As the Big Top rise above belton lane, HGreat
As the Big Top rose above Belton Lane, Great Gonerby, a US-based animal rights group called on residents to ‘shun the wild animal circus’.
Animal Defenders International (ADI) said Circus Mondao was one of two circuses in the UK that still uses animals, which they said was ‘an outdated practice’ that ‘compromises’ animal welfare.
The group cited support from the British Veterinary Association, the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe and a study from Bristol University, adding that 43 countries don’t allow circuses to use animnals.
A spokesman for ADI also warned of the potential of protests from “local animal right’s groups” and last month the UK government pledged to ban the use of wild animals, but not horses, from January 2020.
However, the established family circus stresses it loves its animals and is upset at the attention that such opposition attracts, including protests outside performances.
For Cinzia Timmis, the performances represent a sort of homecoming for the 18 year-old, as the circus gives its first-ever performances in Grantham.
Cinzia was Grantham’s First Millenium Baby, born on New Year’s Day 2000, reputedly the last to be born at Grantham Hospital’s Maternity Ward before it closed. At the time, her family lived in Honington.
Animals, as well as the circus, have been all of Cinzia’s life.
The 18-year-old started in the ring aged just four, helping her mum Gracie Timmis with the horses.
At six she performed magic and illusion, at eight she presented pygmy goats with sister Madaline, as well as riding horses in the show.
Aged nine, Cinzia became a showgirl and dancer and everybody loved the cute showgirl in feathers and sparkles. At this time, she was also practising aerial acts.
She’s also been a clown’s assistant, juggler’s assistant, whip cracker’s assistant, and so on.
Like any circus family member, Cinzia mucks in, helping with the animals, selling tickets in the office, helping put up and take down the circus, and when she’s old enough, she will take her HGV licence and help drive the trucks.
Cinzia said: “All my family are born and bred circus people. We were born into it. It meant moving around the country and changing school most weeks. When I was in Grantham, I went to Ancaster Primary School.”
Spilsby and Boston are now considered home, but Cinzia wouldn’t have her life any other way.
“I love the circus life, I have not had a normal life. It’s just fun. Every week, you get to see new places, meeting new people, travelling for free.”
And it’s a life the teenager may never leave, just like mum Gracie and father Jason, who enjoy being part of a circus that has existed for generations and includes performers from across the globe.
“I think I will just stick to the circus. If I ever left, it would probably be theatre work or something with animals.”
Cinzia has a boyfriend Ronaldo and she helps him with his juggling act.
She juggles other activities too, such as being a ballerina on horseback, as well as aerial acts up in the air.
Cinzia continued: “I have my own horse. I have a little dog. We all look after our animals here.”
As for those who want to ban the use of animals, Cinzia had this response: “Everyone has their own opinions but if the animals weren’t happy doing it, they wouldn’t do it and they would run away from us.”
Circus ring master and owner Petra Jackson further defended their use of animals, noting riding schools don’t attract opposition for using animals and neither does TV’s Britain’s Got Talent.
Petra said: “We are fully licensed and regulated by Defra, we have regulations and high standards we have to abide by, which we do and surpass every time.
“Our horses do a little dressage, the ponies and llamas run around the circus ring and camels give rides to children before the performance.”
Petra urges people to come and see for themselves, or at least look on the Mondao Circus facebook page, which includes videos of performances.
She continued: “Our horses are in stables and have water and hay 24/7. They have a stimulated life. They have activities and are not stuck in a field.
“We have dogs that do agility and we have seen that in Britain’s Got Talent. Recently, a performing dog won by walking on a wire. If I put the same act in my circus, there would be an outcry. But the programme shows the British people enjoy seeing performing animals as long as they are looked after.”
But if there’s one person the circus family would really love to see, that would be retired midwife Mrs Pik Yok Allen who delivered Cinzia and was so wonderful.
Petra added: “We would love to invite her to come and see our show and see the little baby she delivered as a high flying circus performer who really has followed in her mother’s footsteps.”
The shows started on Wednesday and runs until Sunday, March 18.