Allen McPherson started the first Circus School in Blackpool, it was called LAAPA, and with his partner Jose Torribles successfully won funding from Awards for all to purchase the required equipment. Following the break up of this partnership, Allen joined with Roger Mirales and Yuri & Tonya Gridneff to found the Blackpool Circus School.
Allen passed away on the 14th November 2009 in Blackpool’s Victoria hospital. He leaves behind a thriving company that has helped many youngsters in realising their ambition to appear on the professional stage (See our news page) and read on for Allens story.
Born in Southampton in 1935, His father was a merchant seaman and his mother ran a lodging house for theatricals who were working at the Grand theatre.
Whilst walking on the common Allen came across a small circus called “Robert Gandey’s Big Top Circus” For the two week stay, Allen visited the circus every day and helped out around the ground, he was so taken with the whole concept that he vowed to join the circus. He obtained his mothers permission and joined them during the summer holidays.
This led to his joining a troupe of acrobatic clowns “Toni Tina and Tony” The Gerbola’s” he went with them on an engagement to Kelvin Hall in Glasgow . He joined their act although he was only 13, this was his first engagement as a clown.
The life continued until he was called to National Service in which he served in the Royal Signals as a Keyboard Cipher operator in Germany, however as an acrobat, he was soon put into the Gymnasium.
On leaving the forces he answered an advert in “The Stage” to join a Hungarian springboard act “The Alexis Troupe” The tour started at Deal with “Sangers Circus” With the Troupe Allen toured Great Britain and Northern Ireland performing in Circus, Galas, Hotels, Pantomime and Cabaret.
It was during this time that he met his future wife Babs. Several years later they married and formed their acrobatic dancing act called “Alando and Babs” Work took them into clubs, theatre and cabaret in the UK and on the continent.
While working in a club in Darlington they had a horrific car accident which left them near death in a hospital for a number of weeks. Recovery took 5 years with Allen still using a walking stick. Although they were not able to perform any more an opportunity to work in Circus came with his old friend Joe Gandey. It was as advanced publicity managers. This gave Allen the experience to start his own show that he called “Circus Appolo” Following a few years of successful touring Allen had a heart attack, this brought the whole venture to a close.
In the winter they formed an illusion act with their two daughters and Joined “Phillip Gandey” the son of Joe Gandey. With this act they went with “Circus Hassani” This was the first animal free circus in the country. It led to two years as Ringmaster at Alton Towers as well as doing their illusion act “Danyarhi & Company” When they left Alton Towers they toured the continent with the act, but Allen’s health deteriorated to such a degree that they decided to stop touring.
They bought holiday flats in Blackpool and settled down, however there was another season left in Allen and he became Manager of Peter Jays Mexican Circus at the Tower.
Unfortunately by the end of the season his health again let him down and this time they called it a day. Allen still loved the circus and wanted to remain part of it, he had seen some circus schools in the UK and felt that he would like to run one teaching traditional circus skills with ex Circus artistes. He already knew Roger Miralees a Flying trapeze artiste, and by chance he came across Yuri & Tonya Gridneff who he had worked with in the northern clubs. They were teaching circus skills in schools in the UK . He now had his team together and with a board of trustees a charity was formed ” Blackpool Circus school” to help local children experience the great world of circus and the self esteem that it inevitably brings.
You can view a 2 minute video clip about Allen by clicking on the link below which will take you to the BBC Lancashire web site. View video clip