Standon Calling to the far-away clowns


We've heard about audience participation, but this is ridiculous. Standon Calling is inviting punters to become a fully fledged part of the entertainment at the Hertfordshire-based festival this summer – by training them up as circus performers. By purchasing an extra £50 add-on ticket, attendees can rock up at the site two days early (Wednesday 31 July; camping and all other facilities will open specially for the purpose) and spend those days doing classes as part of the Standon People's Circus.

You'll be able to enjoy a pint in the on-site pub, The Strongman's Arms, between academic sessions including "the science of building a human pyramid", "the art of whipping", "conquer your fear of clowns", "art macabre life drawing" and a "circus smell safari". The art of illusion, fire-juggling and slack-rope walking will all be on the prospectus.

At the helm of the mayhem is circus legend Gerald Barclay Balding, the co-founder and ringmaster of Gifford's Circus, who has also worked with Cirque du Soleil. "The important thing is fun," he says. "It's contagious. We are going to introduce people to talents they may not know they have. If, when they leave, they have developed a taste for sawdust, who knows where it could take them."

Many who enrol will be offered the chance to perform alongside the professionals in the Big Top, in themed sideshows, and nestled in secret areas over the weekend. Friends and family of performers can also buy a £20 add-on ticket to get in early.

If you don't fancy performing, you can try a 90-minute trapeze class with the Gorilla Circus (or pay a few pounds for a single swing). "Flying through the air, 40 feet off the ground, gives you the best view of the site and is the most energetic way to be a part of the festival antics," claims trapeze tutor Ezra Trigg. Who are we to argue?

Standon Calling, 2-4 August,