form which was impressive to witness and something that is somewhat lacking from some of the institutions which represent UK circus now.

Gerry Cottle was a true entrepreneur, circus obsessive and will be sorely missed.

Don Robertson – Kindly Charisma

Don Robertson 22 September 1927 – 23rd February 2020

Don Robertson passed away last night at the age of 91. Don led a remarkable life, full of twits and turns and most importantly was a generous, kind human who had the most fantastic sparkle in his eye.

Don was a brilliant performer, father and friend. He will be missed by all those who knew him and by those who saw his work, wether that be live in person or on the internet. Oh, and his Christmas cards were legendary…


At some point I will write something more in-depth about Don, for now you can learn more here. And here:

Nell Gifford – Authenticity


Nell Gifford has died.

Nell Gifford

I briefly met Nell years ago at an event at Circus Space but unfortunately never got to know her personally. I did however know Nell’s work, her shows, books and art.

It strikes me that Nell understood the brilliance of traditional circus, what unique offerings the art form possess and perhaps, what some of the shortcomings built into the art form are.

Nell deeply understood authenticity and based on this philosophy built up a cult following for her circus, which must surely be the UK’s most treasured traveling circus.

I urge those who have not read Nell’s writing to take a look and to see Giffords Circus.

My condolences go to Nell’s family and friends. Nell Gifford will be sorely missed.


Luke and his stories…

This is pretty much what I showed the manager at the casino when I began my croupier-training, just before the frenzied phone calls to the security office in South Africa and the promised addition of my name to the “not allowed to work in a UK casino” database. Oh well, probably all for the best!


Clown down – Rob Torres

Sad to report the death of Rob Torres, who was a remarkable and talented clown and throughly decent human.

I first saw Rob perform in 2010 and was lucky enough to work with him a couple of times in a traditional circus in Italy not long after.

Every show he tried something new and ran over time. It wasn’t his fault. The audience fell in love with him each night and we didn’t want him to leave.

Tragically he’s left us now but for those of us lucky enough to have seen Rob performing he will stay in our memories, almost certainly still over running.

He did clown right.

Remarkable List 4

This post is not particularly relevant to circus, skip to here if you want circus reading material.

Every 12 months I make a list of remarkable stuff I think worth sharing. There’s no affiliate links on this, it’s just for my pleasure.

This year I moved to Glasgow so a couple of the categories are centered around my new neighbourhood.

Here’s my list from 2017…

Things worth watching;


Stuff worth owning;


Things worth listening to;


Places worth eating/ drinking at in Glasgow;


Places worth eating/ drinking at in Stockholm;


Places worth visiting;





Tactile by Luke Wilson


Tactile is a a book by the late Luke Wilson.

That’s all the information you should need.


Luke Wilson is a Juggler

Juggling and other touchy subjects. A collection of essays, blogs and rants.

Some of these pieces are new, and some of them have been rewritten or reworked. But many of the original words first appeared in the pages of Kaskade or Juggling Magazine, or on the screens of the blog or eZine.

Gandini Press are delighted to publish “Tactile” by Luke Wilson, with layout and design by Pola Brändle and introduction by Jay Gilligan. Some of the most thoughtful and considered writings on juggling and the subjects surrounding it.

Limited Hardback only, 100 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9955024-2-0


How were they?

I’ve opened my fair share of novelty-act shows over the years, after my short performance I’ve gone back stage and been quizzed about the audience by performers who were yet to go on. I remember one partular act whould ask me the same question every show, day after day, week after week and I’d answer the same everytime, it became a slightly odd ritual.

We are subjective judges on how an audience reacts to our work. Circus is a particularly difficult art form to do this real time data collection, we physically cannot give the audience all of our attention, all of the time. We cannot impartially survey our audiences reactions while on stage.

Trying to judge if a group of strangers (who are often in the dark and mostly invisible to the performer) are enjoying our work by the noises they make (often covered my music) is probably not an effective data set worthy of any meaningful analysis.

On top of this, the person doing the data crunching is often the person who has just been collecting the data and is doing this post-show digestion after or during an adrenaline rush. Far from an impartial investigation on how one did and what the audience thought of us/our work.

I find the same when I’ve got off stage after group performances I’ve been in. Often performers who have been in the same piece, onstage at the same time have very different interpretations of how an audience was/enjoyed/understood the show. These opinions seem to have a lose correlation with their own success in the show, if ‘performer X’ had a good show (in terms of executing technique) then the audience was positive, if ‘performer Y’ had a bad show then the audience was negative.

If it’s impossible to get an impartial analysis from being on stage we probably shouldn’t give post show feelings based on our own experience too much attention. But where else can we turn to if we want to learn from our mistakes?  We are forced into a feedback loop which we know is flawed but is the best we can rely on given the budget, time and context which the average circus performer typically finds themselves in.

And this is to say nothing about the artistic quandaries about playing to the gallery.

“Every night, after every Penn & Teller show we’ve ever done, Teller and I go out and meet the audience…

Doing this for forty years has made us different from other entertainers. The only feedback other performers get is onstage, so if a crowd is quiet, other entertainers are bummed. But we go out and talk to people, and often the quietest crowds contain the people who are the most enthusiastic and kind when we meet them after the show, when it’s one on one. When I’m seeing a show, the better it is, the quieter I am. I can barely bring myself to applaud when I’m watching (Bob) Dylan. I’m afraid to lose my concentration, to break the spell. After forty years, Teller and I have grown to trust and enjoy the quiet audiences.

You could point out that this is a self-selected sample— that the people who come up to us and wait to meet us are the few people who liked the show, while the rest of the quiet crowd really hated us. You could say that, and you might be right, but you’d be a prick.

Jillette, Penn. Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales (Kindle Locations 2004-2014). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition. “



The years are flying by and yet there still remains much to be done. Luke’s teachings are still echoing in my ears and his friendship still strong in my memory.


“You remember that time when we were in the desert doing that thing, and those crazy guys turned up all talking crazy about the end of worlds, and then that little Mexican kid took our photo and sold it to us for a broken pocketwatch?”

Luke Wilson

Recordings of performances that need to be uploaded, a book to be published and lessons still left to be learned. Through our actions we keep Luke alive.