September 19th, 2011
Anyone who has ever listened to The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [...] will know the swirling melody and appealingly nonsensical lyrics of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite," [...]
For the benefit of Mr. Kite
There will be a show tonight on trampoline
The Hendersons will all be there
Late of Pablo Fanque's Fair – what a scene
Over men and horses, hoops and garters
Lastly through a hogshead of real fire!
In this way Mr. K. will challenge the world!
While true Beatlemaniacs will know that Mr. Kite and his companions were real performers in a real troupe, however, few will realize that they were associates of what was probably the most successful, and almost certainly the most beloved, "fair" to tour Britain in the mid-Victorian period. And almost none will know that Pablo Fanque – the man who owned the circus – was more than simply an exceptional showman and perhaps the finest horsemen of his day. He was also a black man making his way in an almost uniformly white society, and doing it so successfully that he played to mostly capacity houses for the best part of 30 years. [...]