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The Philip Astley Project – Celebrating the father of modern-day circus

THOMASON, Carmel (2019) The Philip Astley Project – Celebrating the father of modern-day circus. Project Report. Staffordshire University. (Unpublished)

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Abstract or description

A Heritage Lottery funded programme, The Philip Astley Project aimed to raise the profile of Philip Astley locally, nationally and internationally and to reaffirm Newcastle-under-Lyme’s role in circus history.
The project ran in parallel to Circus Past Present Future an Arts Council England Ambition for Excellence funded programme led by the New Vic Theatre. Although the projects focused on different objectives overall, both worked with multiple stakeholders to deliver high profile activities with the shared aim of celebrating Philip Astley and the 250th anniversary of the modern-day circus during 2017 and 2018.
Philip Astley, who was born in 1742, is known world-wide as the father of the modern-day circus. However, initial research carried out by the University in 2016 revealed that in Newcastle-under-Lyme, the Staffordshire town where Astley grew-up, only 11% of 2800 people surveyed had heard his name and fewer still knew of his connection to the circus as we know it today.
Although Astley didn’t invent the many acts we now see performed under the umbrella of circus, he was the first to bring different acts such as clowns, acrobats and jugglers together in one show, and his 13m diameter circus ring is still in use today.
The 250th anniversary of circus, being celebrated nationally in 2018 under the banner of Circus250, provided a timely moment to raise awareness of Astley’s family connections to Newcastle-under-Lyme, which can be traced over 100s of years. The overarching aim of the Philip Astley Project was to raise awareness of Newcastle-under-Lyme’s heritage link to circus in a way that would bring the past to life in an engaging and accessible way, raising pride in the town’s history.
Staffordshire University co-ordinated the project, working with multiple stakeholders to deliver a wide range of activities including workshops, talks, school events, an exhibition and a family festival. Carmel Thomason was the academic and project lead.
Carmel used the project as an opportunity to connect students to the wider community and to the heritage of the area in which they are studying, boosting community coherence among groups that live side-by-side but are often disconnected. More than 200 staff and students were involved from three of the University’s 6 schools, involving students from 7 different degree courses at levels 5, 6 and 7.
In total more than 28,900 people have been directly involved in activities and the project has reached more than a million via mainstream media, social media, a dedicated website and an online educational resource pack, which includes activities for schools.

Item Type: Monograph or Report (Project Report)
Faculty: School of Computing and Digital Technologies > Film, Media and Journalism
Depositing User: Carmel THOMASON
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2019 14:37
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:55
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