‘Uni’s not for me, I’m 
a circus girl at heart’

A college student is preparing for the next stage of her career, but unlike her classmates is ditching university for a life in the circus.

Sarah-jane Eyles of Long Chaulden has dreamed of performing in the big top since childhood, when she would hide under ringside seats and look on in awe.

Sarah-jane Eyles gets strapped in to a straitjacket for her shocking stunt.

Sarah-jane Eyles gets strapped in to a straitjacket for her shocking stunt.

The performing arts pupil said: “My mum told me she had wanted to run away with the circus when she was little, so for a long time it has been my dream to just pack a little suitcase and go.

“I just really love a challenge and schoolwork is not demanding in the right kind of way for me. I do not think it will prepare me for life like the circus can.”

The 18-year-old, who performs under the stage name SJ Lavelle, has enrolled onto a training academy run by Zippos Circus, and sets off for a life on the road in May.

As one of few females able to complete a straitjacket escape routine involving steel chains and padlocks, Sarah-jane has already perfected a stunt worthy of the circus. She can free herself in under 90 seconds.

The escapologist also works as a ‘scare actor’ for Hallowe’en attractions and regularly busks in Covent Garden to earn money to fund her unusual dream.

She said: “In the circus, life is very touch and go, you never know exactly where you are going and do not know where you will be in two weeks’ time. It is very spontaneous, but it will be great.

“I will be staying in a camper van with other performers for five months, but I think I’ll learn more during that time than I would in three years of university.”

Although anyone can apply to the circus academy, only around 15 candidates are successful each year. Sarah-jane submitted a video audition of her escapology stunt and won a coveted spot.

She said: “If I wasn’t doing this I don’t know what else I would be doing. I can’t see myself being anything else but a performer. This is a really good opportunity for me to just go somewhere and do my own thing.

“A lot of people who come out of this course end up going on to own their own circuses. In the future I would love to run my own circus or events company.”

The talented performer has received a bursary from Zippos to cover some fees, but she is still hoping for support to fund her living expenses while she’s with the academy. She has set up a fundraising site to help raise vital cash for the unconventional course.

Visit www.gofundme.com/26zswk for more.