Circus Starr - bringing all the fun of the fair to the children of Cheshire

Neville Wilson in the ring

Neville Wilson in the ring - Credit: not Archant

A Congleton-based circus is bringing entertainment to children who might otherwise miss out, as Paul Mackenzie reports

CHE Oct Circus Starr

CHE Oct Circus Starr - Credit: not Archant

At first it appears there is nothing unusual about Circus Starr. All the traditional ingredients are there – the big top, the ring master, the clowns and the acrobats – but this is a circus like no other.

Another full house in the Circus Starr big top

Another full house in the Circus Starr big top - Credit: not Archant

Circus Starr exists to bring all the fun of the fair to children who might otherwise miss out on such simple pleasures. The Congleton-based charity was formed more than 20 years ago and is now run by South African director Neville Wilson, who really did run away to join the circus.

‘I did have proper job once,’ he said. ‘But I have always loved the circus, it has always held a fascination for me. I like the diversity and the cultures and, in the case of Circus Starr, I like what it does and the benefits it gives.

‘I am always touched by the thank you messages we receive. The benefits people get from a visit to the circus are amazing and the difference it can make to people’s lives is unbelievable.’

Circus Starr tour the UK three times a year, playing two shows a day in 75 towns and cities across the country to audiences of children who have illnesses or conditions that make it hard – or impossible – for them to attend other theatrical performances.

Every year more than £1.3m worth of tickets are paid for by businesses around the country who have established partnerships with Circus Starr and are given to young people in need.

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‘The tickets go children with challenges who can often be excluded from the mainstream,’ Neville added. ‘Children with autism for example can’t always go to the theatre as a family and that can mean the whole family can feel left out but everyone who comes to Circus Starr is in the same boat. Children and their families come and have a fantastic time.

‘I never cease to be amazed by the generosity of businesses – these are difficult times and we have seen a number of companies we have worked with in the past simply disappear in the last five years, but there are still businesses all over the country who are keen to be involved, and we are always looking for more partners.

‘We work with a wide range of children’s hospices, hospitals, community groups, young carers, foster homes and schools in each town – including 4,000 children and their families from across Cheshire every year – and we are about providing inclusion for everyone for families and giving them more confidence that they can go to a theatre.’

The circus was founded in 1987 and its international cast of world-class, professional circus artists performs a different programme every year, with shows designed for their audience. ‘The programme is put together very carefully,’ Neville said. ‘We are catering for a specialist audience, but we could run the show commercially, it is easily good enough.

‘I would love to expand our reach, there are a lot of towns and communities facing challenges where we don’t go – into the Greater Manchester area and Birmingham for instance, and we do very little in the London area. I’d like us to be visiting at least another 75 towns within the next five or six years. That is ambitious, but you have to aim high or you never get anywhere.’

Circus Starr will be performing in Chester on September 27 and in Macclesfield on October 29. To find out more go to