And more than 2,000 people gathered at Halifax’s historic Piece Hall as a stunt by the Victorian tightrope walker was recreated this weekend.
Performer Chris Bullzini took on the same high-wire walk undertaken by French acrobat Blondin in 1861, during an action-packed show at the recently refurbished landmark building in West Yorkshire. Father-of-one Mr Bullzini walked along a rope at almost 10 metres in the air in the Piece Hall’s courtyard, as crowds held their breath for the impressive stunt on Saturday.
“It was a really splendid show and we see it as a huge success,” Mr Bullzini, 40, told The Yorkshire Post after the performance. “We had great numbers of people turn out, somewhere between two and three thousand.”
It was organised as an homage to Blondin, inset right, who went on to become the first person to tightrope walk across North America’s Niagara Falls.
The show formed part of a gala, featuring circus activities, street theatre and magic performances to mark the national Circus250 campaign, celebrating 250 years of circus in the UK.
“What an amazing venue,” Mr Bullzini, from Cambridgeshire, said.
“The Piece Hall is such a beautiful place to perform and such an honour to perform something so close to my heart that is connected to the great Blondin himself.
“Blondin is more than a hero for me, he is like the grandfather of this tradition of high-wire walking.”
The performance was supported by a small crew - including his wife Phoebe - that helped organise lighting, rigging and special effects.
Visuals that wowed the audience during the high-wire stunt included pyrotechnic effects and props.
“We had great weather conditions and a really good lighting crew so everything went smoothly,” Mr Bullzini said.
“It was a big performance and we worked really hard to give the audience a good show.”
The show saw Mr Bullzini blindfolded for parts of the performance, as well as cycling and acrobatic stunts.
Asked if he was nervous before taking on the daring feat, he said: “I’m always more nervous the day before.
“But I do a lot of yoga and meditation in the hours before the show to calm my mind so I go in feeling relaxed and confident.”
Mr Bullzini joined the circus as a 19-year-old, and went on to perform in 28 countries around the world. He married his wife Phoebe, a fellow tightrope walker, while balancing on a high-wire during the ceremony three years ago.
Some 4,000 people looked on more than 150 years ago in the Piece Hall, when Blondin performed the daring feat for the first time in West Yorkshire.
The Grade I listed Piece Hall, which underwent a major £19m refurbishment, was reopened to the public in 2017.
The gala took place during the national Heritage Open Day weekend, celebrating history and heritage across the country.
AMAZING FEATS ACROSS NIAGRA
Charles Blondin was born in 1824 and grew to just five-and-a-half feet-tall.
Real name Jean François Gravelet, the Frenchman rose to stardom after crossing the Niagara Gorge, on the US-Canada border, on a tightrope.
The stunt was completed using a 340-metre long rope, suspended nearly 50-metres above the water, on June 30, 1859.
He went on to recreate his performance several times, with theatrical variations including being blindfolded, inside a sack, pushing a wheelbarrow, carrying a man on his back and eating an omelette half-way.