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Popular circus could be forced to say goodbye to town after council price hike

PUBLISHED: 15:57 15 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:16 15 May 2019

Circus Wonderland directors Paul Carpenter, right, and Chris Freear, who are clowns Popol and Kakehole, are angry that their rent in Lowestoft will increase. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Circus Wonderland directors Paul Carpenter, right, and Chris Freear, who are clowns Popol and Kakehole, are angry that their rent in Lowestoft will increase. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

A popular circus which has entertained families in Lowestoft for six years could be about to perform its last show in the town after council bosses anounced a price hike for its land.

Circus Wonderland directors Chris Freear, right, and Paul Carpenter who are clowns Popol and Kakehole, are angry that their rent in Lowestoft will increase. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYCircus Wonderland directors Chris Freear, right, and Paul Carpenter who are clowns Popol and Kakehole, are angry that their rent in Lowestoft will increase. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Organisers at Circus Wonderland, which is set up at Royal Green, were initially told their rent would almost double to more than £4,000 - "completely beyond" what the group can afford.

Despite East Suffolk Council clarifying the situation, saying an increase of £750 would only come into force in two years and that they had offered a discounted rate for this year, the group believe the cost will price it out of returning next year.

Circus director Paul Carpenter said: "We have been coming to Lowestoft for the last six years and this is one of our favourite venues, but the council told us we will have to pay double the rent to use Royal Green for the week if we want to come back next year. Now they are saying that was wrong but it is still going up.

"It is completely beyond what we can afford. It is outrageous and more than we pay anywhere else in the country.

Circus Wonderland directors Paul Carpenter, right, and Chris Freear, who are clowns Popol and Kakehole, are angry that their rent in Lowestoft will increase. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYCircus Wonderland directors Paul Carpenter, right, and Chris Freear, who are clowns Popol and Kakehole, are angry that their rent in Lowestoft will increase. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

"They seem to think we have a machine printing money but we are not coming out of the town as billionaires.

"The cost of keeping a show like this on the road is enormous."

Performances began on Wednesday, with visitors handed letters explaining the situation, including how the circus pays for staff wages, advertising, poster and leaflet printing, diesel for the vehicles and generators, insurance and the cost of keeping the fleet of vehicles on the road.

Mr Carpenter said: "We have spoken to people in the town while we have been setting up and everyone is horrified by it. It seems very unfair.

Circus Wonderland directors Chris Freear, right, and Paul Carpenter who are clowns Popol and Kakehole, are angry that their rent in Lowestoft will increase. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYCircus Wonderland directors Chris Freear, right, and Paul Carpenter who are clowns Popol and Kakehole, are angry that their rent in Lowestoft will increase. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

"There is a lot of good feeling towards us from the people in the town when we're here but we can't double our ticket prices to cover it because then people wouldn't come."

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The circus is paying £2,150 for the use of Royal Green this year after a "goodwill discount", have been warned by the council of an increase for "set up and break down" days. The standard amount is approximately £2,900, with the fee due to rise to £3,650.

A spokesperson for East Suffolk Council said: "It is not the case that the council is doubling the charge for Circus Wonderland and we have now explained this to their representatives.

"Unfortunately, a combination of poorly-worded communication and a slight miscalculation regarding the revised cost has caused some confusion and we have now clarified the situation.

"In summary, the council has undertaken a district-wide review of land hire for events and the charge for days on which events of this size actually take place remains exactly the same at £600 per day.

"The change we have introduced, however, is to standardise 'set up' and 'break down' days and now, across the board, we charge 50pc of a standard daily rate on these days.

"Given that event production teams are obviously occupying the land on these days, we believe this is a reasonable figure.

"Because of these changes, the overall charge to the circus would actually increase, in total across the whole seven days, by a total of £750.

"As a show of goodwill to the circus, we also agreed to reduce this year's charge so the total fee for this year and next will remain at the current figure on average.

"The impact of the additional £750 would only come in for the 2021 season in two years time.

"Additionally, a slight miscalculation in the charge for next year was sent in error to Circus Wonderland but this has also now been explained and we hope that this fantastic and popular annual event will now continue to entertain audiences in Lowestoft for many years to come."

The circus will include award-winning clowns Kakehole and Mr Popol, performed by Mr Carpenter, as well as flame throwing juggling act The Centners, trapeze artists Duo Velvet and Argentinian acrobat Sebastian.

The group will be hosting shows until Sunday, May 19 at 4.30pm and 7.30pm on weekdays, 2pm and 5pm on Saturday and 2pm on Sunday.

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