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Daisy Carrington, Lifestyle writer

Difficulty: 4/5

My dad built me a trapeze as a kid. I only ever dangled from my knees, but I was convinced I was a master, and put notices around my neighbourhood offering lessons. Fast forward 25 years, and I’m deflated as Moira, my instructor at Aircraft Circus in Woolwich, demonstrates the real way to dangle from your knees. She makes it look effortless, but I know before trying it’s going to be a challenge.

You must first do a plank, which entails grasping the trapeze, lifting your legs off the ground, throwing them over your head in a straight line and then hooking them over the bar.

I start to get it after three tries, though my arms are spent. Moira tsks. I’m flexible, she says, but my core is weak. She has me do some sit-ups while I dangle from my knees. By the end of the session, I’ve learned to sit and stand on the trapeze, plus some tricks.

The mermaid proves especially scary – that’s where I lie sideways on the bar, holding on with one hand, and do a showy backbend. I am defeated by the trickier birds’ nest, whereby I’m supposed to grip the ropes with my ankles and bend backwards. My arms decide they’ve had enough, and I come crashing down. Luckily, a massive crash pad makes it painless.

Ready to run away to the circus?

 Yes. Despite my fumbling, the class was fun, and it’s a killer workout. I’ve never used so many muscles at once, and the next day, everything is throbbing. I’m tempted to take the six-week beginner course.

How fit?

Moira Campbell, co-director and trainer at AirCraft, says trapeze uses muscle groups in a way the gym just can’t. “You get these big guys who work out all the time who come in and think because they’re strong, trapeze will be easy,” she says. “But they soon find they don’t know how to use those muscles.

The great thing about static trapeze is there’s no limit to your creativity. It’s interactive and sparks your imagination more than running for 45 minutes on a treadmill ever will.”

Do it: A taster course costs £30, or book a six-week beginner course for £130 (

Doc Insane

Extreme circus

Here are some circus skills we definitely DON’T recommend that you learn

Jim Rose Circus

Still touring today after it was founded in the early Nineties, Seattle’s Jim Rose is responsible for a modern-day version of the freakish sideshow, with performers including The Amazing Master Lifto, who hangs weights from his genital piercings.


Circus of Horrors

This schlocky rock ‘n’ roll touring circus could be best described as Rocky Horror meets a heavy metal video in a Big Top. The improbably named Hannibal Helmurto swings heavy objects on a meat hook through his nose, while one reviewer wrote of “an incident with a Henry vacuum cleaner and a dwarf that you won't be reading about in a family newspaper”. Comes to London in October.


Doc Insane 

Doc reckons his show is so extreme, he’s been banned from countries, although they did let him appear on The Charlotte Church Show. One of his favourite routines is to put his face in a pile of smashed glass and ask an audience member to stand on the back of his head. See website for upcoming show dates. 


Photos: TNT


Roll up! Roll up! The TNT team runs away with the circus and puts their physical limits to the test
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