The Philip Astley Project calls for support from local businesses

Leaders of a project focused on raising awareness of Philip Astley, ‘the father of the modern circus’ are seeking support from local businesses at a launch event taking place at Keele Hall on Wednesday 20 July from 6pm.

Born in Newcastle-under-Lyme, in 1742, Philip Astley was the son of a cabinetmaker who grew-up to become a master of equestrian, entrepreneur, war hero, pioneer and showman. In 1768, Astley created the first 42ft diameter ‘circus ring’, still the standard size used in circus across the world today.  Despite Astley’s status as ‘the father of the modern circus’, there is limited awareness locally of his life and achievements.

Organisations including Staffordshire University, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Newcastle-under-Lyme College, the Van Buren Organisation, Keele University, Newcastle-under-Lyme Business Improvement District (BID), the New Vic Theatre formed The Philip Astley Project in 2015 to raise awareness of Philip Astley within Newcastle-under-Lyme and, as a result increase residents’ pride in their own heritage.

Staffordshire University, on behalf of The Philip Astley Project, successfully submitted a first round application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and secured an initial grant to carry out consultation with key audiences and develop the project using the information gathered, with a view to submitting a second stage HLF application in December 2016.

A number of exhibitions, talks and film screenings are being organised by the steering group to aid the objective of raising awareness before a high profile event takes place in Newcastle-under-Lyme in 2018 – the 250th anniversary of the creation of the 42ft diameter circus ring, invented by Philip Astley.

Andrew Van Buren, head of the Van Buren Organisation – a driving force behind The Philip Astley Project, said: “We believe Philip Astley could become Newcastle-under-Lyme’s equivalent of Shakespeare to Stratford-upon-Avon, bringing more visitors to the town and with this an increased awareness of Newcastle-under-Lyme as an attractive destination.”

To garner support and generate awareness for the project amongst the business community, The Philip Astley Project steering group are inviting local businesses to attend a colourful, informative launch event to find out more about the project, activities and initiatives being planned, including sponsorship opportunities at the large scale public event which will take place in 2018.  The event will take place on Wednesday 20 July from 6pm at Keele Hall, Keele University and interested parties are being urged to register now.

Cllr Wenslie Naylon, Chair of The Philip Astley Project Steering Committee and councillor for the Keele ward, said: “We’re delighted to welcome local businesses to this event to hear about the participation opportunities and the strong commercial benefits that could be generated as a result of project. We’re encouraging all local businesses to come along to hear how Astley could really help to put Newcastle-under-Lyme on the map.  The more people are aware and talking about the initiative, the further the message will go. There are still places available to attend the event so if you want to be involved in this exciting project, please come along.”

Other organisations involved in The Philip Astley Project steering group include Brampton Museum, Friends of Brampton Museum, Civic Society, Staffordshire Library and Information Service, Staffordshire Film Archive and Newcastle Lanterns.

To register to attend The Philip Astley Project Business Networking Event visit

For more information about The Philip Astley Project please call 01782 294644 or email

About Association of Colleges West Midlands

AoC West Midlands promotes and supports the interests of 38 general further education, sixth form and specialist colleges throughout the West Midlands region. The West Midlands is a diverse region and our colleges reflect this diversity. From small specialist colleges in rural locations to large inner city establishments, colleges reflect the needs of their local environment. Working closely with employers, learners and the local community, our 38 member colleges offer a broad range of flexible learning opportunities for individuals at all levels. They aim to give local people the skills they need for success and prosperity, tackling barriers to learning and providing opportunities that meet the needs of individuals and employers
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