When the circus came to Wester Hailes, it was first brought by Reg Bolton whose fascinating career and life included pioneering an innovative concept of “new circus”. During the 1970s, Reg was Director of the Theatre Workshop Edinburgh which ran a variety of community arts projects including original shows for children. Reg became interested in the possibilities of using circus for “education, self-fulfilment and community development”. He developed his Suitcase Circus, taking it to the outer Edinburgh estates including Wester Hailes and Craigmillar during the Festival weeks.
The Wester Hailes Festival Association recognised the impact such an approach could have for young people and the wider community. In 1981, they employed Haggis the Clown, Mike Alderdice who had been on a Youth Opportunity Post with Craigmillar Festival Society. Haggis started circus workshops in Wester Hailes before bringing together a group of young people to form a travelling circus company The Children’s Circus. They toured different venues and were invited to take part in Reg Bolton’s Suitcase Circus International. Pictures of Haggis working with Reg Bolton are on the website Reg Bolton.org which is dedicated to the life and work of Reg. Haggis can be seen in photos from Strood in 1982, and at the Festival Fringe 1984.
In 1982 the Sentinel highlighted the work of Haggis and the achievements of The Children’s Circus. To see the full story and pictures, click here. Festival Circus 1982