The term ‘a living legend’ could well have been coined for our President’s Day guest – Norman Barrett MBE. Norman’s whole life has centred upon the circus ring, from training as a clown and bare-back rider through to being what Paul Daniels has described as ‘the world’s greatest ringmaster’, spending 25 years at the Blackpool Tower Circus. As well as appearing at prestigious venues such as the London Palladium, Norman has travelled all over the world with his unique budgerigar act and continues to do so, just embarking upon a ten-week Christmas season in Germany. He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1990, and in 2011 was inducted into the Circus Hall of Fame – the highest accolade which can be given in this branch of show-business.
For over an hour, Norman regaled us with jokes and anecdotes relating to his experiences, from his This Is Your Life episode to the presentation of his MBE by the Queen, and including some hilarious stories from the ring. He concluded with a splendid rendition of The Lion And Albert (appropriate to the joint themes of Blackpool and the zoo/menagerie) complete with an array of funny hats and props, before introducing his team of budgies to delight the audience. His feathered friends performed, and misbehaved, on all types of apparatus, some more mischievously than others. To witness this performance ‘up close and live’ was a real experience, and brought back childhood memories to many. The session elicited nothing but compliments from juniors and seniors alike, and there was no shortage of people requesting a photograph with Norman in his scarlet ‘uniform’ at the end.
Following the interval and raffle (using a brand new all-dancing and all-singing Sorting Hat, modelled by Lorenzo) we kept to the theme of the day by viewing a clip of the Paul Daniels lion escape, filmed at Blackpool Tower Circus on 1st June 1986 but not broadcast until February 1988 – also involving Norman Barrett.
A wonderful afternoon was rounded off with the magical mayhem of Donald the Average, on top form as the bumbling magician who always gets the last laugh – and plenty more in between. Donald’s revised versions of classics such as Dippy Duck, Confabulation and rising card on artist’s pad, were priceless.
On behalf of the audience, Chairman Brian Lead thanked Roger and Joan for mounting yet another memorable event.