We have launched a new website and are reviewing this page. Find out more
Open daily 10.00 to 17.45 Admission free Menu

This toy circus from around 1930 was published by a French firm called Imagerie d'Epinalis. It is a variation on the toy theatres which were extremely popular in the mid 19th century, printed on paper sheets to be cut out and assembled at home.

To make your own circus just click on the following link to download the Toy Circus document, and follow the instructions below.

Download instructions to make your own toy circus. (PDF file, 1.4 MB) 


Print out the Toy Circus Download document, preferably on thin card. If you don’t have any card, don’t worry, the circus will still stand up in normal A4 paper.

You will also need:

  • A piece of cardboard to use as a base.
  • A pair of small scissors.
  • Some glue.
  • A slice of a cork from a wine bottle, about 2mm thick.
  • A wooden barbecue stick (a length of strong wire can also be used).
  • A lentil, dried pea or plastic bead for the pivot (optional).
1. Make the platform base:

Cut out the four pieces marked ‘socle’ on page 3, these are going to make a square column or platform underneath the stage. The square piece labelled ‘dessus du socle’ is the top of the platform.

Glue the flaps to their corresponding numbers – so flap '1' will be stuck to the edge of the side marked '1' etc. (Flaps marked ‘5’ will be stuck to the cardboard base at the end).

2. Assemble the revolve:

Cut out the big circle on p.4 labelled ‘Circle de mainten A’ and fold back the triangular flaps (this will make it easier to stick on later).

Glue the circle to the top of the platform so that the middles line up.

Cut out the revolving disk marked ‘D’ and then glue your slice of cork to the back of it; make sure you get the cork in the exact centre of the circle. (The approximate size of the piece of cork needed is shown on page 1, it’s the shape marked ‘diamètre de liège’).

3. Add the performers:

Cut out all the performers and the horses and stick them onto ‘D’. The numbers show you who goes where.

4. Make the circus rotate:

Take your wooden barbecue stick and push it through the centre of the cork and the revolving disk ‘D’ so that about a quarter of the wire is sticking out below the disk. You can use the scale line on page 1 marked ‘Longueur & dispositit du fit de fer formant Arbre du mauège’ to cut the barbecue stick to size and line up the disks on it.

Tip: When cutting the barbecue stick it’s best to keep one end sharp to make it easier to push through the base and disks.

5. Assemble the exterior walls:

Cut out the sides of the circus on pages 1 and 3 and fold the triangular flaps at the top and bottom so that they will be easy to stick down later. Then glue the two sides into a cylinder using the straight flaps, making sure the left entrance pillar fully overlaps the blanked area.

Take the ‘circle de maintien A’ and the column, and push put the sharp end of the barbecue stick through the centre. Slide the ‘circle de maintien A’ up so that it is about 5mm below the disk ‘D’, and adjust the barbecue stick so that the bottom of the barbecue stick is level with the bottom of the column.

Put some glue on the top of the triangular flaps around ‘D’ and then slide the cylinder carefully down over the top of the disks and stick the flaps to the inside of the cylinder.

6. Create a pivot

Push the lentil or pea onto the bottom of the barbecue stick; or stick your plastic bead onto it. This will act as a pivot, so that when the circus is stuck down onto its cardboard base, the wire will be able to turn easily. (Don’t worry too much if you don’t have a lentil or pea, as the circus will work without it)

7. Add the roof

Cut out the roof on page 2 and glue it into shape. This should create a cone with sides sloping at about 20 degrees.
Push the roof onto the barbecue stick, and glue the roof to the flaps on the top of the cylinder. There should be a couple of centimetres of stick sticking out of the top.

8. Finishing touches

Stick the circus down onto your cardboard base (flaps marked ‘5’). Cut out the flag (marked ‘drapeau’) and fold it in half. Glue the two halves together around the top of the stick.

Now just twist the top of the stick to make the stage and the performers turn round!

V&A Innovative Leadership Programme

The V&A Innovative Leadership Programme is aimed at managers working in the arts & creative industries looking to develop new skills, insight and opportunity. Applications are now open for the next course.

Apply now