Run off and join the circus…or perhaps not

I consider myself an adventurous type, who isn’t afraid of the odd adrenaline inducing, heart palpitation inspiring activity, so the idea of attempting a flying trapeze class caused me excitement rather than distress. So much so that I encouraged two of my nearest and dearest to join me in. After all, running away to join the circus by yourself is no fun.

Although these classes are run throughout the year, I thought it would be better to go during the summer, so I could feel the wind in my face as I swung through the air with the “greatest of ease” and enjoyed the full Tarzan experience.

On arrival, my first thought was how high the trapeze was and how tall the ladder was that you had to climb to even get to the trapeze platform. Oh well, onwards and upwards.

After being introduced to the instructors, we were fitted with harnesses before being shown to the practice area. It consisted of a low hanging bar with a thick mat (imagine you’re back in PE class at junior school and you’ll get the picture). Our challenge was to jump up and hook our legs over the bar. This is something I did hundreds of times in the playground when I was younger, so I knew I’d smash it without any problem. But I’d forgotten one crucial thing, “when i was younger” happened to be about 20 years ago and after getting distracted with the important task of living my life, I’d completely lost the ability to do it. The disappointment and embarrassment of this was only compounded by the fact that everyone before us had managed to do it without hesitation.

My poor performance on the low bar didn’t inspire me with confidence that I’d be able to do the real thing, but the instructors assured us that it would be easier on the full trapeze on account of the momentum of the swing. I wasn’t convinced, but since they’re the experts, I allowed myself to imagine that by some miracle I might actually be a trapezist of Olympic ability once I got up there. Long story short, I wasn’t!

The ladder was as high as it seemed, although wasn’t actually as terrifying when climbing its rickety rungs as I’d expected. However, standing up on the trapeze platform, the ground (and even the safety netting) seemed a very long way down.

Ladder climbing conquered, it was on to the trapeze. An instructor is waiting on the platform for you, so you’re never alone, which I suspect is predominantly for safety, but about 5% because no-one would ever go through with it otherwise.

During the session, you have three attempts to bring your legs up and tuck them over the bar while swinging. If you’re able to do this and the instructor thinks you are good enough, you’ll be offered the chance to try a “simple” trick, known as the knee hang catch. Because any description I can proffer could not attempt to do it justice, here’s what we were aiming for.

Needless to say, my skills did not progress that far, so i missed out on adding that string to my bow, but on the plus side, i left with my life and a small piece of my dignity in tact, even if my ego (and hand to some extent) was battered and bruised.

All in all, I’m glad I did it, but lets just say my presence at the circus will be limited to sitting in the audience for now…although I have always wanted to try aerial silks, so watch this space.


Gorilla Circus
– Outdoor Classes (May to September): Regent’s Park and Kensington Gardens. (3 – 24 August)
– Indoor classes (September to May): Hanger Arts Trust, Unit 7a, Mellish House, Harrington Way, SE18 5NR

Cost: £28 for a two hour session


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