French turn noses up at the circus

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The Independent Online

The "traditional" French touring circus is under threat, owners fear. More than 100 small circuses have ceased operations because they are no longer welcome in town centres and because people object to the noise and the smell of the animals, said Gilbert Edelstein, president of the national circus federation.

Circus-going is a feature of the new year period in France and so are complaints from circus owners. The suggestion that "traditional" circuses are going out of business is a hardy perennial.

Officially, only 72 circuses are registered with the French government, but many other small, traditional circuses operate without official permission.

There are estimated to be 200 small traditional circuses touring France at any one time. Since these often close and reform under different names, the authorities treat claims of circus "closures" with scepticism.

There are also a dozen large traditional circuses touring in France and about 350 "new" circuses, small groups of entertainers, performing without animals.

The small, traditional circuses say they are being pushed out of town centres by a trend towards converting open fairgrounds into formal parks. An alternative site on the edge of even a small town can reduce circus attendance by 60 per cent or more.

There are also growing complaints from non-circus lovers about the noise from the shows and the smell of the animals, Mr Edelstein said. There is also growing tension between the traditional circuses, mostly run by old circus families, and "new" circuses, operated by graduates from "circus schools". The new circuses, most without animals, seem to be thriving.

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