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Tom Gaskin: juggler

Tom Gaskin. Photo: Bertil Nilsson

Gentleman juggler Tom Gaskin has circus in his blood. At 14, he started as a spotlight operator and ring boy at Great Yarmouth’s Hippodrome Circus. A former National Centre for Circus Arts student, he has already set up a company, Circulus, with other NCCA graduates. Its show Silver Lining was part of this year’s CircusFest at London’s Roundhouse

What is your family connection to circus?

My uncle was a circus clown who performed with his father as Gary and Nono. When I was little I would go and see his Stevenson Crown circus. He had a Wild West show and owned an amusement park called Lowther Park in Cumbria where they had their tent. An early memory is that they had a ring mistress. I noticed her leg was sticking out from her dress. My uncle also performed at the Hippodrome circus Great Yarmouth, near where I grew up, when it was owned by Billy Russell. I remember seeing elephants there.

Did the Hippodrome give you a good grounding?

Absolutely. I worked my way up from candyfloss seller to lighting technician to head of ring crew. For the Hippodrome’s water show we’d have to lift the carpets out and connect all the fountains up. At the end the ring is something like a big wooden disc that drops down to reveal the water and you have to turn the winches by hand. But I was also always trying to get myself little roles in its shows.

Did you always fancy being a gentleman juggler?

Yeah, I always liked the clowns and jugglers the most. I started working on the gentleman juggler thing at circus school. Once, when I went home my brother was watching a home video from 1992 of me sitting on my dad’s lap when I was one watching the Paul Daniels TV show. And with us was this gentleman juggler called Buba. I’d found him on video at school and thought he was amazing and wanted to learn his tricks and there he was in our home video.

Are you leaning more towards traditional or contemporary circus?

Circulus perhaps comes from a more traditional background but Silver Lining comes from more of a contemporary – or mixed background, like dance and theatre. Hopefully we’re doing the best of both, really. For people who don’t know circus you really have to sell them the art form to let them know how difficult things are and get the best response. But what we want to do is to create circus that is entertaining, primarily.

If not the circus what else?

I was actually on my lunchbreak from school walking round to the cafe, and there were two people staring at me. They asked, ‘Are you a model?’, and I was like, ‘No, I’m a juggler’. But two days later I had my first shoot with i-D magazine and two weeks later I got a job with Alexander McQueen. I’ve been doing quite a lot with them ever since.

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