A brief history of the circus

Friday, December 7, 2018 - 09:44

In December 2019 we're excited to once again experience the thrills and daredevil entertainment of a typical turn of the century circus as Circus 1903 return to Southbank Centre. The company's show featuring acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, trapeze and high-wire performers and more held its European premiere in Royal Festival Hall at the end of December 2018, and we're delighted to welcome them back for more.

As Circus 1903's show celebrates what they consider to be circus’ golden age, we have taken the opportunity to delve back even further. It’s 250 years since the very first modern circus took place, coincidentally just a few hundred yards from where Southbank Centre sits, and so we’ve put together this interactive timeline charting the art’s evolution over those two and half centuries.



With a passion for works that defy categorisation, Southbank Centre is the place to see things you have never seen on stage before. Dance, theatre, comedy, cabaret and all sorts in between, brought to you by international artists and up and coming names. 

upcoming performances

Circus 1903 returns to Southbank Centre in December 2019 through to January 2020. Date, time and ticket information will follow when available.


Note. Timeline information taken from multiple sources, but most prominently Circopedia’s Short History of the Circus by Dominique Jando and Emma Bottamley’s Circus Timeline for The Big Top Debate.