A brief history of the circus

Friday, December 7, 2018 - 09:44

This December we’re getting set to experience the thrills and daredevil entertainment of a typical turn of the century circus as Circus 1903 take to our stage for their European premiere of a show featuring acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, trapeze and high-wire performers and more.

As Circus 1903 looks back to what they consider to be circus’ golden age, we were tempted 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


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.