The British Home Office's effort to crack down on illegal immigrations has an unintended consequences of sort: Britain is experiencing a clown shortage!
"My season started in February," says Martin Lacey, owner of the Great British Circus, "and I've got comedy acrobats stranded in the Ukraine, and Mongolian horse riders who were refused their visas in Ulan Batur." The holes in his lineup have forced Lacey to draft last-minute substitutes. "Our Mexican clown is stuck in Mexico, so we've got a trapeze artist pretending to be a stooge just to get everybody out of trouble," he says. "It's a mess."
And it's totally incompatible with the needs of Britain's circus sector. According to Malcolm Clay, secretary of the Association of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain, British circus schools don't produce artists at an acceptable standard, largely because their students refine skills like tightrope walking or fire-breathing as a hobby, not as part of a life-long career. As a result, British circuses rely on artists from countries with long-established histories of state-sponsored circus schools: they call on Argentina and Colombia for their renowned high wire acts, China and North Korea for acrobats, and Mongolia and Russia for horse riders. (Interestingly, they don't need to import bearded ladies.)