Logan-based circus a family affair
For the Ashton family, putting on a circus is about more than running a successful business and dazzling audiences.
The Ashtons, behind the now Logan-based Ashton Entertainment, is living out a family legacy of more than 170 years – when Ashton Circus began.
Chantel Ashton-Rodriguez’s great-great-great grandfather James Henry Ashton opened the circus in 1850 – and she says the family is proud to continue the circus tradition, while staying current and always mixing in the element of surprise.
‘We appreciate the traditions of the circus and the legacy of our ancestors, and our productions blend that tradition with modern technology,’ Chantel says.
‘We have a really rich history and we are proud to carry on the legacy.’
Chantel says she is inspired by her grandparents, Doug and Phyllis Ashton, who both received an OAM in 1996 for their service to the entertainment industry and charities.
‘They were known not only for their skills but for giving back; they were life governors of the Mildura Base Hospital in Victoria and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, having fundraised often for these and other hospitals,’ Chantel says.
‘During World War 2, they supplied their transport equipment – trucks – to the government as part of the war effort.
‘My grandmother carried the Olympic torch for the 2000 Games in Sydney, and has a street named after her in Canberra. They were very kind and talented people.’
Ashton Entertainment specialises in circus arts, live productions which tour the country, and large-scale corporate events.
Chantel, like everyone in her family, made her circus debut before she could walk, when she was carried in the show’s opening parade.
‘We understood working to a live audience from a very young age,’ she says.
‘My first act was bareback horse riding with my parents – carrying on the tradition from my grandparents and theirs.
‘I still love travelling the country, meeting new people, and collaborating with other artists.’
As Chantel says, the Ashton family circus is older than Federation and test cricket – but it has , of course, seen many changes across the decades.
‘There is definitely a lot more choice in entertainment these days, but the circus has survived because it is so versatile,’ Chantel says.
‘We are a form of live entertainment that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family and I think circus arts is so unique it will be around for a long time to come.
‘Now that the entertainment world is moving again after a very difficult couple of years, we are touring again and taking the magic of performing arts to all parts of this great country.
‘We hope that everyone walks out happier than when they walked in!’
While circus skills like the ones Chantel performs are hard work and take years to master, local circus fans can learn some basic skills in the workshops Ashton Entertainment hosts with KRANK. The next workshops are being held at Kingston Butter Factory during the September school holidays.
These workshops, funded by Council, teach plate-spinning, hula-hoop, juggling and diablo and can help children with patience, concentration and persistence, while increasing physical fitness and improving hand-eye coordination.
For more information about the circus workshops, email email@example.com.