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Here Digger talks to BigTopMania's
 founder Pete Wintercrane.




Digger: Can you please tell us a little bit about your background and the background to BigTop Mania?

Pete: Bigtopmania is an entertainments provider, event planner and equipment hire company with its roots in circus, show business, outdoor events, the events industry, children's play activities, variety and street theatre.
The owner and creative driver Pete has been performing and building the business since graduating from Reading University in 1987 with a BA Hons in Geography. What does a geography graduate do? Join the circus!
Pete is a one-man circus show and was part of the mid-80’s resurgence in New Circus. He had a doubles act called the Junction Jugglers, named after an area in Reading, where he also ran a community workshop for many years. He has performed around the country (and world) at all manner of arts and music festivals, corporate functions and private parties and as part of circus troupes and has some nice experiences in the world of show biz.
In 2000 the first major leap into the world of tenting came with the first purchase of a small circus style tent. It was named Dorothy, after his late mother and the tradition of naming the tents continues.
Bigtopmania now blends his long-term passion for circus with years of experience in the events industry.

Digger: That’s an impressive selection of options you have on your website, Please tell us more about the various shows and events your organise.

Pete: We do so much and so many different events! One day providing a small tent and décor for a vintage tea party, the next a festival themed weddings, or a vaudeville style cabaret; a circus themed birthday party for lucky children and many fun loving adults where we provide several big tops along with a complete party package.
Bigtopmania Kidzones are in demand across the UK festival circuit and many of the festivals we have been lucky enough to be involved in have won the ‘Best Family festival’ award, something that we’re really proud to have contributed to.
We provide tailor-made circus shows for private parties and events as opposed to a traditional touring circus, these shows are ran by Ringmaster and Clown PeteZa and feature son Lucas and daughter Leonie along with some spectacularly talented friends to make a great family show.
The Bigtopmania Family Circus show has an intimate village green feel to it and is presented in a nostalgic manner. We use vintage tiered circus seating made in the style common in post war Europe!
And wow; there is so much more including our hands on Cycle Circus to good old school balloon modelling, fire eating and stilt walking.

Digger: Your Marquees can be used for alternative weddings, events and parties. Please tell us more about the options there.

Pete: I’d say the diversity of our tents is one of our strengths, it allows people to step away from the traditional white marquee’s and run of the mill weddings and add something out of the ordinary to their event.
The colourful tents create the perfect atmosphere for so many themes; circus, carnival, festival, Moulin Rouge, Mardi Gras for example. The options are endless and we’re very adaptable, we enjoy working with a customers imagination and their creative styling to build their perfect event blending our many years experience in events with their imagination and fresh ideas.
No event is ever the same!

Digger: What is the enduring fascination people have generally with Retro and Vintage in all its forms?

Pete: One of the earliest pieces of advice I learnt from a chance meeting with a descendent of Lord Sanger (famous old circus proprietor) was to know your history; i.e the history of circus and variety. So I have made it a habit to learn about and enjoy the past! Circus wise, I really look up to the presentation that Gifford’s Circus now do with their 1930s style show.
Perhaps in a mass produced world we are living in today it is the sense of individuality people seek and opportunity to express a part of your personality and step out of the mould whether it be through the clothes you wear, the place you live or the car you drive. In theory I suppose this fascination could only get stronger as the genuine vintage and retro articles become harder to come by.

Digger: Who are your customers and where are they coming from?

Pete: We are lucky enough to be part of a very diverse events industry. We’ve worked the UK festival circuit for the last 25 years running Children's Areas/Cabarets and providing venues.In terms of private events we have done lots of birthday parties from as young as 1 year old through the 18ths and 21sts, 40ths and last year a ruby wedding anniversary. They often have a theme in mind and use our tents and entertainment as an integral part to that theme, but sometimes they are just people that have had the same white marquees year after year and fancy something different to make the event more memorable.

Digger: And what sort of feedback and comments are you getting from clients?

Pete: A lot of the feedback is based around our personal approach to our work, it is more like you are discussing your event with a knowledgeable friend than speaking to someone you’ve never met on the other end of the phone. To cite directly from our review site…

 ‘I used Big Top Mania for my wedding party…cannot recommend highly enough. They were fantastic, from booking, leading up to the event, answering all my nagging emails & questions thoroughly’

‘enthusiasm, advice, and open minded approach to events allowed us to create something that I previously wouldn't have though achievable. Compared to everything else that I search I couldn't possible recommend a better quality and value for money service.’

Digger: Circus has a long and fine tradition. Has your business had to adapt greatly to fit the requirements of the modern world?

Pete: Health and safety! Much higher on the agenda. Rightly so! Animals; much lower on the agenda! Unless you are in another part of the world where they mostly remain as key elements to the shows. We have always been a human circus,
We had to splash out on newer vehicles to meet emissions regulations for London work. I suppose a lot of what we do is bringing the traditions of circus and blending them with modern events ideas and aspirations so it’s a constant mix of ideas and challenges to problem solve in order to get the final product right.
I keep a very watchful eye on current trends in the business.

Digger: What are the biggest challenges when running these shows and events and what do you most enjoy about running BigTop Mania?

Pete: The weather can be a challenge when your working outdoors all the time, the start of last summer was particularly wet, and it can be hard on the morale when the ‘waterproof’ boots and clothes give in. Fitting it all in; we get inundated with enquiries and there are so many great things going on but unfortunately a lot of them are packed into a period between April – October that we can’t always get to everything. No two days are the same! This is both stressful and highly enjoyable but keeps everything fresh and exciting! We meet some lovely people and it’s particularly nice because we generally meet them in an excitable mood about their party or wedding which makes for a nice working environment.

Digger: What are your particular Retro and Vintage passions?

Pete: We use vintage fashion in our circus shows, Lucas and Leo like that because it allows them to put together costumes that look really good which they feel confident in; stepping away from the traditional circus spandex!  The tents are often adorned with velvet and gold braid! Very theatrical and reminiscent of the cabaret era. We’re also big followers of the Electro Swing scene with its modern take on classic Swing tunes, the dress codes, dances styles, cabaret and burlesque elements.
We’re always keen to get involved with these events and love some of the music coming out of them.

Digger: Where do you see the future for BigTop Mania?

Pete: Hopefully many more festival seasons will keep our summers busy and fun, sandwiched in between them a continual flow of weddings, parties and alternative events! We have just invested in a beautiful cream coloured canvas tent, with scalloped edge details and lovely curves giving it a very contemporary yet classic vintage look.
We are looking forward to using it and getting lots of interest.

On with the show!


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