Malcolm Airey Collection

Scope and Content

This collection contains a large book collection of posters, programmes, photographs, his detailed notebooks and correspondence and research.

Administrative / Biographical History

Malcolm Airey was an enthusiast and collector of book and ephemera and undertook a substantial amount of research on circuses. He was a member of the Circus Friends Association during the 1970s until the mid 80s and held the posts of secretary and librarian. During that time, he helped restore the CFA library which is now held in the reading room at the National Fairground Archive. He published a number of articles including the history of the Chapman Circuses from 1930. It was the first, full-scale, in-depth study to be published in King Pole and set the standard for subsequent articles.

His real interest was the speciality acts in circus and variety and the history of variety theatre on which he undertook considerable research. This is reflected in his book collection which contains many biographies of variety entertainers and other volumes on the different types of music hall and acts.

Malcolm Airey spent a huge amount of time researching the circus and collected many programmes and other ephemera from the 1950s to present day from the UK, Ireland, East Germany and former Soviet Union. Included in the collection are examples from the Bertram Mills Circus, Blackpool Tower Ballroom and Billy Smart's circus. There are also technical plans and drawings and notebooks that Malcolm Airey developed to help during his research.

The notes that he took over his years of research were in order to compile a book upon his retirement. Sadly, he died relatively early in his 60s and the project was never embarked on.

See obituary by David Harris in King Pole, No 118


Items catalogued by type.

Access Information

The book collection is available to view by appointment in the NFA reading room. For other items, contact the NFA.

Acquisition Information

Bequeathed upon death.

Other Finding Aids

The book collection can be found on the University Catalogue, STAR. for other items, there is a basic listing and it should be noted that some items remain restricted until a full catalogue can be produced.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Jane Donaldson

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright: National Fairground Archive

Personal Names