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Get the circus bug at Weston Park May Fayre

Human-sized bees, butterflies, beetles and ladybirds from the Insect Circus will premier their show at the Weston Park May Fayre to help the National Fairground Archive (NFA) celebrate its milestone 20th anniversary.

Families can take a step back in time at Weston Park, Sheffield, on Sunday 18 May 2014 when the Insect Circus will pitch up its big top for the first show of its kind. After gaining a cult following in theatres and at outdoor festivals across the country, the Insect Circus will be the headline act at the Weston Park May Fayre, which is organised by Sheffield City Council and The University of Sheffield.

Traditional entertainment at the free event will include fairground carousel rides, a helter-skelter, classic and vintage cars, Victorian characters and a miniature steam train. There will also be live music performed from a restored Victorian bandstand and refreshment stalls.

The NFA at the University of Sheffield Library is a unique collection of material covering all aspects of the culture and history of travelling fairs and entertainment from the 1800’s to the present day. The NFA has supported the founders of the Insect Circus, Mark Copeland and Sarah Munro, for the past seven years helping them to develop their show where performers dressed as insects present a medley of acts.

Paul Billington, Director of Culture at Sheffield City Council, said: “The Weston Park Fayre is always such a fun, family-friendly part of our events calendar and it’s due to be bigger, better and really awe-inspiring this year thanks to the Insect Circus. I’m sure people of all ages will be enthralled by the performers and their amazing costumes.

“With the impressive Weston Park Museum as a backdrop, this event will certainly be one of the highlights of the year in the park and a great way to mark the 20th anniversary of the NFA.”

The Insect Circus’s menagerie of performers includes the addition of a new six-foot oriental snail, a villainous Vespa called Jasper, an Iberian stag beetle and the worm charmers of Indistan. The circus will be open at Weston Park from Friday 16 May, culminating in the fayre on 18 May.

Mark Copeland, co-founder of the Insect Circus, said: “We are delighted to be part of the NFA’s 20th year celebrations at the Weston Park May Fayre because the association has always been massive supporters of our circus and has helped shape who we are today.

“We’ve been really encouraged by the support and interest we’ve received while performing at theatres, festivals and other outdoor events so we have decided to pitch up our big top for the first major show of our own. It will be fantastic to showcase our talented performers to more people.

“Our latest production is a scaled up version of our original show and we’re really excited about performing it in such a grand setting. Weston Park will also see the premier of our new act – a six-foot dancing snail called Sybil, which is guaranteed to amaze people. We hope to see as many people at the fayre as possible.”

The NFA is celebrating 20 years since its opening at the Western Bank Library. It was inaugurated by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Sheffield in 1994, with the support of the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain and the Fairground Association of Great Britain. It is a unique collection of photographic, printed, manuscript and audiovisual material covering all aspects of the culture of travelling show people, their social history and everyday life and the artefacts and machinery of fairgrounds.

The NFA collects materials and artefacts relating to fairs, shows, magic and illusion, circuses, seaside resorts and amusement parks and many aspects of variety and performance.

Its collections are continuing to grow with 80,000 images in the photographic collection, audio and visual material, journals and magazines and nearly 4,000 monograms. The collection also includes vintage programmes, handbills, posters, plans and drawings.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of the National Fairground Archive, said: “To be celebrating 20 years of the NFA is absolutely fantastic and we couldn’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate this milestone than the Weston Park May Fayre, where the Insect Circus will be our star attraction.

“It will be the first time the circus has performed from their own big top and the first time ever a circus has come to Weston Park, so we hope as many people as possible come and enjoy the vintage-themed, family-friendly fun.”

Various fundraising activities will also take place at the event, which takes place between 11am and 5pm, for the Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity. The NFA has also invited children being cared for at the Sheffield Children’s Hospital to the event and for those too poorly to attend some of the circus characters will be visiting the children’s ward at the hospital in May.

To purchase tickets for the event visit www.insectcircus.co.uk.