CIRCUS performers are returning to Bolton tonight after a year-long hiatus.

Led by ringmistress Petra Jackson, traditional family circus, Circus Mondao, will spend 12 days performing a two-hour long showcase in the big top on Wigan Road, opposite the Three Pigeons Pub - which will include juggling, rope spinning, aerial acts, horses and pigeons.

Petra, 45, ran away from home to join the circus when she was 16, and has never looked back.

But during lockdown, the circus fell on hard times, when restrictions forced closures of more than a year for much of the entertainment industry.

Over the last 14 months, Circus Mondao has only been able to put on 13 weeks’ worth of shows - and its members turned to foodbanks as a result.

She said: “A lot of our performers are international, we have some from Brazil and Italy. They came to the UK on visas costing £1,000 - which state that they can only work in the entertainment industry.

“But when lockdown hit, they were unable to get jobs because everything closed. We begged for them to be allowed to work elsewhere but the government said that they would get deported if they did that.

“We’ve not been able to get any government help because we don’t have a business premises. We are based on a farm in Lincolnshire and travel the rest of the year.”

Now, the circus is asking visitors to bring foodbank items when they come and see the show.

Petra added: “We’re forever grateful. It’s not until you have to ask for help that you realise how amazing these people are who operate and donate to foodbanks.

“We want to give back, so we are setting up a collection point at the circus. We are asking every customer to bring along a non-perishable items like pasta, rice, UHT milk, cereal and crisps. “

Petra is pleading with the public to come along to the big top, which runs from July 21 to August 1, with a mix of matinee and evening performances.