Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Flea Circus London

Hidden in the depths of the Candid Arts Centre, Angel Islington is the "Flea Circus". Inspired by the combination of grime and wonder that the name 'Flea Circus' brings to mind and aiming to bring you the most exciting bands, the funniest comedians, the most brilliant poets, and anything else that'll stick if thrown at a stage!

Entrance is a tiny £3, and drinks a recession beating £2, so everyone's happy!

Flea Circus attracts crowds of 150 entirely down to the quality of the acts. Previous acts have been nominated for if.comedy awards, won chortle student comedy awards, been interviewed in the Guardian music section, and won poetry slam competitions.

The Next Flea Circus is: THURSDAY 17th December 2009

For more information, and to find out when the next one is on, visit

Saturday, 5 December 2009

A chance to own a microscopic piece of art

The London Evening Standard is running a charity Christmas Auction for Kids Company.

One of the lots (No 21) is a unique piece of microsculpture from Willard Wigan. The Scales of Justice is perched on a pinhead, and comes with a purpose-built, wall-mounted, magnifying display cabinet. Bidding starts at £5000 and the final sale price will go to support Kids Company.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Flaming Scottish Fleas

It's been a bit of a week for new flea circuses in the directory, the latest entry is Circus Maximus from Scotland.

More Magnification needed!

Mamamia and Dr. Flea (Maria & Michael Start) present a traditional Flea Circus of 10 acts.

These two automata builders and experts have created a portable suitcased based circus ring with carosel, tightrope, fire eating fleas and a cannon for the finale.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Maria Fernanda Cardoso

One of the most famous recent flea trainers was Colombian artist Maria Fernanda Cardoso who travelled the globe in the 1990s with her flea circus performance. The Tate purchased her props and circus in 2007 and have it in their archives.

Her performances include:

  • San Francisco Exploratorium 1996
  • Fabric Workshop & Museum, Philadelphia 1996
  • New Museum, New York 1998
  • George Pompidue 1998
  • Sydney Opera House 2000

The website has recently been updated with photos and videos of the flea circus.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Flea Circus from Holland

The latest Flea Circus performer to be added into the Flea Circus Directory is Dr. Q from the Netherlands with his Vlooien Circus. The cart based performance have some excellent acts including tightrope walking, balancing on a ball and a flaming hoop jump.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Train too small for fleas

David Smith has built a trainset that we believe would be too small even for fleas. This 1:35,000 scale train runs through a scenic countryside just 2cm across.

Thanks to Lee Clarke and Sean Fallon from Gizmondo for the link

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Snow Flea

La Puce de Neige (The Snow Flea)

Opening on November 3rd at Theatre Massalia, Marseille, Buchinger's Boot Marionettes present "La Puce de Neige" ("The Snow Flea"), a fantastical puppet-opera by Patrick Sims, with original musical score by Ergo Phizmiz.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Fleas Wanted

The Flea Circus Research Library recieves regular emails from people looking for real fleas for different purposes from testing new optical equipment to TV shows.

Today's email was a little different in that Melissa was looking for a model flea.
A few years back Disney and Pixar made a PT Flea character from the Bugs Life film. The model opens up to reveal the acts including a cannon and a tightrope act.

PT Flea Toy

If anyone has one of these to donate or sell, please get in touch and I'll pass your details on to Melissa.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Fleas in the Bible

Fleas have been around a long time, they are even mentioned in the Bible. When David is being pursued by King Saul he compares himself to a flea.

1 Samuel 26:20b
“For the king of Israel has come out to seek a flea, as when one hunts a partridge in the mountains.”

The following links mention the flea as "pa'-rosh" and "barghut" so perhaps there's some more flea translations to be added to the Flea Circus Research Library Language of Fleas page.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Pestival 2009

The Southbank Centre is celebrating insects in art, and the art of being an insect.

Friday 4 - Sunday 6 September

South Bank Centre Pestival

'A rare and wonderful celebration of the creepy crawly' (The Independent).

Did you know 80% of creatures on earth are insects? Bring your family along to Pestival to learn about these "pests" without whom humans wouldn't survive.

Events include exhibitions, demonstrations and family workshops

Bee Social
The Insect Circus Museum
Become an Insect Detective
Step inside the BeeCab
Insect Mask Making
Praying Mantis Kung Fu
The Termite Pavilion
Slow Food Market

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Historic Japanese Flea and other insects

The above image of a flea is part of Kenbikyō Mushi No Zu (”Illustrations of Microscopic Insects”), a scroll published in 1860. The scroll contains paintings of a series of insects and seen through a microscope.

The Tohoku University Library houses the original copy of the Kenbikyō Mushi No Zu scroll.

Source: Stephen Reinhardt of Tessella Zine and edo of Pink Tentacle

Friday, 24 July 2009

Visiting Canadians and Bertolotto

Yesterday I had the pleasure to meet with Dr Barton who was visting from Canada. She was in London to visit the British Library and the Natural History Museum for research for a book on fleas she is writing. We had a long chat about all things big and small about fleas including real and "humbug" circuses, the plague, symbolism and famous flea performers from history.

Dr Karin Barton from Wilfrid Laurier University and Andy Clark from the Flea Circus Research Library

Dr Barton has a copy of a letter sent by L. Bertolotto to a famous author that contains information about his early years and why he moved to Canada. I hope to put more on the site after her book is released. In the mean time it's given me some ideas of new areas to research.

Friday, 17 July 2009

The Magic Cafe discussions on Flea Circuses

There's been a bit of activity on the Magic Cafe forums just recently on the topic of Flea Circuses. The Magic Cafe site describes itself as "Magicians Helping Magicians" and is open 24 hours a day and the forums are frequented by a wide variety of Magicians and related artists.

Recent discussions have been comparing new models of flea circus props, the merits of making your own circus vs buying one, different sizes of circus and how to make your flea fire out of a cannon with a bang. The discussions are normally in the "Believe it or not", "Tricks and Effects" and "The Workshop" forums.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Flea Circus in Detective Fiction

Bart Hardin from the novel Terror on Broadway (1954) a newsroom investigator was written as living above a flea circus in a Times Square tenement by author David Alexander.

From Killer Covers of the Week.

See other references to Flea Circuses in Fiction or in Films.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The legend of the flea people

The Yokut Native American tribe of the California Central Valley saw the three bright stars of the Pleiades constellation as the foot prints of the god of the flea people.

According to legend, when the flea's five wives became itchy and ran away, three times the god of the flea people jumped into the sky to look for them. When his footprints cannot be seen (stars drop below the horizon winter months) the flea people grow afraid and go into hiding (i.e. dormant). This helped explain to the tribal people why they couldn't count on those stars for guides in winter months, and why there were no fleas about.

Read more about the Yokut people

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Orchard Toys - Flea Circus Game

There's a new Flea Circus Game from Orchard Toys.

The idea of the game is the roll a dice and move your ringmaster around the board. Players must collect their performing fleas and build a big top before all of the audience arrives. You need to watch out for escaping fleas though. The fleas perform a few traditional flea acts like the trapeze and strong man as well as some more exotic ones such as plate spinning and unicycling.

The game can improve observation skills, develops social communication, and links with Early Learning Goals and National Curriculum Maths Key Stage 1.

Age: 5+
Players: 2-4
Price £11
Available direct from Orchard or from Amazon.

Like all Orchard Toys games and puzzles the Flea Circus Game is made from 100% recycled board and is designed, manufactured and packed in the Norfolk, UK. The instructions are provided in 12 different European and International Languages.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Insect Festival 2009

On Saturday 4 July in York, celebrating the insect world will be the Insect Festival 2009. The Festival, organised by the Royal Entomological Society, will be the largest event of its kind in the north of England

This event is good for all the family with a wide variety of exhibitions and lectures for the adults and insect hunts and interactive displays for the budding new entomologists.

The festival exhibition will include RES stands, live insect displays, demonstrations, award-winning photographic displays, regional natural history societies, book sellers, entomologist's equipment and artwork.

Presentations and lectures will be given in the Tempest Anderson Hall with the trade and exhibitor stands in the half timbered 14th Century Hospitium.

Admission for the general public is £1 per adult, with free entry for under 16’s.

Event: Insect Festival 2009
Organiser: Royal Entomological Society
Date: Saturday 4 July 2009
Venue: York Museum Gardens, York
Time: 10am – 4pm

Map and directions

More information

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Jumping Flea Tune

Composer and story teller James Clark is writing a song about the flea circus. He's put up a draft version on his blog and hopes to add more instruments such as an accordian. Why not have a listen and tell him what you think?

Friday, 22 May 2009

Madame Talbot Presents - Eddie Dijon

Madame Talbot, the maker of curios and expert in mysterious has collected a few bits of information about her friend Eddie Dijon who used to run a flea circus in the far east, Canada and the USA.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Walt's Flea

A package arrived in the post the other day from the USA. When I got back from work I opened it with gleeful anticipation. It was an ex-flea from Magician, Inventor and Flea Circus performer Walt Noon. My particular flea was "Trixie, the flea on a Trapeze" and came with an official document of explanation. The trapeze fleas are selected from those that are calm but not docile so that they are not phased by the noise of the audience but move enough to cause the trapeze to swing. Walt's document also explains how he preserves the fleas so you know that you can enjoy them for years to come.

I hope Trixie enjoys her retirement as a charioteer.

Trixie the flea with flea chariot, click to zoom in

If you want to buy your own trained flea, you can do so from

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Summer of 1955

Mr Walter E Hunt was yet another Tivoli Garden visitor, who on a budget tour around Europe reached Denmark.

"From there I went to Tivoli Gardens, a popular tourist place similar in many ways to Disney Land. I was fascinated by a flea circus at one of the booths there. The ringmaster, using tweezers, hooked fleas up to small carts and wagons, which they pulled across small circus rings, and did other gymnastics. Skeptic that I am, I looked for magnets or other devices under the table but saw nothing."

Saturday, 4 April 2009

More memories of the Tivoili Flea Circus

Dark Roasted Blend has been accumulating information of flea circus and has written an article on the Victorian Flea Circus.

One of the comments on the article was a lovely reminisce about the flea circus in Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.

farmgirl said...

"Wonderful article! I was fortunate to see the Flea Circus at the Tivoli Gardens in 1962. The fleas lived in a box and were brought out for the show. They were then attached to the little vehicles during the show. We could not see the fleas, only the little vehicles which magically moved along on the platform.

The wife presented the show to the audience, while the husband would go out to neighboring farms to find the fleas. He would feed them by rolling up his sleeve and give them a meal on his arm!

After they divorced, the wife no longer continued the flea circus. She converted the performing space at the Tivoli to a "Mouse House" which consisted of a small village of buildings such as a school, several stores, homes and police station, etc. which were empty and the mice ran around, in and out of these small buildings.

I brought my family to the Tivoli in 1978 and found the Mouse House after looking for the flea circus which was no more. There was a small set of bleachers where the audience could sit and watch this performance. It was a hilarious show watching the constant scouring around of the little mice., in and out of the buildings. I and my children were rolling with laughter."

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Alberti Flea Circus at MerleFest

Later this month the Alberti Flea Circus will be appearing at the MerleFest music festival in North Carolina.

Thu 23 Apr – Sun 26 Apr 2009

Alberti Flea Circus:

Address: PO Box 120 Wilkesboro, NC 28697
Phone: 1-800-343-7857

View other flea circus performances on the Flea Circus Calendar

Friday, 27 March 2009

Wiseman's Flea Circus

Richard Wiseman has been blogging about flea circuses and has stired up quite a debate about cruelty to fleas.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Snow fleas

Linda Kervin from Bridgerland Audubon Society has been writing about Snow Fleas, and how they arn't really fleas at all.

Friday, 20 March 2009

The Adventures of the Araknid Kid, Episode 1

Josh Alves has produced a new comic book set in a "Wild, Wild, West" type version of the "Old West" and called "The Adventures of the Araknid Kid". The first episode has a flea villian from Ritz Nabiscov's Flea Circus.

In good comic book style, the villians "Kracker & Flea", were formed when their travelling show was hit by a meteor. Kracker is a shape-shifting brute made of cracker crumbs and his flea became enlarged and super-smart.

There was a long development of the characters, Josh told me that Araknid Kid was developed out of a character created in high school called BugBoy. Kracker had started out as a research professor not a showman.

For more details of the book you can read a review of The Adventures of the Araknid Kid by Katherine Dacey

You can buy the book via the Araknid Kid website.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Charlies Fleas

Tom Shone has been looking at Charlie Chaplin's idea for a flea circus from 1919.

Tom Shone and Chaplin's Fleas

Chaplin tries to work the idea into several films but ends up with a short sequence in Limelight where two of the flea escape from the match box.

Other flea films

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Another Flea Circus T-Shirt

Here's another Flea Circus t-shirt design, this time from "grypes" of Shared Areas.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

More Industrious Fleas

In this latest find of industrious fleas from 1832, the writer is not in anyway impressed by the exhibition. The Athenaeum was a weekly periodical published in London between 1828 and 1923. Thanks to google books for their digitisation of this paper.

The Athenaeum
Journal of English and Foreign Literature, Science, and the fine arts
No 219 London, Saturday, January 7, 1832 Price four pence.

Our weekly gossip on literature and art

"But our fashionable friends are spending their wonder on 'The Industrious Fleas' in Regent Street; a strange mania, for there is really nothing in the exhibition worthy a moment;s admiration the fleas have not been taught and trainedl there has been no patient labour bestored on their schooling; they are simply fastened ny a hind leg to a little car, modelled out of the pith of elder, and the struggles of the creatures to escape give motion to the carriage. A flea just caught would do the same thing."

Monday, 9 March 2009

Flea Circus T-Shirt

Flea Circus by by bsweber

This Flea Circus T-Shirt by BSWeber was spotted on Woot today.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Bamboo Flea Trap at London's Science Museum

Bamboo Flea Trap

Thanks to Lee Jackson from the Cat's Meat Shop I've discovered that London's Science Museum houses a bamboo flea trap. The tubes were heated up to attract the fleas inside, once there the fleas stuck to the sticky substance contained within.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Flea Circuses topic on QI

Stephen Fry quizzes his contestants on their knowledge of Flea Circuses on the QI quiz show. In a episode called "Flora and Fauna" he is joined by John Sergeant, Jimmy Carr, Jo Brand and Alan Davies.

Q: What was the biggest destroyer of human fleas? Asks Fry
A: Vacuum Cleaners answers John Sergeant.

However Sergeant then goes on to incorrectly comments that if a human being had as powerful legs as a flea that they could jump over the Eiffel tower. The flea can jump 80 times its own height but if you scaled that up to human sizes then it would not be as high. The reason for this is that muscle strength scales with cross section but mass would increase with volume on a cubic scale. This would mean that a human with flea legs could jump (cuberoot of 80)squared i.e. approx 18.5 times their own height. Taking the UK average of 175cm, which multipled by 18.5 is approx 32m which although very impressive is only 1/10 of the height of the Eiffel tower.

I thought Mr Fry was rather over exuberant with regards to the one rare example of the flea band (who were glued to a heated tray) where as the majority of flea performances were about pulling things, something that does not put any more strain on the flea than a horse pulling a cart. It sounded like he got all his information from Wikipedia but the clips from Pathe News were very good.

BBC Flea (contains Adult themes) 5mins -> 9mins

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Flea Pit on tour to Wimbledon

Belfast based children’s theatre company, Cahoots NI, take to the road this April with The Flea Pit – an original and quirky production that takes place in a miniature, mobile theatre space. The tiny theatre, holding just 15 people, has been magically created to present this delightful Flea Circus.

Dates: 07 April - 18 April
Age Range: 4 - 11
Duration: 20 minutes

These magnificent mini-beasts have performed across the USA, Europe and Ireland amazing people with incredible feats of weight-lifting, trapeze and high-wire. Come along, be amazed and delighted by this sensational circus troupe featuring live music, loads of laughs and magic tricks galore.

Show Details and booking

Polka Theatre is one of the few venues in the UK which is dedicated to producing and presenting work for young audiences. Over 100,000 children a year come to Polka and are inspired, stimulated and enaged by the theatre they see there.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Hooke's Flea on tour in the Hayward Gallery

Robert Hooke's 1665 drawing of a flea has gone south of the river for a few weeks. On loan from the Royal Society's collection at UCL it's now visible at the Hayward Gallery as part of Mark Wallinger's exhibition The Russian Linesman, "Frontiers, Borders and Thresholds".

"Mark Wallinger, winner of the 2007 Turner Prize and one of Britain's most original and unpredictable artists, curates this unique exhibition exploring notions of the liminal: thresholds between physical, political or metaphysical realms."

Exhibition Details

Robert Hooke was a scientist and inventor and is credited with improving the barometer, anemometer, and hygrometer. However he is most famous for his biological studies as documented in Micrographia which was made possible his design for a compound microscope based on Anton van Leeuwenhoek previous model. Hooke was asked by the Royal Society to confirm Leeuwenhoek's suggestion of microscoping life in water and duely did so. He also looked at Mites in Cheese, and the Blue of Plums confirming both to be living organisms.

ROBERT HOOKE (1635-1703)
Robert Hooke - experimental scientist
A picture of Robert Hooke

Monday, 23 February 2009

The making of the HP flea circus

Animation Blog's Ian Lumsden has a detailed write up on HP's Flea Circus advert including how it was made with a mixture of stop motion with props made from 3D printing with CGI for the fleas.

Hewlett Packard - Wobulation Hewlett Packard - Wobulation

Related links:

Making of the HP Flea Circus Advert.
Posters for the HP Flea Circus

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Flea Delusions

I've been reading about the unfortunate condition delusory parasitosis in May R. Berenbaum's book, "Bugs in the System". The condition is where people imagine bugs crawling on or in their bodies. The patient can be so convinced that they can actually persuade others that they have bugs on them too.

May writes of Spanish Film Maker, Luis Brunel's autobiography where he mentions a visit to see Salvador Dali in Montmatre.

'I found him stripped to the waist, an enormous bandage on his back. Apparently he thought he'd felt a "flea" or some other strange beast and had attacked his back with a razor blade. Bleeding profusely, he got the hotel manager to call a doctor, only to discover that the "flea" was in reality a pimple.'


May R. Berenbaum: Bugs in the System 1995, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Bunel, Luis., 1982. My Last Sigh. New York: Vintage


Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Strong Flea Act

Out of all of the acts that can be performed in a humbug flea circus, one of my favourites is the strongman flea. This flea would perform feats such as pulling a heavy wagon, turning a carousel or flipping a coin. The coin trick works by having a special coin and a powerful magnet.

I've not seen these coins available in the UK before and I've asked around a few shops. Here's one supplier of magic self flipping coins. Please let me know if you supply these or know of an alternative supplier.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Flea Adverts

Mirroring the jewelers and watchmakers of the 19th Century, Swiss Watch Makers International Watch Co. Schaffhausen have used a flea to show just how small and intricate they can make their watch parts.

IWC Flea Advert

Working with Agency Jung von Matt from Germany, IWC have created a series of adverts showing their "Passion for Detail", as well as the Flea Circus Advert, their adverts also include a tiny dartboard and a tiny labyrinth style game.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Flea Chariot Racing

Mr T. Smith of "Codex Transportica" has "translated" an interesting sport from the World of King Sprungtopf. Flea-Charioteering aka Capriolet Racing is a dangerous form of chariot racing using the Flea Hopsicle and the article goes into great detail of the practical and social aspects of this sport.

The Codex also contains many other forms of forgotten transport such as the Glittersniffer, the Misbegotten Toboggan and the Royal Orb.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

What's happening to all the bees

Regular viewers of Dr Who will know that the Dr and Donna found that all of the bees had left to follow a trail into the Medusa Cascade.

Norman Carreck from the Linnean Society however presents a scientific rather than science fiction approach to the issue.

On the 19th February, 6:00 PM the society will hear an evening talk about the declining bee population. Topics such as natural variations in population, viruses, parasites and mites will be covered. The talk will also cover recent work into this area.

"Tea will be served in the Library from 5.30pm and the lecture will be followed by a wine reception. This meeting is free and open to all; registration is not necessary."

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Captain Peacock - Lice Hunter

Maureen Claydon has kindly sent me a link to for Captain Peacock "Lice Hunter" which she found via the Tyne and Wear Archives.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Herman Melville - Not a flea fan

I'm not in agreement with Herman Melville who claimed that

To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 104

I suggest Herman needs to read one of the many flea books that are around.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Too dirty for fleas

The Manchester Evening News reports of a house that was so dirty even the fleas refused to live there.

Anna McDonald, prosecuting at Manchester Magistrates Court, said: "These cats walked, sat and slept in their own excrement. The conditions were so bad that even flea eggs could not survive. This is a case where a life ban from keeping animals is appropriate."

Obviously this is very unfortunate for the cats but I found it facinating that there were such conditions that would be damaging to flea reproduction.

Was it the lack of humidity that stopped the eggs? Or could be other cat illnesses within the excrement that have affected the fleas such as toxoplasmosis, bartonella or tapeworms (that use fleas as a carrier) that could have killed off the fleas? It could also have been a high quantity of ammonia from the cat urine.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Japanese Flea Poem

Fleas! Lice!
A horse peeing By my pillow

--Basho, seventeenth century Japanese poet, staying at a roadside inn.
(Translated by R.Toby)

from "Bugs in the system" by May R. Berenbaum

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Flea Chariot

I've just finished making a tiny flea chariot, the details of which can be seen over on the workshopshed blog.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Fresnel Lenses

Earlier in the week a colleague returned from his lunch break with an A4 sized Fresnel lens. He'd bought from a bookshop to help out an aging parent for a very reasonable price of £9.99. Further investigation reviled that most of the big bookstores such as Waterstones or Foyles have these and various magnifying glasses for reading books and maps. The magnifiers are described as "page magnifiers" or "sheet magnifiers" and range from credit card sized thru to full page magnifiers.

A full page sheet magnifier

It's also possible to get these online direct from Magnifico

I've bought a couple to allow people to see my latest miniature creation (more on that later in the week).