By Ellen Hill – Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism
Magic wands, zany hats, slinkies, cap guns, Rubiks cubes, punch balls, balloons, knuckle heads, yoyos, fake blood capsules, hula hoops, Sudoku toilet rolls. All those novelty toys would be recognisable to everyone.
But if you know what these are and how to use them, you’re a serious circus performer – double fire skipping rope, monkey fist poi, fire fingers, contact ball, juggling knife, trapeze, jumping stilts and unicycles.
All those items and much more can be found within Weirder the Better Circus Shop at Katoomba.
Shop owner Graham Pinning, 24, began exploring circus skills after learning to ride a unicycle.
His parents had bought him one as a joke for Christmas when he was age 11. Before long, he had also taught himself to juggle and then began teaching others.
Graham joined Zany Yare youth circus in the Blue Mountains in 2005 and “got a bit obsessed’’ with circus skills.
He even toyed with the idea of running away to the circus but didn’t want to leave his family.
So in 2007 he started his own business selling handmade juggling balls at markets and festivals before opening Weirder the Better Circus Shop in Katoomba in 2008 and branching into toys, novelty products and circus equipment.
While he has no serious hankering to be a professional circus performer, “I worked out pretty quickly that if you don’t show people how to use the items, you’re not going to sell anything’’.
He has achieved the “black belt of juggling’’ – five balls, and also taught himself stilt walking and acrobatics.
In 2009, Graham was invited to perform on his stilts for the Channel 7 Sunrise program. He has also been filmed by UK television show In Too Deep.
Graham’s shop at the top of Katoomba St has become a popular tourist attraction and stop for amateur and serious circus skills performers alike.
He has also achieved a coveted contract to stock the official Cirque de Soleil product range and has attracted regular customers including street performers, serious enthusiasts and even members of The Great Moscow Circus when they were in town.
Circus skills had become increasingly popular and mainstream much like pole dancing because they were accessible to all, Graham said.
“Unlike gymnastics, circus is inclusive and has no rules. You’re competing against yourself.’’
While some circus activities such as hula hooping help people lose weight, others such as juggling help boost concentration and problem solving abilities.
Weirder the Better Circus Shop, Shop 11, 1-13 Katoomba St, Katoomba, is open seven days. Phone (02) 4782 9806 for more details.
Visitors are welcome. The weirder the better. But no clowns. Definitely no clowns.