Told to wait in the middle of the circus ring, I know that in five seconds a hat will be placed on my head and set on fire – which is not something I expected when I recently started at the Evening Express.
Each second begins to slow down as Alex the Fireman strides forward and says “Welcome to Zippos Circus, I hope you enjoy your stay”.
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With one spark, the hat is ablaze and I look directly at the photographer and scream fire.
Zippos has returned to the North-east this month celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Ringmaster Norman Barrett MBE returns once again to take the helm as he has done for the last 16 years at Zippos.
The 80-year-old said: “We have a great following up here in Scotland and in particular the North-east – I think people come back to us because we are good clean family fun and people know that they are going to be entertained.
“We are different, when we are putting on our performances, we don’t put it on for them, we want to put on a performance and have them with us.”
Norman introduced two new acts, one involving a horse called Kenzo. Performer Boris Borissov has had Kenzo since he was around 10 months old and performs with wife Roselyne and Albam Bellamger.
At some performances in the UK protesters have demonstrated against the use of animals. However, Zippos – which also has cats and dogs – says its animals are very well cared for and their living conditions have been checked by independent organisations – including the Scottish SPCA. A total of nine horses and ponies are used at Zippos and are cared for by Boris and Roselyne.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish SPCA said: “We have been out to inspect on several occasions recently and there has been no cause for concern.”
Alex the Fireman is new to Zippos circus, but has enjoyed his time in the North-east so far.
He said: “It has been great to be in front of the crowds here; people know that they are going to be entertained. The more people that are here the more fun it is.”
Alex’s act involves being set on fire and entertaining the crowd in a tumbling display with a moving ladder. It was my turn to take centre stage and Alex put a hat on my head then set it alight.
After running around on fire – much to the delight of Norman – Alex put a bucket over my head to douse the flames.
Zippos will be in Peterhead July 15-17, Fraserburgh July 18-20, Turriff July 22-24 and have a final stop in the North-east at Stonehaven from July 25-27.