‘Hoofing It!’ at Castlemaine Library

It was great to be out presenting again this month, and at one of my favourite venues too. My thanks to Jess and Stuart at Castlemaine Library for the opportunity to speak about Astley’s Amphitheatre and the role of dance in early circus.

Castlemaine’s public library is a real community hub, always quietly buzzing with families and seniors, teens looking slightly ragged after school, and local authors just ‘popping in’ to secretly check if their books are getting borrowed. In a town that hosts all manner of writers, artists and intellectual types, presenting at the library demands a certain light-hearted caution. I’m always conscious of preparing my material carefully and not unduly dumbing-down the content. In Castlemaine, you just never know who’s going to be in the audience. Quite naturally, there was a fellow circus researcher in mine!

It was a pleasure to find myself chatting with Margaret Kirby, accomplished gymnast, one-time circus performer, playwright-turned-novelist and now undertaking her PhD on circus in the nineteenth century. Inspired by the performing career of her ancestor, John Washington Smith (c.1819-1877), Margaret is working on a thesis titled ‘These Roaming Ministers of Pleasure: Circus in Asia and India, 1859-1866.’ What a fabulous topic! She’s also writing a novel that brings the events of this period to life. I hope Castlemaine Library will eventually have Margaret speak and share her research as well.

A big thank you to everyone who came along and made the occasion so enjoyable. If you’d like to learn about the unexpected role that dance and ballet played at Astley’s circus, please get in touch. Visit my Talks and Lectures page for more information.

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