The Circus Group Vs The Bank
At the end of July, a circus group from Bristol was denied a business account because the bank claimed that some of the troupe’s acts posed a “moral problem” that the bank couldn’t be associated with. But in true Daily Diamond style, there is a silver lining to this story!
Joshua Morris and Lucy Tucker started up Circus Uncertainty earlier this year, with 40-odd performers in their ranks. Their acts range from fire shows, various styles of acrobatics, diabolo shows, juggling acts and the classic lion tamer (sans lion!), as well as burlesque and showgirls acts.
Not only have the group performed at Glastonbury and Bristol festivals, their shows are family-friendly and they run workshops and events. On top of all this, the group want to run a charity programme as part of CUSP (Circus Uncertainty Social Projects), in which the performers will visit ill children in hospital dressed as the child’s favourite character or superhero.
While the performers are willing to participate in the programme without pay, the character costumes are expensive (a Bob-the-Builder costume is priced somewhere between £400 and £500), and so Circus Uncertainty is going to apply for Arts Council funding to cover the costume costs.
But to apply for Arts Council funding, the group need to have a business bank account, which they had yet to obtain. So, Joshua went to a bank in Bristol, filled out the necessary paperwork, answered questions about the business and the employees and so on, and thought everything would be fine.
But a week later, he received a phone call. “[The business manager] said we had been denied a bank account on the grounds that we have a burlesque and a show girls act,” Joshua explained. “She said someone higher up than her said because we sell burlesque and showgirls’ acts, we can’t have an account.”
When he asked the bank employee to offer an explanation, one was not given, and Joshua couldn’t understand the “moral problem” as the group has a gig booked with a different bank for later this year.
What had happened in that time was that bank employees had looked at the Circus Uncertainty website and had seen pictures of Lucy in her showgirl’s outfit, which consists of stilts, a bikini, and a feather bustle and headdress. A misunderstanding arose on the types of act these actually are, with a particular image surrounding burlesque and showgirls spanning centuries past, and some of whom perform topless. But Circus Uncertainty is a show for all the family. It was just unfortunate that it wasn’t researched more thoroughly.
Joshua said that being denied the business account meant their plans have had to be put on hold as they can’t apply for a grant until they have an account, and he was worried that Circus Uncertainty would be blacklisted by other banks.
But after the troupe contacted the papers to tell them about what had happened, the bank got in touch with Joshua and informed him that the bank had changed its mind and that they had been accepted.
“We are committed to supporting the local business community and we have reviewed this account application following some clarification of the nature of the business,” stated a spokesperson for the bank. “We are very sorry for any concern or inconvenience that our initial misunderstanding may have caused.”
By Joshua explained that Circus Uncertainty is certainly uncertain about whether or not to take the account, not only because of how the troupe had been treated, but because the bank didn’t get back in contact with him until after he’s gone to the media, demonstrating a lack of communication.
And herein lies that silver lining we mentioned! Other banks have heard about the original denial and have expressed an interest in Circus Uncertainty opening a business account with them instead. This means the group will be able to take their pick and then apply for their Arts Council grant, ultimately resulting in putting smiles on the faces of sick children. Circus certainty!