We’ve all seen The Greatest Showman haven’t we? The musical movie sensation that brought circus back and made us realise Zak Efron is in fact a man. A grown up one, no longer singing at the most inappropriate times, in school.
I have a vague memory of going to the circus as a child, I think I do anyway. Do you ever have those moments when you’re not quite sure if something really happened or you dreamed it did? Or sometimes if it’s your memory or one transferred into you from another person?
I saw that an adult only circus was on in Great Yarmouth, a local seaside town. A great evening out I thought, see if anyone else is up for it. I’d still have gone if not, I’d be one of those lone movie goers at the cinema if I could actually be alone. One of the bonuses of having a PA I guess, you never look alone even if you sort of are.
A good friend of mine (who doesn’t come back to Norfolk nearly enough, hint hint) and her partner happened to be visiting that weekend, we arranged to meet a mutual friend and make an evening of it. Dinner and all.
I delegated myself as lead organiser and booker. Although I do enjoy the whole planning process, it’s mainly because I find it less stressful to do things myself. I know the access questions to ask. Sometimes just saying a place has wheelchair access isn’t enough. Basically I’d rather let myself down then someone else get it wrong. I get less anxious when there’s no middle man.
It was an old school kinda website that doesn’t work brilliantly on a smartphone. I could view enough to gather I needed to call for accessible tickets, thats generally the thing, and to be honest I would have called anyway. Knowing this was an extremely old building, one built when the only people seen out with disabilities were the ones performing in the circus rather than spectators.
‘The Historic Hippodrome is Britain’s only surviving TOTAL Circus Building, built in 1903 by the legendary Circus showman George Gilbert.’
The good news was they did indeed have wheelchair access and I could sit with all of my friends. Quite the bonus considering many venues only offer a seat for one person to accompany a wheelchair user, assuming we don’t have friends. Well Hippodrome realise we do. The bad news was however there is still a charge for PA’s. Many places including cinemas, theatres and concerts offer a complimentary ticket to a PA that is required to enable some people to attend events and socialise. I have friends that are always up for assisting me, and couldn’t be better. But when you need a lot of support sometimes it’s best friends being friends.
Having a free PA ticket can help with reducing the added cost that comes with having a disability. But ho hum, sometimes that’s life.
We met a couple of hours before The Circus Of Horrors, to have fish and chips, because that’s what you do as a tourist in a seaside town. The evening was a little chilly but luckily we had booked a table in the yummy family run HMS Hinchinbrook. This was a new discovery for me and somewhere I’ll definitely be re-visiting.
Great Yarmouth Hippodrome is hidden away down a little alley, it feels part of a community, I love how it just appeared but sort of blended in. It didn’t feel isolated or grand, yet had a greatness and beauty that is earned over time.
I know from a friend that these things aren’t always appreciated as a local inhabitant. They’re just your everyday. As an outsider though it felt like a hidden treasure. I must visit more. But then would visiting more make it less special. Like being local. Anyway, I ramble.
Completely unexpected, access to the entrance was a breeze. I envisioned some old wooden make shift ramp that was far too short and steep, believe me this happens. However was greeted to a wide step-free doorway.
Getting to my seat was a different matter, and much more terrifying.
Wheeling through the foyer and into the circus arena (is that what you call it?!) I came stuck at a flight of stairs heading steeply downwards. A member of staff pointed us to the right where a narrow balcony led to our seats. To get onto this balcony area I had to make a 42 point turn at the top of the stairs. The staff member brought over a box that was put onto the first step down to make a fake step platform area. I was then to use this wooden step to allow me to make my death defying manoeuvre without falling down the stairs. The small, elflike member of staff held the box with her foot, so that it did not slip and take me down with it.
It felt like I was doing some kind of circus act myself, balancing a wheel on this wooden make shift step.
I make this sound terrifying, and it was a little when the possibilities ran through my mind. In actual fact it went extremely smoothly and allowed me to access the arena and sit with my friends. For that I am thankful. Also that I didn’t break my neck.
Joking aside this is an old venue that has done what it can to allow equal (wobbly) access. That’s more than some modern venues do. So go you Great Yarmouth Hippodrome.
I was right in with the audience and didn’t feel segregated at all.
The Circus Of Horrors had a bit of everything. Watching through squinty eyes, (as I can’t physically cover my own eyes!) I was was treated to edge of your seat traditional skilled circus acts. Knife swallowing, contortion, vanishing, hula hooping, acrobatics, a lady hanging by her hair and a man with dwarfism attaching a Henry Hoover to his unmentionables. It was a humorous, disturbing delight. It’s amazing what the human body can do. Maybe more so when your own is pretty fragile.
Circus of Horrors, Psycho Asylum, had this atmosphere that took you back in time. The classic stunts (nothing too shiny) and community feel put the tradition of circus and what it’s all about to the forefront. Skill, hard work, difference, individuality and family.
The clowns were pretty freaky, but I am a person that loves freaky. I like being a bit on edge, not knowing what’s going to happen next. I’m a person that likes experiencing new, the unknown, being in suspense. Feeling alive.
It was a great night out, with one friend I see all the time and others I don’t get to see nearly enough.