Circus clown and teacher;

Born November 13, 1945;

Died July 14, 2006.

THIRTY-ONE years ago, in a small cottage at Long Green in West Lothian, Suitcase Circus came to into being. It began informally as a support association for the work of Reg Bolton, to introduce circus skills into the streets and housing estates of Edinburgh. From that small beginning sprang what is now the internationally practised concept of community circus.

To Reg Bolton, circus reached to the heart of human fears and joys. His experience of how young people respond to learning and performing circus skills led to a PhD on the phenomenon of social circus. His conclusion was that "circus works as an art form because its essential composition recalls profound experiences of childhood".

He argued that for both overprotected (and unduly passive) Western children, and for children exposed to physical danger, deprivation and corruption in other parts of the world, circus activities could "make good some of the deficits by experiencing constructive physical risk, aspiration, trust, fun, self-individuation and hard work".

He was born in Margate and studied English and European Literature at Warwick, where he is remembered for choosing a hearse as his mode of transport. It was there he met the dance and mime artist Annie Stainer, who was to become his creative partner and wife. He gained a certificate in primary education at Bristol before becoming manager and technical director of the Lindsay Kemp Mime Company in 1969 and, while there, began directing Annie Stainer as a solo mime performer and dancer.

In 1971 he arrived in Edinburgh as director of Theatre Workshop and over the next three years produced 10 original plays for children, pioneered street theatre in Scotland and organised community arts training for playschemes.

From 1979-80 he was arts co-ordinator of the Craigmillar Festival Society, but was also involved in international festivals of children's theatre all over the world.

The actor Gilly Gilchrist (chef Billy Taylor in the revamped Crossroads) credits Bolton's circus tricks with giving him an escape route from the Edinburgh district of Pilton.

Bolton first learned basic circus skills for one of his children's shows, then started teaching them to children, which soon provided a base of confidence from which much else grew. He fused his love of performance with his love of teaching. To hone his own skills he studied at L'Ecole Nationale du Cirque in Canada in 1977 and, over the next three years, the Edinburgh Summer Circus School became the prototype for the circus schools he wanted to develop all over the world. He directed community circus festivals in Manchester in 1980, Edinburgh in 1981, Brisbane in 1983 and Perth (Australia) in 1987.

He and Annie and their two children moved to Perth in Australia in 1985. He established 20 youth circus programmes in western Australian schools and was a lecturer in street theatre and circus arts at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts for 14 years. He was also a consultant to the ministry of education, and pioneered a literacy and juggling programme.

His life continued as a double, intertwined strand of performance and teaching, but he also spread the message through books, including the widely loved Circus in a Suitcase. The seriousness of his clowning purpose was underpinned by continuous research, a stream of articles and conference addresses culminating in the award of PhD from Murdoch University in Perth for his work on social circus.

His skills were many: he set a newworld record for juggling three balls continuously while running the West Australian marathon in three hours, 45 minutes and 50 seconds. But just as unique was his ability to turn entertainment into a means of communication and learning. Children in rural Australia are as bereft as many of the young adults who spent their childhoods in Pilton orCraigmillar in Edinburgh in the 1970s and 1980s, and countless people taught themselves to juggle by following his extraordinarily clear written instructions, as is clear from the many tributes on his website, www. circusshop. net.

He will be remembered not only as a man who entertained children and provided them with life-enhancing skills, but as a teacher with a philosopher's vision. He argued that the circus could restore to children much of what the developed world has taken away. He listed four things children need - to take risks, to show off, to trust and to dream - and argued that the circus met all those needs, encouraging children to do the things they are normally stopped from doing. "We're actually allowing people to dream, and we're making their dreams come true, " he said.

Reg Bolton died unexpectedly in his sleep after putting on a show with children at the Kununurra Agricultural Show. He is survived by his wife, Annie Stainer, and their son and daughter.