Check that you have space for a big top (usually a flat area with short grass of approximately 50m2), and that there is no underground pipework on the proposed site. Agree some preferred dates, bearing in mind that you may have to book up to two years in advance! Avoid selecting a date that clashes with any other local (or major national) events, as this could affect ticket sales.
Find a supplier. There are several recommended circus suppliers listed in our online directory, so it shouldn't be difficult to find one that suits your school size and budget. Some offer 'little' big tops seating 230 people while others have 'big' big tops seating an audience of up to 600. Is your circus going to be a stand-alone event or part of the summer fair? Think about whether you want one big show, or several smaller shows. Some circuses will need to stay overnight, so check this is possible before confirming your booking. Access to an electricity supply and toilets may be required, and may cost you extra if these have to be hired. All electrical equipment should be PAT tested.
Agree a pricing strategy. Expect to pay between £1,200-£2,400, and check whether your circus supplier requires a deposit and whether travel is charged on top. Once you know the capacity of your big top, you can agree a price per ticket to ensure that you cover your costs. Most schools charge between £5 and £10 (with no differentiation for children or adults, who all take up the same amount of space!).
Start marketing your event and work out when and how to sell and distribute tickets. Some suppliers provide tickets, so check whether the company you've chosen is one of them. If not and if you have more than one show, print sheets of tickets onto different coloured paper for each show, with the times clearly stated. Number the tickets so that you can easily see how many are left and sell them at school events such as sports day or celebration assemblies. Let parents know when and where you will be selling tickets so that they bring sufficient cash along.
Ask for a copy of your suppliers' public liability insurance. Your circus supplier should provide risk assessment documentation for the big top, however you should carry out a risk assessment for the overall event. Consider whether a qualified first aider is required.
Appoint a few volunteers to check tickets and be on hand to help set up and to run any side stalls on the day.
Some suppliers sell their own popcorn and candyfloss, and may request that you don't do the same. To maximise profits, set up stalls to run before, during and after each performance, with ready-made crafts, a bouncy castle and face painting. If the circus isn't selling any merchandise, source your own - look for juggling balls, spinning plates and diablos. Offer a variety of refreshments and run a BBQ (weather permitting).
You do not need a licence for 'regulated entertainment' to run a circus. If you're planning to sell alcohol, you will need to obtain a Temporary Event Notice from your local authority.
Safety and security
Ask your circus supplier to provide risk assessment documentation for the circus itself. Carry out a risk assessment of the overall event – think about any parking issues, trip hazards as a result of electrical cables, etc.
Promote through posters, make announcements in school newsletters and send a media release to your local press. Social media is another great way to generate interest, so keep your online audience regularly updated with plenty of photos and a countdown to the big day. Some suppliers provide promotional materials, including laminated posters and leaflets, so make the most of what is offered to maximise ticket sales. After the event, let everyone know how much you raised and what school resources this money will help fund.
The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a school based on the guidance provided.