‘And now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, before your very eyes you are about to see this band of amateur actors transformed into a troupe of death-defying circus performers - with the help of Norman the Ringmaster’.

So began a Mail report in October 1993 about how members of Barrow’s Abbey Musical Society had gone to Blackpool to Peter Jay’s Superdome Circus to get in the mood for its production of hit musical Barnum in spring 1994.

It described how Dave Diggle, resplendent in a bright red tailcoat and top hat, practised on the unicycle.

David Shaw got into a clown costume and juggled with a set of clubs. Claire Powell, in tights and tutu, set off up the rope ladder towards the apex of the Big Top.

The circus management had allowed members of the society to spend an hour in the ring getting photographs, practising techniques and generally soaking in the atmosphere.

The members were greeted by famous ringmaster Norman Barrett, who was at the Blackpool Tower circus for 25 years before moving to the Superdome at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

“I now Barrow quite well,” he said. “I played Her Majesty’s Theatre with Robert Brothers’ stage circus one Christmas. I remember we all went to the cinema to see the new Elvis Presley film.”

He added: “We are very happy to help Abbey with their show. We support all live entertainment and it’s particularly nice to support a circus-type show.”

Also giving the society a hand was Charles Alty, theatre costumier from Oldham. He had been busy making costumes and brought them to Blackpool for a first fitting.

Heather Collinge, who played Barnum’s wife, Charity, had a series of gorgeous crinolines to try on and admitted she was glad to be playing Barnum’s wife so she had not had to learn to fire-eat, unicycle, juggle to wire-walk.

Most of the Abbey performers stayed to watch that night’s circus performance - and dream of the day a few months ahead when they would be in the spotlight performing their own circus show.