Written evidence submitted by Chris Barltrop



A briefing note on the flexibility and adaptability of touring circuses

In preparing for Phase 3 of the easing of lockdown, there is a danger that Classical / traditional circuses will be handicapped by rules designed for fixed venues. 

Touring circuses operate in a unique way, quite differently from fixed auditoria and entertainment venues. Because circuses are tented, they are classed as ‘outdoor’ events. It is vital to the reopening process that this uniqueness is recognised in Task Force recommendations and regulations.

Each circus troupe is autonomous; every aspect of their operation is dealt with ‘in-house’ and can thus be adapted or rearranged at short notice as circumstances dictate.  This includes the layout of each circus site, and also the internal layout of seating and public access within the Big Top.

Flexibility is part of what circuses do.  Unlike fixed venues, circuses have no rigid layout where the public would be too close together.  A theatre or public hall can’t move its doorways, stairs, or passages.  In a circus, portable seating can be set up in suitably adapted configurations to maintain distancing.  Gangways can be widened.  Wider gaps can be left between seats as they are set up.  Because entrance and exit doorways are via tent flaps, it is a simple matter to change their position.

Because of this flexibility, social distancing can be more easily maintained than at fixed venues.  If it was compulsory for audience members to wear a face-mask, they could perhaps be allowed a shorter social distance.  Queueing can be arranged to separate those entering and those leaving, and also those using catering and toilet facilities. 

Ticket sales are from a point outside the Big Top, so the public remain outdoors while buying.  This avoids the necessity for ticket sales to be ‘on-line only’.

Hand sanitiser can be made available as required.  Staff can be delegated to extra customer-care duties,  ensuring social distancing between groups and both reassuring and advising visitors as to special measures.   Seating is all hard-surfaced, so can easily be sanitised between performances, either by hand-wiping or by spraying / misting.  Hospital-grade liquid sanitiser can be dispersed by theatrical ‘fogger’ machines which circuses already have – the whole interior of the Big Top can be sanitised after each performance.  

Chris Barltrop BA (Hons)



25th May 2020