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Barrett, Norman, Born 1935



  • Existence: Born 20 December 1935


Norman Barrett MBE, is a world famous Ringmaster who spent 25 seasons at the Blackpool Tower Circus and he is especially known for his budgie acts.

He was born in York in 1935 and was the son of George and Winifred Barrett who were circus perfomers and owners. Norman started training animals at a young age and inherited his father's love for horses. In 1952, aged seventeen years old, he started to show horses and dogs at his father's circus, Barrett's Circus. Upon his family's circus closure, Norman went to work with Coady's Circus and Harry Gandey's Circus as a clown and a juggler.

Norman married Sue Yelding (b.1937), the daughter of Olga and Freddie Yelding, a circus act that was central to the Barrett family circus from its inception. As a clown Norman presented geese, and helped Sue with her dog act.

By 1965, Norman and Sue had joined the Robert Brother's Circus and Norman was working as the Ringmaster.

Prior to his arrival at the Blackpool Tower in 1966, there were a few Ringmasters who performed before him. Alfred Delbosq only had a relatively short time at the Tower as he joined from 1948 and left in 1953. The next Ringmaster was Henry Lytton junior who was the son of Sir Henry Lytton (1865-1936), the famous singer and actor who was involved in several of the Gilbert and Sullivan productions. He joined the Blackpool Tower Circus in 1954 and was paired with Harold Holt who was the Equestrian Director. The pair worked together up until 1965 when Henry Lytton Junior died from a heart attack. Harold Holt would continue to work until he retired in 1982.

Just before joining the Tower Circus, Norman Barrett had spent a season in Sweden and then in 1966 made his debut at the Tower and was originally paired with Harold Holt. He was well-loved at the Tower Circus and as the years went on, Norman was involved in many acts including animals acts and budgie acts, the latter being very impressive as birds can be hard to train. Furthermore, he appeared multiple times in the television programme 'Right Charlie!' alongside Charlie Cairoli, which made him a household name in Britain.

Norman Barrett's 25 years at the Blackpool Tower was celebrated in 1990 at the end of his final performance at the Tower where he was greeted by Michael Aspel presenting ‘This is Your Life’.

However, this was not the end of Norman Barrett’s career as a Ringmaster and in 2010, he was awarded an MBE for his services to entertainment. In 2013, Norman Barrett was featured on Russell Howard's Good News, demonstrating his act with budgies which is very popular and he is even featured in the Guinness World Records as the longest serving Ringmaster. At the time of the record in 2015, he had been working as a Ringmaster for 56 years. Not only did Norman Barrett become a familiar and well-loved Ringmaster at the Blackpool Tower Circus, but he also achieved national and international fame.

He has continued to work into his 80s and is currently performing as the Ringmaster at Zippos Circus which is celebrating his work at the Circus where he first appeared 21 years ago.

Found in 11 Collections and/or Records:

Belle Vue Circus, Manchester Programme, 6 December 1980 - 31 January 1981

Reference code: 178K41.36
Scope and Contents Norman Barrett ringmaster, Family Santus trick cyclists, The Brucksons Balancing act, Jacko Fossett and Little Willy clowns, Les Kansas jugglers, Martin Lacey and his lions, Dunban Nickol trampoline act, The Svensons equestrian act, The Great Darix balancing act, Camel Caravan presented by Beverley Roberts, Gina the Girl in the Moon trapeze, Robert Brothers’ Elephant Entertainment, Joan Rosaire and Goldy the Wonder Horse, Hsiung Family Oriental Acrobats, The Loonies comedians. Contains...
Dates: 6 December 1980 - 31 January 1981

Blackpool Tower Circus Fantastic Programme, 1978

Reference code: 178K41.22
Scope and Contents

Charlie Cairoli and his company clowns, Lilly Yokoi trick cyclist, Yong Brothers balancing act, Mary Chipperfield and her magnificent animals, Norman Barrett ringmaster, The Salvadors ball balancing, Kludsky Troupe tumblers, Miss Wendy and her birds, Burger Sisters, El Gran Rober. Contains illustration on cover with photos, 12p.p.

Dates: 1978

Christopher Palmer Collection

Reference code: NFA0105
Scope and Contents

Circus programmes and VHS tapes from Billy Smart’s Circus and Chipperfields’s Circus collected during the 1970s and early 1980s by the TV producer, Christopher John Palmer. There are also a number of promotional photographs of artistes and other ephemera related to the circus.

Dates: 1973 - 1983

City Varieties Programme, 1969 - 1970

Reference code: 178K27.91
Scope and Contents

Leeds, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with Kenny Cantor, Len Howe, Sean Mackenzie, Sally Glanville, Norman Barrett, Llewellyn Williams, Jane Terry, Margaret Ayre, Joan Hall, John McCombe. Contains illustrations and photographs of the acts. Published by B Roberts & Co. Printed by: E Millet & Son Ltd., Atkinson Street, Leeds, 20p.p.

Dates: 1969 - 1970

Cyril Critchlow Collection

Reference code: NFA0089
Scope and Contents The Cyril Critchlow collection contains programmes, posters, handbills, books and magic journals, many of which relate to shows in Blackpool where Cyril resided and includes material on entertainment venues such as Blackpool’s North Pier, Central Pier, South Pier, Tower Circus and a small collection of programmes from other national venues. Additionally, it contains circus photographs and postcards mainly of the Ohmy Circus and Sanger Circus including individual circus troupes and performers...
Dates: c1837 - 2008

John Anderson Collection

Reference code: NFA0152
Scope and Contents

Colour and black and white born digital photographs of Zippos Circus taken by John Anderson in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield

Dates: 2017

Newspaper Cuttings and Scapbooks, 1838 - 2007

Reference code: 178G21
Scope and Contents

A collection of newspaper cuttings on circus, circus proprietors and performers and scrapbooks containing newspaper cuttings, posters, programmes and other items of ephemera, covering mainly British circuses and venues such as Belle Vue and also some international circuses.

Dates: 1838 - 2007

Photographs, 2017

Reference code: 178C115
Scope and Contents

Colour and black and white born digital photographs of Zippos Circus while performing in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, tken by John Anderson.

Dates: 2017

Programmes, 1970 - 1981

Reference code: 178K41
Scope and Contents

Programmes for various British and international circuses including Billy Russell's, Blackpool Tower, Fossett's, Chipperfield's and the Toni Boltini's Circus.

Dates: 1970 - 1981

Programmes for Circus, Magic and Variety Shows, c1890 - 1999

Reference code: 178K27
Scope and Contents

Circus, magic and variety show programmes including the Great Ohmy Circus, John Sanger Circus, Bertram Mills Circus and variety shows at various locations in Blackpool, London, Manchester and other theatres in England. Some of the variety performers showcased are Morecambe and Wise, Hetty King, Mae West, Bob Hope, Shirley Bassey, Larry Lamb and Cliff Richards.

Dates: c1890 - 1999

Various Newspapers and Newspaper Cuttings, 1927 - 2007

Reference code: 178G21.1
Scope and Contents Newspapers and newspaper cuttings relating to circus news and performers, including the Sunday Mercury Special, The Evening Mail, Circus News Illustrated, Late Circus News Flashes, Leisure Life, The World's Fair, Danmark Kina, Soviet Weekly,The Advertiser, The Yorkshire Herald, The Yorkshire Post, The Sun, The Guardian and other main stream newspapers, including articles on Norman Barrett, Boswell Circus, Coco, Bertram Mills Circus, Belle Vue, Barrett's Circus, Robert Gandey's Circus Chinese...
Dates: 1927 - 2007