Arthur Pedlar

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19 Feb 2003
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[Transcribed from Joyce Robinson’s handwritten summary. DS]

Arthur V Pedlar, born Southport 21st April 1932. Father owned shop selling imported art and furniture. Schooled at a Quaker boarding school, where he performed first silent clown act, influenced by ‘Kelly’ [an] American ‘hobo’ clown. Father bought his first unicycle; bought his own 5ft 6inch uni-bike with proceeds from ships-in-bottles (now in Guinness Book of Records for the smallest). Arthur performed in the NAAFI during National Service. Found difficulty getting work on demobilisation; spotted advert by chance to join Les Auguste? Anglais, with [Len] ‘Spider’ Austin at Cirque Moderne in Paris: Buster Keaton topped the bill, Arthur acted as his ‘ring-boy’ [and] felt privileged. Speaks of origin of Circus, namely ‘Astley’s Amphitheatre of Arts’, featuring army-trained horses; speaks of famous clowns: Dimitri, Grock, and The Fossett Family of clowns. Met his wife at a Chichester Festival gala. Next to London’s Player’s Theatre and then cabaret in Majorca and Italy. Invited to perform at the St Petersburg State Circus in Leningrad; invited to perform and teach at a World Clown’s Association summer school; then made President-elect of same. Arthur later joined the Holy Fools, an interdenominational group working in hospitals, prisons, special schools.

He joined Equity when required to, for a day’s work in a commercial for TV – earned £840. He describes clowns’ ‘patter’ and pieces of business, failures, disasters, importance of lighting and a versatile accompanist; also the mechanics of riding an 8-foot unicycle and the need to demonstrate that the clown character must seem unaware that he is funny to be successful. He describes working for deaf and autistic children.

He is a member of Clowns International; he’s about to be [2003] made Vice-President of the Motley Alley UK (a branch of the World’s Clowns Association, USA; he’s a member of the Circus Friend’s Association, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and is a lecturer on clowning for NADFAS, the National Association of Design & Fine Arts.

Now retired fully from the family business, he is putting his efforts into developing and supporting The Israel Circus School, which aims to teach Israeli and Arab children circus skills.



Son of a religious man.Family business Wayfarers Shop.Unicyler as clown training. Left school 1949. Talent competition s in Cornwall street carnivals. Built ships in perfume bottles. To pay for 8ft Unicycle. National service followed. Into family business shop. Joined Blackpool Tower circus in 1953. Describes routines in Clowns use. And relates history of Clowns like Charlie Carrolli in the early part of the 20th Century. Buster Keaton figures in the history. Describes costumes and acts in detail.