Circus Families – Year 6

Here is a news report about a girl called Germaine, who grew up in a ‘Circus family:-

CIRCUS LIFE: ‘IT WAS CHAOTIC – BUT WE WERE ONE BIG FAMILY’

Top talent: Germaine Delbosq

While some of us dream of running away to join the circus, Germaine Delbosq was born into it. She describes her eccentric but magical childhood – and tells Kate Hilpern why she’s happy her daughter is following in her footsteps

Everyone’s heard the old joke about running away and joining the circus. But what if your parents are the ones in the circus? And what if it doesn’t stop there – with your uncles, aunts, grandparents and great grandparents also living the unique and eccentric life of circus performers?

Germaine Delbosq, now 34, had a chaotic childhood, never putting down roots or having consistent schooling, but at no point did she want a more normal one, she insists. “Maybe it’s because I loved the artistic lifestyle. Maybe it’s because I benefited from my family being available all the time. Or maybe it’s just in the blood.”

Germaine’s circus family pedigree could barely be more prestigious. Together with her brother, she is the 12th generation of circus performers on her mother’s side (her grandfather worked for both Blackpool Tower Circus and for the great Bertram Mills, while her grandmother was a ballet dancer), and seventh generation on her father’s. Still today, her uncle, brother, sister-in-law, husband and now her own 13-year-old daughter are all performers, whilst Germaine’s own act of foot juggling with fire on the back of a motorbike is as popular as ever.

 

The act, which she performs for Zippos Circus, is animated, exhilarating and dangerous (her fire cross once snapped and fell on her pregnant stomach, then near the motorbike’s petrol tank). Yet Germaine is softly spoken and has an unexpected sereneness about her. She explains: “My earliest memory is in South Africa. I must have been about three years old. We lived on a train, stopping in different towns. I can remember running up and down the corridor each morning waking everyone up. I felt so excited, so alive. But then, as I got older, I became more introverted and something of a loner. I still am.”

Attributing it partly to her natural character, she also acknowledges that on many of her childhood tours – which took place all over the world from New Zealand to Finland to Sicily – there were no other children present. “I had a brother, but he was seven years younger than me, so I was more like a second mother to him.”

On the tours where there were children, Germaine enjoyed close friendships, but says it was always tough when you had to leave them at the end, often knowing you would never see them again. “The boundary between family and friends is blurred in circus life because you all live together. Yes, there are separate caravans, but they’re just steps away, and you are like one big family for the duration of the tour. On one of my favourite tours, which took place in France, there were 12 children, so we had our own school with a proper teacher, as opposed to the usual home schooling we got – and that was particularly hard when we had to split up to go our separate ways.”

Winters were more conventional. “Home was a house in France, so we’d live there for two or three months out of season and I’d go to school. I loved seeing the same friends there year after year and I welcomed their questions about my latest tour. I was never teased – far from it, they found my life glamorous.” But the consistency and sameness of normal life never took long to bore Germaine and soon she’d yearn to get back on the road. “If ever I did get teased, which wasn’t very often, it was when we were travelling. I guess some children just didn’t know what to make of our lives, which must have seemed so different to theirs. But mostly, kids were just really excited about the circus coming to town.”

Germaine, who speaks five languages fluently, was just six when she took her first steps into the ring to balance on a globe. “There was never an expectation. I certainly never felt forced. But I’d watched my dad do his juggling and my mum doing her trapeze act in awe, and even though I was painfully shy back then, that sheer magic of the lights shining on you and the adrenalin levels rising as you get ready to do something ultimately risky is unbeatable, and I joined in on my parents’ act at any given opportunity. By the time I was nine, I was working on my own act and by 14, I was making my own costumes.”

Because circus performers live outside so many of the bounds and rules of society and the children experience repeated losses, some child psychologists have argued that it equates to inherent disregard for children. But Germaine disagrees. “It was a magical childhood. My family, so many of them, were there all the time, not just the odd weekend.”

Indeed, Germaine would be sitting there eating her lunch and her mother would be there putting on her make-up for the show, while her uncle and grandfather prepared for their clown act. They certainly never had babysitters. “You went with your parents and did what they were doing and if they were performing in the evening, they just made sure you were tucked up in bed first.”

The bubble was to burst, however, when Germaine hit 15. “My parents split up and I stayed with my mum. Obviously, it was upsetting, but it was amicable – it had to be for the tours they still did together. And anyway, you grow up quickly in the circus, so I was more focused on my life by then, in particular improving my act.”

As her parents continued to age, the performances inevitably became harder, says Germaine. “Circus performing is very physical work, so you can’t carry on forever. It’s like football in that way. But my parents adapted. My mum is manager of catering at the circus now, while my dad hires out the tents.”

At 20, Germaine met her husband, an Argentinian tango dancer. “He was the first of his family to join the circus, so he had a very different background to mine. But he adored circus life and we have had a happy, fulfilled life performing. We are well paid, we have our family around us and we still go to amazing countries, as well as appearing on cruise ships and in hotels in places like Dubai, and even on TV shows. Our daughter Corinna, now 13, feels the same way, regularly appearing with my husband dancing and I often catch her practising juggling with her feet in the hope that she will do my act one day.”

Germaine is proud of her, although she worries for her future. “With the opening up of Eastern Europe, where there are some incredibly talented circus performers, the industry is so much more competitive now. But in Corinna’s favour is that she’s naturally more sociable than me, as well as taking things in her stride more.”

Sometimes, there are months on end when Germaine doesn’t see her daughter at all. “There are times she chooses to join her grandmother or her aunty on a different tour and of course I miss her and worry about her. In a vehicle, you are never safe, and there is so much travelling in circus life. At least, if I am with her, I feel I can protect her. But I can’t close her up in a cage. There is a unique sense of freedom about the circus and I have chosen to bring her up in that environment. It would be unfair to take that freedom away from her now.”

Now that you have read this article could you comment on the following:

  1. What are your thoughts about life in a circus?
  2. Would you like/dislike growing up in a circus – explain why or why not?
  3.  What would be the highlights of growing up in a circus?
  4.  What would be the disadvantages of growing up in a circus?

36 thoughts on “Circus Families – Year 6

  1. 1:my thoughts on circus life I that it is exciting,dangerous,fun,and adventurous.
    2:I would like to grow up in a circus because it would be enchanting to preform.
    3:you would be very famous and popular.
    4:you would have no real friends and no proper home.
    Ryan and deili

  2. We think that life in the circus would be fun because you will meet new people and do things that you like as a talent. We would like to live in the circus because it would be fun getting to do different things and learn new skills.but the negative things are that you can get injured.

  3. My thoughts on a circus is good because you get to have fun and the people make you laugh.
    The thing I don’t like about circuses is that people get hurt . The things I love about circuses are that the clowns and acrobats make me laugh and their awesome acts.
    It would be really fun working a circus and we can do what we want.
    We could get bad grades and we might get in trouble.
    Alesha.Anton.

  4. 1) I think that circus life is cruel because their don’t have proper education and they hardly get to see their school friends and they are as a sociable as normal people.
    2) I would like to grow up in a circus because it is fun and people are allowed to go on tour with people you trust and meet new people.
    3)the highlights of growth of circus:
    A) you would be loosen up
    B) you would learn new experience
    4)the negatives of growth in a circus:
    A)you will never be able to get the best education.
    B)you won’t be as social able as normal people

  5. By Hasan and Iasmina

    Our thoughts on the circus is that it is wonderful as they travel all across the world and they can meet many people who have similar skills and talents.Also it is quite risky as there is a possibility of severe injuries.

    I would like to live in a circus as there are many fun activities to do.The best thing about it is that they travel around everywhere .Seccondly all the people in the circus can all be a big family with many talents.

    Growing up in a circus could be quite chaotic as everyone is there and I would like to have a bit of personal space.Also on the other hand some people might find it quite exciting and wonderful as they are all together.

    The disadvantages of living in the circus is that people would want space and not be around other people.Also it could be crowded and hectic.

  6. 1.Like it said in the text it is probably chaos but it would be nice to meet people with many special talents and be part of one big and special family that perform.It is probably fun because you get to travel the world and you get to see and visit many different places.

    2.I would like to perform in a circus as personally I like to be seen with a special talent around the world and as said in the first question it would be amazing to be part of one big family “Daniel and Humaira”.

    3.For us the highlights of growing up in a circus would be learning our own acting and performing it in front of a crowd inside of the big Top.

    4.The disadvantages of living in a circus would be that you wouldn’t t have a normal life and you wouldn’t be able to make many friends and keep them especially if you a younger performer.

  7. We think that life in the circus is really hectic because they are constantly travelling.
    I would like to live in a circus because it would be really fun to beable to the be travelling around the world.the highlights of living in a circus are being able to do different acts and get payed well.the disadvantage of living in a circus would be you would miss out on education
    Lea and zeid

  8. 1) I think it is scary but fun.What I mean by this is that it is scary because you maybe putting your life in danger but it would be fun because you would be famous and known for amazing stunts you have accomplished.
    2)I would like to live or grow up in a circus because then I will get to see the world and I will be famous.
    3)The highlights in a circus would be the stunts or acts you accomplish.
    4)You could die if you have no safety ropes and no safety nets underneath.

  9. We think life in a circus is very different in good ways and bad ways. No because it would be very chaotic and not have that much time with your friends and family.i think the highlight would be preforming and everybody just watching you.the disadvantaged would be not seeing your friends very often and you could mess up on your preformane also you would get very very tired.

    Harris and momina

  10. I feel it’s great that families are all together in that circus and not separated from each other. Though some people have family in the circus who they barely see, this will not put me off the circus

    I would dislike life in the circus, because my life is absolutely perfect the way it is now. I wouldn’t change my life for any amount of money 💰💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💎💎💳💳

    It would never be boring except when you are travelling, which is ALL the time. As well as a highlight,travelling around can be a difficulty. You would never make firm friends as you would always have to move in a few months anyway so you’d never get too attached with anyone.

  11. My thoughts about life in a circus is that, personally, it is a life that I would not want to live as I would find it hard to have to keep moving away from my friends and it would be stressful not being able to settle down anywhere. This is also why I would dislike living in a circus.

    On the other hand, the highlights of living in a circus are that it would be thrilling to learn new routines and have audiences applaud my skills.

  12. My thoughts are it is quit hard because you have to leave your friends and travel around the world at least every day.However it is quit fun ta the same time because the circus people get to explore the different places around the world.
    I would enjoy because fun is always around you and can learn amazing tricks to show your friends. The best part is on your birthday who do you know who gets free circus acts on birthday.some the thing s I don’t like about the circus is it gets kind of upsetting because you have to leave your friends but you have to move on. However , the positive things are you always will have fun and life won’t be boring and like I said you get to travel around the world.

  13. (1) I used to think that being in the circus would be very fun but now I think about the risks,it might not be the fun games I remember when I was little so I wouldn’t like to be in a circus.

    (2) I wouldn’t like to be in the circus because there ar a great number of risks to take on in your time performing in the circus.

    (3) The highlights of being in the circus are you get well pay and you can make people feel a range of emotions like sorrow,laughter,confusion and happiness.

    (4) The disadvantage of growing in one is that you could die at a young age if a trick went wrong.

  14. My thoughts about living in a circus are that living in a circus is quite chaotic but you can achieve lots of talents there, Life can be fun and exciting there because why would it be boring. my negative thoughts about living in a circus is what about education? The child won’t have a normal life.Yes it might be fun but let the child explore the world.

  15. I would like growing up in circus because you get travel around the world and entertain millions of people. The highlight living in a circus is you get to do awesome stunts. You could injure or kill yourself with dangerous tricks.

  16. I don’t think life is circuses are simple and easy because a lot of accidents happen:especially with trapeze and gymnast acts.
    I wouldn’t like being in a circus as you have to work extremely hard travel a lot.
    Highlights of growing up in a circus would be practising for acts.
    The disadvantages of being in a circus is that you would have to be very independent and you wouldn’t get much things you want as a child.

  17. I think I is really satisfying because the lady at the Circus thought it was amazing I think 💭 that as well but the only doubt I have is like if there was a circus only for children 👶🏻 after or has finished they might take your child.an have to work extremely hard even tricks that they could die from it and I would half want to work there. My highlits are learning stuff and doing stunts.Maybey I get serierly hurt and it leads me to dieing

  18. I would like and dislike because your performing day in and day out as your performing lots of eyes are watching you so you could do a trick so if you mess up and your not a clown then people would either laugh at you or just stare.

  19. I think life at a circus would be dangerous but fun because accidents could happen whilst you are performing to a audience. I would like to perform in front of everyone and I would dislike dressing up into a clown etc. You will pick up all of the tricks. You wouldn’t get education you will get taught the circus tricks.

  20. Life in the circus is fantastic because you get to travel to different continents with your family and performing with your loved ones to an amazed audience.It is a great way but dangerous way to earn money.However,soon I would feel that I want to live a normal life like everyone else and pursue a life I want to do,not what my family want me to do.The disadvantages of living in a circus family would be that you don’t have proper schooling and as mentioned not having a job that you want to do.

  21. My thoughts on life in circus:
    I think it’s interesting travelling around the world and entertain people all around the world but also I think it would be a hard time practising the tricks when your not sure how to do it and also I guess it’s fun seeing people happy.

    I would like to grow in a circus because it would be fun travelling around the world to a lot of new places and meeting new friends and also making people happy. Where as on the other hand, I wouldn’t like to grown up in a circus because I wouldn’t have a lot of time to play with my friends and going to school and learning new things because in a circus you don’t have a lot of time in school as you have to practice your tricks. People say it’s hard to keep a track on the shows as you have to practice etc…

  22. In my opinion, circus life is very chaotic and energetic because people in the circus always travel around the world in order to entertain people. People in the circus don’t have many friends because they always have to travel to different places and practise their performances. Even though they can’t see their families, they are like a family to each other. It can be fun at some times, but it can also be a bit depressing because they have to do strain out physical work to earn their living.

  23. My thought about circus life is that it is very hard and you have less time to study and you feel lonely when your a child and the positive thing about is that you grow into a bigger community with people and you eat, sleep and perform together encouraging each other.
    I would like to grow in a circus because it will be fun and exciting.
    The highlights would be you do new tricks you could’ve done before.

  24. It think life in a circus is very hard because you have to move around a lot.So you have to be very hardworking to pull of a great performance and start travelling again.I would like to be in a circus and be an actor because if I had a talent that could be participated in a circus I would love to show it to a audience.One of the main highlights would be your first ever performance to the main crowd.A disadvantage in growing up in a circus is you won’t have as much learning as a normal child and you won’t go that much to school.

  25. 1. Our thought on life at a circus is that they will have an experience on how it is and what acts will be performed.
    2. We would dislike growing up in circus we will have a different life and we won’t be able to see the outside world.
    3.The highlights of growing up in a circus would be enjoying the acts and equipment that would be provided.
    4.Some disadvantages of growing up in a circus is that you won’t be able to see family and friends often.
    By Ahlam and Tiya.

  26. I think it is great to live in the circus because you get a lot of entertainment and fun and you would have a great experience . But it is quite cruel and crazy and people would feel a bit scared to go there. By Alishba and Bukumi

    • I would like to go to the circus because it’s not just an ordinary acting in front of an audience. It is always vibrant, fearless,bold and epic. The circus is a great place to be except from seeing clowns. The highlight will probably be all the performances that you had especially your favourite ones. If I were there I would treasure the ones when I did when I was young. The disadvantages will be travelling a lot if you made a lot of friends at one place and you travell you will miss them very much.

  27. Muhammad memi’s thoughts about life in a circus:
    I think it is interesting because they travel everywhere and perform most of the time and still do cool tricks without being tired.And they also hardly ever see their families which is really sad and cruel.

    Ali’s thought on life in a circus:
    I think the acrobats are interesting because they jump and swing miles apart and still manage to throw and swing each other around.It is also upsetting that they don’t get to see their families.

    Destinys thoughts on life in a circus:
    I think that life in a circus is cruel,upsetting and horrible because the performers never see their families work on very difficult and complex tricks until their perfect for people to pay lots of money to see them work their behinds off for them.

    • Ali’s thoughts on growing up in a circus:
      Likes- I would watching the acrobats practice their acts. I would also like practicing and creating my own acts.
      Dislikes- I wouldn’t like doing dangerous acts like the wire and trapeze acts because I’m a little bit scared of heights.

      Destiny’s thoughts on growing up in a circus:
      Likes- I would like thinking and creating my own act and making a costume for every act I do which would be trapeze,acrobatics,juggling or being a clown.
      Dislikes- I wouldn’t like travelling everywhere or having to set up a really big tent.

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