Forty years ago this week, we interviewed ‘ancient acrobat’ and circus performer Johnny Hutch, who made his name performing at the Middlesbrough Empire when he 14. At 64, he won the World Circus Championships, and helped establish Zippos Circus.
We reported: “Johnny Hutch, aged 66, has been throwing his meagre weight about on stage since he first set foot on the boards of the Middlesbrough Empire 53 years ago. And with his comedy acrobats, Johnny Hutch and the Halfwits, he is currently delighting audiences at the Hippodrome in the pantomime Babes in the Wood. But Johnny (real name Hutchinson) revealed that he is finally thinking of hanging up his leotard when he reaches 80.
He said: “Yes, I think I’ll get the carpet slippers out then, put my feet up in Wimbledon and write a book.” The plan certainly contrasts with the bizarre japes he is now performing. He explains with a deadpan expression: “It’s very simple. I just hurl myself from a trampoline, deftly clearing the obstacle of a gymnasium vaulting box.”
But the real clue to his humour lies in the fact that this otherwise conventional routine is accomplished while dressed in the prim garb of a grandmother. Asked if his claim to be the oldest performing acrobat in the world might be challenged by any obscure circus veterans, the reply was unequivocal. “They could scour the hidden valleys of the Himalayas and still not find another as ancient,” he said.
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