The State Library has been abuzz throughout the summer holidays with Circus activities for children and their parents continuing until 25 January.
It is not just the littlies who’ve been entertained. Circus displays including photographs, books, posters, tickets and newspapers from the State Library’s collections and a film from the National Film and Sound Archive showing Wirths Circus coming to Brisbane in the 1940s have proven to be very popular with “ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages,” in the words of Barnum & Bailey’s ringmaster.
Among the members of the public attending the daily talks and displays (between 11.30 and 12.30) of circus related materials in the Fox Family White Gloves Room have been a number of past and present circus performers.
Chantel Rodriguez, daughter of circus matriarch Jan Ashton, and her nephew Remi both of Xsavia Circus inspected the display and discovered plenty of Ashton family memories. Danica Hilton currently performing with Cirque du Soleil in Macau was also in attendance with Monique Law and her friend Natasha Schultz, grandaughter of circus great Captain Fritz Schultz.
Barry Cannon, aka Beppo the Clown, recounted stories from his life as a circus clown and discovered a newspaper article from 1985 in the display titled “Beppo the clown turns 25”. Beppo is probably Australia’s most experienced full time professional clown and continues to perform his comedy juggling, cycling, hand balancing and novelty tricks.
Mr Carl Jossé of Redcliffe, who came to Australia from Speyer-on-Rhine in Germany in 1953, attended the Heritage displays with his wife Eleanor. Carl and his sister Freya both performed in Australian circuses in the early 1950s, including Wirths, Sole Bros and Sorlies.
Carl played accordian and clarinet and performed as an acrobat and clown whilst Freya amazed crowds with her highflying trapeze work, acrobatics and contortion acts.
Freya performed in Wirth’s Circus between 1952-53 with the famous Jonas Zilinskas before moving to New Zealand and then the USA where she worked for the Ringling Bros. She once performed for Queen Elizabeth II at London’s Royal Palladium before returning to Germany where she lives today.
Circuses have been a part Queensland’s popular culture since the earliest days of the colony and stories of circus life continue to fascinate. Come and share your circus memories and take in the Heritage Displays on level 4 of the State Library’s building at South Bank.
Many thanks to Carl and Eleanor for bringing in their photo album that includes images featured in this story.