‘A world unknown to most of us’ - Circus Work exhibition lands at Harley Gallery

Welbeck Abbey circus events, famous photographer Peter Lavery gave a talk on his decades long project to photograph circus families which is on exhibition in the Harley Gallery
Welbeck Abbey circus events, famous photographer Peter Lavery gave a talk on his decades long project to photograph circus families which is on exhibition in the Harley Gallery

For anyone who has ever dreamt of running away with the circus or simply wondered what life is like for the jugglers, clowns, and acrobats, a new exhibition at The Harley Gallery near Worksop captures what goes on behind the scenes at the Big Top.

Acclaimed photographer Peter Lavery has spent the last 50 years following and photographing circuses the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland.

A photo from the exhibition: .Jana 'The Little Devil' Roberts backstage at The Blackpool Tower Circus in 2005 where she performs acts including a diabolical triple fire hoop trick

A photo from the exhibition: .Jana 'The Little Devil' Roberts backstage at The Blackpool Tower Circus in 2005 where she performs acts including a diabolical triple fire hoop trick

His new exhibition, Circus Work, is the first to document the five-decade-long project and is showing at The Harley Gallery on the Welbeck estate until April 15.

Taken in both black and white and colour the intimately detailed, large-scale photographs show circus performers relaxing while off duty- practicing, getting ready to perform, part made-up and costumed, and “revealingly off-guard”.

Lisa Gee, director at The Harley Gallery, said: “Peter Lavery’s pictures capture a world unknown to most of us.

“He takes us behind the curtain to see the grit amidst the glamour, the contrast between the mundane and the magical, and reveals the hard work and humanity of this unique community.”

Lola Ward and Rubi Ward master the art of hoola hooping and plate spinning in the Circus Hub workshop.

Lola Ward and Rubi Ward master the art of hoola hooping and plate spinning in the Circus Hub workshop.

The son of a miner, Lavery developed an interest and passion for his subject when he dropped in on a small indoor circus in his home town of Wakefield in 1968.

He said: “I was immediately struck by the disparity between the outward exoticism, the finery, the sequined costumes, the plumes, the elaborate display and backstage ordinariness. “At once I was enthralled by the sounds and the smell, but I had no idea the subject would capture and hold my imagination for the best part of five decades.”

To mark the launch of the exhibition, youngsters visiting the gallery also enjoyed a Circus Hub workshop, trying their hand at juggling, hula hooping and plate spinning.

For more information on the exhibition and upcoming workshops, visit www.harleygallery.co.uk or call 01909 501700.

Welbeck Abbey circus skills, Holly Southwell

Welbeck Abbey circus skills, Holly Southwell