Death-defying tightrope walk to be recreated above the Piece Hall

Chris Bullzini will 're-imagine' Blondin's walk at the Piece Hall on September 15.
Chris Bullzini will 're-imagine' Blondin's walk at the Piece Hall on September 15.

Crammed tightly atop any available vantage point, a Halifax crowd of thousands held its breath on this day in 1861.

Charles Blondin, the world-famous tightrope-walker, was performing at Piece Hall, running, jumping and twirling his way across a finely-balanced rope that stretched from corner to corner of the iconic cloth mill.

An artist's depiction of one of Blondin's many walks over Niagara Falls.

An artist's depiction of one of Blondin's many walks over Niagara Falls.

Some 4,000 people made their way into the Piece Hall itself for the ultimate view of the spectacular, with many more sprawled across rooftops, lampposts and on Beacon Hill.

“The agility and gracefulness which characterised every movement were the subject of general remark, whilst the firm and certain manner he trod the rope soon banished apprehension,” said the Halifax Guardian the following day.

“His exploits were received with great applause, the wonderful performances he went through fully entitle him to the to the appellation ‘King of the Tight Rope’”.

Such a review would surely be welcomed by Blondin-inspired tightrope-walker Chris Bullzini, the Cambridgeshire tightrope artist tasked with ‘re-imagining’ the exploits of Blondin when he performs at the Piece Hall on September 15.

Chris Bullzini

Chris Bullzini

“It’s an absolute honour to follow in the footsteps of these late, great artists that have been remembered for over 150 years,” he said.

“This is something that not many people get to do in their careers, to get the opportunity to re-imagine the efforts of the inspiration behind your art.

“To pay homage to these artists is a duty, I think, and certainly a honour.”

Much like his hero Blondin, who was born in France as Jean-François Gravelet and achieved celebrity in the 1850s for his efforts in walking over Niagara Falls, 40-year-old Bullzini has led a fascinating life.

Losing his mother as a 19-year-old, he packed four juggling balls in a rucksack and joined the circus, going on to perform in 28 countries around the world.

He married his wife Pheobe, a fellow tightrope walker, whilst balancing on the wire three years ago.

"I'm incredibly lucky that the thing I enjoy doing and have a passion for is something that I can make my money from," he said, "unlike Blondin it hasn't made me rich in monetary terms, but it has allowed me to travel the world and experience such a tapestry of life."

Chris' performance will make up the headline act of 'The Blondin Gala', a Piece Hall circus spectacular that includes ten other acts. The event will take place on Heritage Open Day weekend. General admission tickets start at £12 and are available at www.thepiecehall.co.uk/events/the-blondin-gala.