WHEN teenager Victoria Jackson is old enough to run away and join the circus, she won’t have far to go.
For the 16-year-old has spent the past seven years helping out at Circus Mondao, which sets up camp in Hunger Hill, near her parents’ farm, off Wigan Road, every summer.
The animal lover started helping to groom the circus ponies and ended up mastering the aerial silks — a performance involving acrobatics while hanging from a special fabric.
Victoria said: “They always let me visit and they all say hello. They are all welcoming to me. It was just something different.
“The rest of the family all come down and all the other kids.”
Victoria looks forward to the circus’ arrival every summer and, throughout the rest of the year, rehearses tricks at home.
The former Ladybridge High School pupil, who starts a catering course at Runshaw College, Leyland, in September, said: “I thought it was going to be really easy and I would be able to climb up but I couldn’t at first because I didn’t have the strength.
“I do my aerial silks in the barn and I’ve got bales of hay to land on. I’ve taught myself mostly.
“After I leave college, I am running away to the circus, that’s my dream.”
Petra Jackson, who has been ring mistress at the 31-strong classical circus for nine years, said: “You would not believe how much she has improved, it’s amazing.
“It’s a lot to do with strength. You’ve got to build up muscle to be able to do it.
“Being a farm girl, she is used to lugging bales of hay and straw so you build muscle doing that. She absolutely loves it.”
Victoria, who has had ponies since the age of two, also recently appeared in a show in Chester when Cinzia Timmis, aged 14, daughter of the circus’ owners, was poorly.
She joined Miss Jackson riding the camels and will repeat the performance in Bolton.
Circus Mondao is at Wigan Road, Hunger Hill, until Sunday, August 3. Visit circusmondao.co.uk for more information.
UNDER FIRE FROM ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS
CIRCUS Mondao is one of two in England licensed to have wild animals working including horses, donkeys, reindeer, llamas, a zebra and camels but neither feature elephants, monkeys, gorillas, chimpanzees or big cats.
The circus has come under fire from animal rights activists, who have called on people to boycott the attraction.
Jan Creamer, president of Animal Defenders International, said: “We urge everyone in the Bolton area to shun animal circuses and instead visit circuses with human only acts — human performers have a choice.”
But Miss Jackson insists the animals are well cared for.
She said: “They have a very enjoyable life, they don’t do a great deal.
“All our facilities are correct - we are licensed by the government and they come and inspect us seven or eight times a year.
“They are not a commodity, they’re our pets, they’re family.
“We don’t do long journeys.
“After the show, people can come and see the animals and stroke them.
“I wish people would come and have a look.”