, Published by Concerto Master Account

This year’s Wonder Nights Christmas party at The Artillery Garden at The HAC has been inspired by the legend of the circus, a tradition that can be traced back for centuries.


In Ancient Rome, the circus was a building for the exhibition of horse and chariot races, equestrian shows, staged battles, gladiatorial combat and displays of (and fights with) trained animals. The circus of Rome were similar to the ancient Greek hippodromes. The modern circus was created in England by Philip Astley (1742-1814), a former cavalry Sergeant-Major turned showman.

Astley had served in the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) as part of Colonel Elliott’s 15th Light Dragons regiment, where he displayed a remarkable talent as a horse-breaker and trainer. Upon his discharge, Astley chose to imitate the trick-riders who performed, with increasing success, all over Europe.

Jacob Bates, an English equestrian based in the German States, who performed as far away as Russia (1764-65) and America (1772-73), was the first of these showmen to make a mark.

By 1770, Astley’s considerable success as a performer had won him plenty of fans. After two seasons in London, he needed to bring some novelty to his performances, so he hired acrobats, ropedancers, and jugglers to add to the performance.

Although at first these were often temporary wooden structures, every major European city soon boasted at least one permanent circus, whose architecture could compete with the most flamboyant theatres. Similar buildings were also erected in the New World’s largest cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Montréal, Mexico City and many more.

This year we’re bringing the legend of the travelling circus back, with a season of unrivalled Christmas parties in the city. To find out more and to book your party click here.