Tribute to aerial legend Mike Wright at Glastonbury’s Circus Big Top

Tribute to aerial legend Mike Wright at Glastonbury’s Circus Big Top

Mike trained many UK aerialists and gave festival-goers their chance to fly on the rig in the Circus Field over many years — He was still performing last year (in his early 70s)

By Theatre & Circus GFF
Mike Wright lands, Glastonbury 2022 · Credit: Charles Gervais, Both Hemispheres Photography

Flying trapeze master Mike Wright believed in making people’s dreams come true. The sight of the huge flying trapeze rig in the Circus Field at Glastonbury even meant a chance for festival-goers to try flying themselves, and many did so over the years.

Mike was already planning this year’s show at Circus Big Top when he passed away suddenly in April [2024] — Now his troupe High Society will perform the show without him, dedicating it to the man who had a huge impact on the aerial arts in the UK.

“Glastonbury was so important to Mike,” said Rhiannon Taylor from Above and Beyond, the company that he founded. “It was a chance for him to give an incredible opportunity to his students. That’s what he cared about the most. It was also the time when Mike himself would fly and that was really special.”

Mike Wright performs with HIgh Society at Circus Big Top, 2017
Mike Wright performs with High Society at Circus Big Top, 2017 · Credit: Charles Gervais, Both Hemispheres Photography

Mike continued flying into his 70s and Rhiannon says he was planning to do a neck hang in this year’s show, swinging from his knees while another performer held onto his neck.

“I don’t want to give too much away about the show but it’s about pirates. Mike created a pirate show a few years ago for the outdoor rig and he wanted to do a version of this in the Big Top. So we’re going to make it happen for him.”

She says the troupe is extremely grateful for the support given by the Circus Big Top crew, particularly stage manager Jade Dunbar who she says is always a calming presence.

Mike Wright at Circus Big Top, 2022
Mike Wright at Circus Big Top, 2022 · Credit: Charles Gervais, Both Hemispheres Photography

“Circus Big Top is one big family and it has this magical ability to bring all sorts of people together. Performing there is very special.”

Mike Wright trained an estimated thousand aerialists during his 25 years as Head of Aerial at Circomedia in Bristol and even more who passed through Above and Beyond before going on to create their own acts and performance companies.

Mike was a dream maker and wish granter, a magical quality whereby he could see that vision with you, even when you maybe couldn’t see it that clearly yourself, but he would do his damnedest to help you get there! This world could do with so many more like him as they make life a sweeter, richer, funnier experience and give us hope.”

Doug Francisco, The Invisible Circus

Rhiannon says Mike was always keen to share his passion for the aerial arts with people of like minds — “Any idea you had was possible in his eyes. He never said no to trying something new. He believed anyone with a positive attitude and the drive to do it could do it, and if you wanted to, he would facilitate it.”

High Society at Circus Big Top, 2022
High Society at Circus Big Top, 2022 · Credit: Charles Gervais, Both Hemispheres Photography

Students learned not just to perform but also how to erect the flying trapeze, check the rig and bring it down safely. For the audience looking up at the aerialists performing their gravity-defying stunts and wondering if it is as scary as it looks, the answer is yes.

“Fear is good,” Rhiannon says. “Mike would get worried if someone was not scared. It’s the fear that keeps you safe.” — She explains that a performer learns a new trick wearing a wide lunge belt around their waist, with lines held by someone on the ground following their every move as a safety precaution.

“Mike would never push us. He’d tell us when we were ready, he’d encourage us, but the decision on when to drop the lunge lines was always up to us.” — she added.

Above and Beyond flying trapeze silhouetted in the sunset, Glastonbury 2014
Above and Beyond flying trapeze silhouetted in the sunset, Glastonbury 2014 · Credit: Charles Gervais, Both Hemispheres Photography

After many years at Glastonbury, she says it won’t be the same this year without Mike. But she says he’ll always be at the centre of everything they do. With just a few weeks to go before their appearance at Circus Big Top, the performers in the High Society act are busy rehearsing, determined to make the tribute to their founder the best show it can possibly be.

“I hope the audience will enjoy the performance whether they knew Mike or not. For those who did know Mike, there will be personal undertones. I’m sure those who didn’t know him will feel the emotion.”

🗓 High Society, Circus Big Top at Glastonbury 2024

⏰ Friday, 28th June: 17:07
⏰ Saturday, 29th June: 13:12
⏰ Sunday, 30th June: 13:39

Share This Article