Circuses across the UK will be forced to close within weeks if the government does not allow them to reopen before the school summer holidays.
This is the warning of the Association of Circus Proprietors, which has criticised the government for failing to include circuses in the list of businesses that will be allowed to reopen on July 4.
According to the association, circus owners expected to be allowed to open again shortly after July 4 but were “shocked” last week when they were not included.
John Haze, from the ACP, said: “Circuses cannot be regarded as theatres. Circuses have mobile seating, which can cope with a certain amount of social distancing by reconfiguring the forward-facing seats, and side walls can be lifted to allow a flow of air through the big top, and box offices and food outlets are outside.”
He added: “The crucial thing is time is rapidly running out for circuses. Theatres in the main tend to be dark during the summer months so they do have a little more time, whereas circuses must be open in time for the school summer holidays. If this deadline is missed it will certainly be the end of the road for most of the UK’s circuses. There appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel and the future of a 250-year-old British invention is under urgent threat."
Haze said there were more than 30 circus companies operating in the UK, which also receives international companies such as Cirque du Soleil, the Moscow State Circus and the Chinese State Circus.
Equity is backing the call, saying circus is effectively an outdoor event.
In a letter to culture secretary Oliver Dowden, Equity general secretary Christine Payne said: “The circus is the only professional live performance many people ever see. It is for families, and - for all we must go on protecting ourselves against the virus - families benefit from sharing such experiences, they strengthen society.”
She added: “It is an affordable, portable art form for all communities. Circus performers live on site in their caravans, so they are always in a ‘bubble’. Since lockdown began, circuses have been stuck in situ, so each group’s bubble is even more strongly established. Please allow circuses to open on July 4. Let the show begin.“
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been contacted for comment.