Off to the Circus

The theme chosen by PostEurop for this year’s Europa stamps is the circus, so over the coming months we can expect a rash of clowns, jugglers, tightrope walkers and acrobats.

At least this should be a very colourful subject with plenty of variety, after last year’s valiant efforts by the European postal administrations to find exciting ways of presenting the concept of water as a natural treasure. Who dreams up these ideas anyway?

The circus theme got off to a flying start at the beginning of January when Monaco released a stamp to celebrate the 26th International Circus Festival which is held annually in Monte Carlo; this year the spotlight was on a lion-tamer. The motifs of the circus stamps released so far have shown considerable imagination and have avoided the obvious solution of utilising photographs of circus events. San Marino, for example, commissioned the renowned artist Niccoletta Ceccoli to devise paintings that express that state of mind which children experience on going to the circus and the result is faintly surreal and dreamlike in quality.

Royal Mail discovered Ron Fuller, a craftsman who makes model circus vehicles, and commissioned him to make some automata which would make unusual motifs for stamps. Jersey has little tradition of circuses as such, but floats with a circus theme from the annual Battle of Flowers have provided material for a set of four stamps.

Gibraltar, on the other hand, has chosen one of the best-loved clowns of British circus, the late Charlie Cairoli, as the subject of its stamp. Issued in sheetlets of 10, it has an enlarged image of the bowler-hatted, red-nosed clown at the side, with a picture of Blackpool Tower in the background.

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