Binky Beaumont returns to Cheshire’s Gandeys Circus

Hayley Gandey-Biggs, Binky Beaumont and Joe Gandey

Hayley Gandey-Biggs, Binky Beaumont and Joe Gandey - Credit: Archant

Clown-turned-car salesman Binky Beaumont is back in the circus ring and loving every minute. Words by Paul Mackenzie

Acts performing in the Gandeys Circus big top

Acts performing in the Gandeys Circus big top - Credit: not Archant

Have you heard the one about the clown who ran away to join a car dealership? No, there’s no punchline about the doors falling off or it being hard to drive with those big shoes – it really did happen. In fact, the pay-off is that after a few years he gave up his job selling luxury cars and went back to the circus ring.

Ian Welsby has returned to the big top as ringmaster of the Gandeys Circus which rolled up rolled up in Knutsford in March and although he’s been involved in scores of shows in the past, he was excited as ever to be back.

‘Gandeys have been in Cheshire for nearly 80 years and Knutsford is our favourite place,’ he said. ‘We are Cheshire’s own circus and hundreds of people have worked with Gandeys over the years, in all sorts of roles, and many of them will be at the Knutsford shows. I can’t wait, it’s going to be brilliant.’

Ian, better known to friends, family and circus audiences as Binky Beaumont, joined the circus after a suggestion from his grandfather who was a friend of Joe Gandey, the second generation of showmen in the family.

Acts performing in the Gandeys Circus big top

Acts performing in the Gandeys Circus big top - Credit: not Archant

‘At school I used to get into trouble for messing around,’ Binky said. ‘I would rather have fun than do exams and I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left. My grandfather played cards with Joe and he said to me ‘why don’t you join the circus’ so that’s what I did.

‘I set up a clown troupe and we started touring and we were having a ball. Gandey’s was the biggest show in the country and Britain’s best circus.

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‘My father and grandfather were chemists and my two older brothers both did normal jobs but I was having fun. My parents thought it was just a phase but we toured all over the country and had a wonderful time.’

In the early 1990s Gandeys began to adapt their productions and diversified into producing ice shows Cirque Surreal, the Ladyboys of Bangkok and the Chinese State Circus which will be touring this year for the first time in three years.

Acts performing in the Gandeys Circus big top

Acts performing in the Gandeys Circus big top - Credit: not Archant

After the 1993 summer season in Blackpool, Binky retired the clown act but continued to work for Gandeys for three or four more years. ‘In about 1996 or 1997 I decided it was probably time to grow up a bit and settle down and by chance I met someone who pointed out an advert for a car salesman with Jaguar,’ he said.

‘Within six months I was the best performing salesman in the country for them. I was never good with figures but I have always loved meeting people and talking to them. I had to become Ian Welsby again. Binky Beaumont doesn’t sound right to some customers. I sold over 3,500 jaguars in Manchester.’

But the magnetic attraction of the circus ring was pulling him back and after more than a decade in the showroom he received a call asking him to ringmaster of the Gandeys Christmas shows in the Chanel Islands. He managed to take six weeks off work and loved being back in the ring.

‘Once there’s a speck of sawdust in your blood it never leaves you,’ he said. ‘Financially it was very good to be with Jaguar but I missed the shows and the family.’

The new show which opened in Liverpool in February has dates in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Birmingham and it’s still a family affair. Three generations of the Gandeys have overseen the development of the business from music halls to traditional circus to the range of productions they are involved with today and the fourth generation is already taking part.

Hayley Gandey Briggs – who performs an aerial rope act in the latest show – is the daughter of directors Philip and Carol Gandey and the mother of Joe, named after his great-grandfather who first gave Binky a job.

Little Joe made his debut in the ring in the ‘Gandeys, Your Circus Awakens’ show, being carried on at the end by Hayley, who met her partner Nikolai when he was performing a wheel of death act.

Binky added: ‘Hayley is my god-daughter and it’s nice to be working with her and the family again. I’ve always been treated as a bit of an add-on to the family and to be there when the fourth generation starts out is a bit special as well.’ w

For more information on shows, dates and tickets, go to

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