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Roll up to see circus master in action

By Lorna Thompson

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THE world's longest-serving ringmaster – aged 83 – will return to Elgin next week 70 years after his last circus stop at Lossie Green.

The Zippos Circus big top will pitch up in Elgin on Monday for a five-day run in Zippos' nationwide tour – The Magnificent Top Hat.

Its leader, Norman Barrett MBE, who holds the Guinness World Record for the longest-serving ringmaster, has worked with legendary greats such as Morecambe and Wise and Ken Dodd throughout his entertainment career after entering circus life at age 12.

Norman was born for the circus. He said: "I've had one of those lovely lives, doing what I love doing, and I'll keep going for as long as I can."

The last of a kind in circus circles, he presides over his team in a fatherly way, affectionately known as Uncle Norman to those who work with him. As well as orchestrating the production, he oversees safety during performances. He insists that all 27 performers shake hands each day, and added: "We have a wonderful team and everyone is of equal importance. We all rely on each other so I work hard to get a family atmosphere going."

Normans father's circus, appearing at Lossie Green, Elgin, in 1949. The Van Dyke's Tricky Tail Waggers was Norman's first dog act 70 years ago.
Normans father's circus, appearing at Lossie Green, Elgin, in 1949. The Van Dyke's Tricky Tail Waggers was Norman's first dog act 70 years ago.

York-born Norman was the eldest son of farmer who had a gift for training animals and showed his skills to a travelling circus. His father was offered a job – later setting up his own circus which was pulled from town to town by 90 horses.

Norman went on to master a number of acts and became an accomplished horseman, falling into the role of ringmaster when he was once asked to step in because he had a good voice. He has travelled with Zippos Circus for 21 years following spells with Bertam Mills at Olympia, Blackpool Tower circus for 25 years and in New York at the Big Apple Circus.

Norman will be back in the ring to present a series of thrilling spectacles and death-defying feats in the current tour, including acrobats and aerialists, contortionists, comics, dancers and knife-throwers. Centre-stage will be the Brazilian Lucius team of five motorcycle riders in the Globe of Death.

The circus will be at Lossie Green on: Tuesday, July 16, 7.30pm preview; Wednesday, July 17, 3pm, 7.30pm and free open house at 11am; Thursday, July 18, 3pm and 7.30pm; Friday, July 19, 3pm and 7.30pm; Saturday, July 20, 3pm and 7.30pm; and Sunday, July 21, noon and 3pm.

Tickets start at £9 for adults (15 years and over) and £7.50 for children and can be booked at www.zippos.co.uk. Children under two go free if they don’t occupy a seat.

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