Big Top

In Aqualand

Circus Hassani, probably in 1984

The Greatest Show on Earth rolled into Alton Towers in 1983 to become an unmissable part of 'a day out of this world'.

The Circus Hassani, founded by Ali Hassani and Tamara Coco in 1979, was the UK's first all-human Cirque-style circus. After setting up their first park residence at Chessington Zoo in 1982, they arrived at Alton Towers the following year, bringing their signature mix of international acts to the park's new Big Top.

Located in between Ingestre Centre and the area that would become Towers Street (behind the current location of Towers Trading), whilst the circus and their Big Top were new, there had already been a tent on this site for several years prior. In fact, the original yellow Big Top arrived in the park in 1980 to house the Parrot Show.

For the 1983 season, The Parrot Show was relocated elsewhere in the park, but the show's distinctive entrance remained as a fitting facade for the new circus. Beyond, a new yellow and green tent, seated up to 1,400 guests per show and became an iconic new venue for the park.

The actual tent was replaced several times over the course of the years, and in 1987 it was expanded to seat 1,800 guests to reflect the popularity of the show. At the same time, the Hassanis took a step back from day to day operations of the circus, but the family were still responsible for sourcing the very best acts for the renamed International Circus.

The troupe would perform for the final time in 1988, before an ice rink was installed in the Big Top for the park's first full-scale Christmas event. From this point forward, other than a brief spell hosting a Laser Adventure in 1989, the venue would be home to the park's Ice Spectaculars for nearly 20 years.;

In 1992, the Big Top moved to be sited between the farm and Kiddies Kingdom, which coincided with the opening of the park's ambitious new ice show, Captain Henry's Gold, the biggest production the park had created to date.

In Storybook Land

Peter Rabbit and Friends on Ice

The most fondly remembered of the park's ice shows opened in 1994, when Peter Rabbit and his friends took to the ice for a re-telling of the classic Beatrix Potter tales.

Peter Rabbit really made himself at home in 1996, when the area around the Big Top became Storybook Land, including a new entrance for the Ice Show through Peter's whimsical treehouse. At the same time, the Big Top itself got a refresh. Whilst previously the circus tent had been brightly coloured to attract guests, the Big Top now sported a dark green canopy, to make it better blend in with its woodland setting.

When Peter Rabbit moved out of the Big Top in 2001, the entire tent was replaced by a brand-new purpose build structure ready for Webmaster: An Adventure on Ice. The new show was inspired by a high-tech adventure through the internet, but was still accessed through the treehouse at the heart of Storybook Land.

In its final seasons, the Big Top once again played host to a circus - of sorts. The Magic of Ice was a circus-themed ice show featuring an array of illusions. But, just as the first ice show had arrived during the winter of 1988, the very last show in the Big Top, the Magic of Pantomime, took place during the 2005 Christmas event.

Then, rather unexpectedly, the venue was shuttered for the 2006 season. The Big Top remained unused for several years, gradually falling into a state of disrepair before eventually being demolished in 2013 to make way for Big Fun Showtime in CBeebies Land.

Big Fun Showtime Construction - the former site of the Big Top

But the story didn't end there...  The final remnants of the Big Top infrastructure remained in place until 2016, when the Go Jetters Vroomster Zoom Ride was built on the site of the old Ice Machine, which had been used to keep the rink frozen.

And even today, the memory of the Big Top remains. Big Fun Showtime fills its large round footprint, but the most obvious reminder is the CBeebies Photo Studio, which now occupies Peter Rabbit's old treehouse. The entrance to the studio is the very same entrance guests once used to enter the Big Top.

In the Big Top's final seasons, The Magic of Ice brought another circus-themed spectacular to the rink. This time, however, illusion was at the heart of the show. For its second season, the show welcomed The Twins as the new headline performers.

The wide world of the web came to Alton Towers in 2002, when the ice arena played host to an all-new high-tech adventure - the world's first show fusing the power of ice with the internet.

The classic tales of Beatrix Potter come to life in an enchanting ice-show where Peter Rabbit calls on his friends to solve a mystery...

Captain Henry's Gold

(1992 - 1993)

Henry Hound took to the high seas in a highly ambitious ice show. The Big Top was transformed for scene after scene as Henry visited exotic lands and even dived deep beneath the ocean waves in a specially made diving suit.

Circus on Ice

(1990 - 1991)

The ring became a rink when the circus returned to the Big Top. The new show was a circus-themed ice spectacular, featuring the Garcia Brothers swooping high over the ice on the Wheel of Death.

In a break from the circus, in 1989 the Big Top Played host to the high-tech Laser Adventure Show. This musical spectacular featured one of the largest laser rigs in the UK, provided by Laser Grafix.

International Circus

(1987 - 1988)

The Hassanis took a step back from the Alton Towers circus in 1987, but still helped the park to source the very best acts from around the world to perform in the International Circus.

Circus Hassani

(1983 - 1986)

The circus rolled in to Alton Towers in 1983, when Ali Hassani and Tamara Coco brought their international troupe to the park. Each season, a rotating line-up of circus stars would delight guests with a variety of acts.

Parrot Show

(1980 - 1982)

The first show in the Big Top was a concert of feather performers, where a veritable aviary of stars took to the tent to wow guests with a variety of birding skills.

Attraction Stats

January 2006