Boswell Wilkie Circus to close

2001-09-17 18:32

Johannesburg - The magic of spangles and sawdust will bring joy and laughter to South Africa and its neighbours for the last time when the Boswell Wilkie Circus stages its final show in October.

The circus announced on Monday that the touring side of the business would be ceased after difficult economical times experienced by South Africans had finally filtered through to the circus.

The circus will have its final performance on October 13 in Alberton, after which the big top will be lowered and moved to the circus farm at Randvaal, between Alberton and Vereeniging.

The circus will be used for corporate functions and Christmas parties with facilities to hire artists, tents and equipment.

Many older South Africans remember the circus for the performances by its lion, elephants and other wild animals. In line with an international trend, the circus did away with acts involving wild animals a few years ago.

Some of the first racially mixed audiences

Whilma Howe Wilkie, who died at the age of 91 in 1998, brought the circus to South Africa more than 46 years ago.

The circus became an institution after being one of the first entertainment shows to allow racially mixed audiences. It was also one of the first to defy the apartheid government's ban on Sunday entertainment.

Wilkie's daughter, Susie, first performed in the ring at the age of three, while her brother, Robert, was the youngest ever person to become a circus director/manager.

In its time the circus regularly brought artists from all over the world to tour South Africa. It also brought entire circuses from China, Russia and Mongolia and acted as a talent scout for many South African performers who are now working internationally.

The Wilkie family will continue work on a project to give children, particularly the previously disadvantaged, a chance to learn circus skills and develop their talent.

"Kids will be trained in a professional environment in juggling, comedy, acrobatics, tightrope walking and so on," circus co-ordinator Karen Wilkie said.

"As the saying goes 'once a bit of sawdust gets into your blood it stays there forever'."