Bring a circus into your school...
Make your summer fair an event to remember by inviting a
circus into your school! Not only will this pull in the punters,
but it's guaranteed to produce a tidy profit too.
Having a big headline act at your summer fair can seem a bit
daunting, especially with a large price tag attached! But the
benefits are enormous - after all, how often does the circus come
to town? And right on your doorstep too!
Why a circus?
✔ Pre-selling tickets means a guaranteed audience at your
✔ Having a big top brings a colourful rainproof attraction to your
outdoor event, providing a ready-made wet weather contingency
✔ It will provide impact and excitement to promotional
✔ Whole families will come along for the experience
✔ It will attract an audience from beyond your school gates,
meaning more people browsing other stalls
✔ Most of the work involved happens pre-event. Apart from checking
tickets and supplying performers with refreshments, you can relax
and enjoy the show!
What do you get?
Circus suppliers vary tremendously, with performance times
ranging from 45 minutes to two hours, with little big tops seating
230 people and big tops seating 600 people. Think about whether you
want one big show, several small shows over a couple of days,
and/or circus skills workshops with pupils - where children can
learn the trapeze, how to juggle and even how to unicycle! Cirque
Normandie even offer week-long tailor-made education
programmes, culminating in circus performances featuring the
children as stars of the big top. Help build excitement by linking
your circus with classroom learning, too. Pupils may form part of
the show, with a skills workshop provided to a small group
beforehand. Performers might be selected through a whole-school
competition (see case study below), or chosen at random, or as a
reward for good attendance, etc.
If you're holding your circus on a weekday, will it be a
stand-alone event or 'the big launch' for your fair? Is a 6pm show
time late enough for parents to get home from work and eat dinner,
equally would a 7pm show time be too late for little ones? Can your
PTA serve refreshments and offer a BBQ to help boost profits and
add to the atmosphere? Travel expenses, together with the time it
takes to erect a big top can often make it more cost-effective to
keep your circus for several days, so consider how you can maximize
attendance and therefore profits.
Things to think about...
If you're having any type of big top, you will need enough space
- approximately 50m by 50m. You will need to verify that no
underground pipework is nearby - your school should be able to
supply plans. You may also need several strong volunteers on hand
to help drive in stakes when setting up. Check with your school and
local authority - if they cannot confirm groundwork is suitable
they may not allow a circus.
You will also need suitable access for large vehicles.
If your circus team are staying at your school overnight, they
will probably be sleeping in tents or self-contained trailers on
the school playing field. You will need to check with your head
teacher that the school is happy with this. Access to toilet
facilities and electricity may also be required - it may affect the
cost if toilets need to be hired.
Electricity leads used by third party suppliers should be PAT
You will need to carry out a risk assessment, however, as the
circus is self-contained, these are usually available from your
Ensure that any third party providing equipment has their own
public liability insurance.
Prices vary considerably, but expect to pay between
£1,250-£2,500 per day, excl. VAT and expenses.
You may have to book up to two years in advance to secure a
circus on your preferred date. Prior planning is absolutely
Solutions for small schools
Suppliers such as Circus Pazaz have a little big top, seating
230, which may be better for smaller schools. Consider linking up
with other local schools to share the circus on one of your playing
fields or even a village green. If a big top is beyond your reach,
then companies such as Shooting Stars Circus Skills offer great
education workshops. Its science show - Forces and Motion -
complements KS1/KS2 topic work, where children learn why objects
fall, speed up, change direction or balance, while playing with
diabolos, plate spinning and tightrope experiments. They can even
use their newly-acquired skills in a performance to a paying
Looking for a supplier?
We have a comprehensive directory of
fundraising suppliers, specialising in the PTA/school market.
For those mentioned within this feature, contact:
Jo Griffiths, PTA Secretary, Kings Worthy Primary
School, Winchester (320 pupils), tells us about her circus
success: 'I wanted a fresh idea for fundraising for our school. I
saw an advert for Happy's Circus in PTA+ Magazine, had a
look on their website and was staggered to see the booking calendar
was already full for the year - fortunately they had a
cancellation! Happy's sent us promotional material, tickets and a
CD with every bit of information you could possibly need (including
insurance certificates, selling techniques, planning, etc). The CD
also had suggestions for incorporating the circus into the
curriculum, so I sent the PTFA teacher rep details of
circus-related work for KS1 and KS2. This included clown pictures
to colour in, poems, designing clown cards and information on the
history of the circus.
As part of the run-up to the event, we organised a talent show.
Heats took place in classrooms and those selected as winners by
classmates were put forward for the final in the school hall. Acts
comprised of a Mr Bean sketch, a circus-themed dance troupe and a
street dance squad. In order to raise awareness of the circus, I
walked around the playground wearing a clown wig and a sandwich
board advertising the circus and selling tickets. We sold tickets
for a flat rate of £7.50 each (regardless of whether for a child or
adult) or £25 for four (under-twos sitting on parents' laps were
free). I put up posters all over Winchester as we couldn't expect
to sell all 600 tickets purely to families within our school and I
also emailed other local primary schools. We made a Kitchener-style
poster on an A-frame at the school entrance saying '13 days to go -
have you bought your tickets yet?' and the number of spaces reduced
each day. This acted as a great reminder to the parents and we
shall definitely use this again in the future. I was pleased to
start getting telephone calls for tickets, so I organised for
buyers to collect their tickets at the school office and leave
their payment - we sold all 600 tickets.
The circus crew were very friendly and didn't mind answering my
questions on the day of the event. We organised for the children to
dress in circus-themed clothes for £1, so the audience looked
wonderful! The event was spectacular with lots of "oohs" and "ahhs"
from the audience. At the start of the second half (after a 30
minute interval), the two winning acts from our talent contest
performed in front of the audience - fame at last! We've had so
much positive feedback since the event that we've decided to book
it again. We were thrilled to make £1,800 clear profit from this
event, and would not hesitate in recommending it to other
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