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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA

Young People across Greater Manchester celebrate Victorian Black British circus owner Pablo Fanque

By Steve Cooke

Five groups of young people across Greater Manchester have taken part in creative workshops with multi-disciplinary artist Jade Williams to explore and celebrate the first Black British circus owner, Pablo Fanque.

Pablo Fanque was born William Darby in Norwich in 1810. After apprenticing to circus proprietor William Batty as a child he became an extremely gifted tight rope walker and acrobat and a highly respected and admired equestrian. With his own circus he toured all over England, Scotland and Ireland, but most frequently in Manchester, Lancashire and Yorkshire. His extraordinary shows became the most popular for around 30 years, often having extended seasons.

Pablo was known to host benefit nights with proceeds going to members of the community in need. The most famous of these was in Rochdale in 1843, for the benefit of Mr Kite, which was immortalised in 1967 when John Lennon came across an old playbill for the event and was inspired to write The Beatles song Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite.

Jade Williams is a dancer with a strong grounding in Afro-Brazilian dance, a writer, poet and performer. The core value of her practice is to connect with people through movement, words and creative play, to allow others to engage with their instinctive creative nature.

Jade's tour of five schools and organisations across Greater Manchester reignited Pablo's Fair to inspire pupils to create their own circus in Pablo's honour, with a focus is on being as creative as possible using dance, music, drama, craft and more, allowing young people to express themselves and improve their wellbeing and confidence.

Jade said: “Creativity, wellbeing, local history and Black British history are all important for young people to engage with and be made aware of. Young people are at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter campaign and are the new generation fighting for change and greater inequalities for all, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, abilities etc. I feel the content of this work will encourage them to engage further and spread further awareness of Britain’s shared history.”

In exploring Pablo Fanque it is hoped the workshops will inspire young people to explore more local Black British figures, past and present, with a view to honouring them in a creative way.

For the culmination of the workshops each of the five groups have created a short video which are presented as acts in a virtual circus of the imagination: Medlock’s Marvellous Masterpiece, Chatsworth’s Happy Circus, Pablo’s Cool Circus (Redwood School), Funky Monkey Donkey Land Circus (Holy Name) and Circus of the Greats (Pathways).

The culmination event airs on the Coliseum’s Social Media channels in a available on the Coliseum’s website and YouTube Channel.


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