A New York Times best selling author has dedicated his latest book to the Father of the Modern Day Circus – Philip Astley.
Astley, who was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1742, has been celebrated worldwide
as well as in his birth town via the help of the Philip Astley Project CIC.
Various events took place in the local area in 2018 and the showman was further
celebrated at the New Vic Theatre in the play – Astley’s Astounding Adventures – which
was a huge success. The performing arts centre at Newcastle-under-Lyme College is the home of a bronze Philip Astley statue (pictured in main image), two steel sculptures now sit on the outskirts of the town centre, one on George Street and the other in Silverdale and street art is emblazoned on subway walls.
And now author Karl Shaw has written a biography The First Showman, The Extraordinary Mr Astley, The Englishman who Invented the Modern Day Circus.
“After I came across Astley I studied some of the work which Andrew Van Buren and the Philip Astley Project had done and I knew straight away I wanted to write about him”, said Karl.
“This is the first time I have written a biography and when I found out there was nothing in the pipeline by any mainstream publisher to do anything like this I couldn’t believe my luck.”
Karl, who has always lived in North Staffordshire, learned about Astley three years ago
and is hoping his book and the continued work of the Philip Astley Project will help to
encourage others to celebrate such a great legacy.
“Philip Astley was one of those people who was once extremely famous and for one
reason or another just seems to have slipped out of the public consciousness,” says Karl.
“Long after his death his name was perhaps the best known and most successful brand in mass entertainment. He left his mark on the history and literature of the age: ‘Going to
Astley’s’ was a familiar storyline used by Dickens, Austen and Thackeray. Within a few
years of his death there were circuses all over the world.
“So for those people who didn’t know about him I hope they enjoy finding out about his
incredible life as much as I enjoyed researching him. You really don’t need to be a fan of
the circus to get something out of it – he was just a remarkable character.
“For fans of the circus who already know something about Philip Astley, I hope I’ve added
to the knowledge of the man.
“Most of all I hope the book will help amplify the excellent work already done by Andrew
Van Buren and others to raise awareness about Philip, the man, and his legacy, and how
important he can be for the local economy. Andrew always says that Philip Astley is “Newcastle-under-Lyme’s Shakespeare” and that’s the main thing people should take from it.”
Andrew Van Buren director of the Philip Astley Project CIC, said: “Karl’s book is the most
complete record of this son of Newcastle-under-Lyme that has ever been published,
combining research from the Brampton Museum research team, myself plus Karl’s own
research which has been skilfully pulled together into a superb hardback book.”
The First Showman, The Extraordinary Mr Astley, The Englishman who Invented the Modern Day Circus is on sale now. More information can be found here.
**Read about Philip Astley on BabaBaboon here.**