Performer from Radwinter set to be centre stage again as circus comes to Saffron Walden

PUBLISHED: 11:26 18 May 2018 | UPDATED: 11:26 18 May 2018

Chris Barltrop in October 2013. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Chris Barltrop in October 2013. Picture: CONTRIBUTED


When Santus Circus opens on the Saffron Walden common on May 23, the ringmaster will be very much on ‘home ground’.

Chris Barltrop, aged 70, grew up in Radwinter, went to school in Newport, and lived in a cottage on East Street in Saffron Walden with his wife and daughter before touring with the circus full-time.

After training as an actor, he joined a circus company in 1973 as a ‘fill-in’ job when his daughter was six-months-old, and went on to become one of the country’s leading ringmasters.

Chris said: “I saw an advert to join the circus, offering accommodation, and at the time I was doing different jobs, driving lorries, doing night shifts at the plastic factory, so I signed up. I was putting up posters for a few years before they asked me to be the ringmaster.”

Highlights of his career have been working with the Moscow State Circus on tour in Britain, appearing in two Royal Variety performances, and ring-mastering 15 successive Christmas circuses in French in the city of Toulouse.

“I worked with the Moscow State Circus for six or seven years and it was a privilege to work with them, that was terrific. I think I have been very lucky. I am very proud to have been allowed to join such a vibrant community.

“But it is like a love affair - one minute you’re incredibly passionate about it and the next you hate it. It’s a way of life, rather than a job.”

Chris’ daughters, Rebecca and Charlotte, also joined the circus for a time; Charlotte, who now works in computer training, was a wire walker and a trapeze artist and Rebecca, who is now a professional artist, was a horse trainer.

Chris said: “Both daughters grew up in the circus - they have had a very varied life.

Chris, who now lives in Herefordshire, stopped touring full-time in 2000 to return to his career as an actor and in theatre.

“I wanted to go back to the theatre and pursue that career - you don’t have time to do anything else when you’re touring full-time.”

He has written a 50-minute play called Audacious Mr Astley, which reveals the true story of the birth of the circus 250 years ago through the eyes of the man who unknowingly conceived it.

In the meantime, Chris is returning to Saffron Walden to help out the Santus Circus, appearing as the ringmaster on May 23 and May 25.

He said: “The Santus family are old friends from my first days in the circus business. I’ll be performing with them for their first show in Walden, and for a couple of their other performances.

“It’s great to be back in town for a few days, and I hope old friends will pop in to say ‘hello’ while I’m there, as well as to see the circus performance.”

The ticket office will be open on the common from Monday morning, or you can ring to book on 07843 884787.

Show dates and times are at

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