Norman Barrett is a hit with the birds - using Israeli techniques


This is circus ringmaster Norman Barrett and one of his performing budgies, which he has trained to swing on a see-saw and walk down slides. Where did he learn to do that? Israel, of course.

Mr Barrett, 73, and his budgies are on a UK tour with Zippo’s Circus — currently performing at Wembley Stadium. But it was a few years ago in Haifa where the acclaimed ringmaster says he learned to work with budgerigars.

He tells People: “I went to Israel because I had contacts at the Haifa Theatre Club. I worked with a stand-up comedian there. I taught him to juggle and he taught me some acts. I started training budgies there and really enjoyed my time in Israel.”

The ‘budgies act’ involves between 12 and 16 of the little birds, which use cars, slides, hot-air balloons and see-saws, plus an exploding cannon, to create chaos.

Is it not cruel? “People have the right to criticise but all the animals are very well looked after. I have an aviary in my van. I am giving the animals the chance to live a more fulfilled life.” He adds: “Zippo’s is a very classical circus and it is good clean family entertainment.” Why budgies? “Because they are very light and easy to transport with the minimum of props.”

Blackpool-based Mr Barrett has been a ringmaster for the past 25 years. He was 12 years old when he joined his father in the circus. “I liked the animal tricks that my father would do.”

Zippo's Circus

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