How one Swiss circus has kept flying high

Ester Unterfinger/

How do you keep a traditional business alive in today's world? Switzerland's Circus Monti earns its living not with flying acrobats or dancing animals but with diversification.

This content was published on August 3, 2019 - 11:00
Guido Muntwyler as Clown Monti, in 1999. Circus Monti

It was a jester by the name of “Clown Monti” who founded, in 1984, this unique circus which replaced spectacular performances with more poetic productions. A year later, the “poetic-decorative” troupe began its first season.

Three decades later, the circus has moved into a new home: a large tent, but without the traditional central mast, and rather held up by two external arches. The construction allows for a bigger ring and good views from all sides. The circus also rents the tent out for cultural events and music festivals.

In fact, throughout the year, Monti rents out more than 45 tents of different shapes, sizes, and colours. The company provides both the infrastructure and the installation for events, and is one of the Europe’s biggest providers of circus materials.

The group owns six trucks, three tractors, two articulated lorries, nine delivery vans and over 30 caravans. Precise coordination is needed to ensure the set-up of the tent and circus area.

During the season, 65 employees are involved: each artist and employee helps with lifting and taking down the tent, as well as laying pipes for power and water, and setting up the caravans for living. The atmosphere is cordial, everybody chips in.

Circus Director Muntwyler during the rehearsing of a trick-show.

Circus director Christoph Muntwyler – Clown Monti’s son – now leads the family business. Each year artists from around the world are hired for the season, while an external production team connects the dots to ensure a complete and cohesive show. Rehearsals run for eight weeks in the circus’s newly-built winter lodgings. Music is performed by a live band especially formed for the task.

Until 2004, an equestrian performance run by Niklaus Muntwyler was an integral part of the programme. However, the circus never used exotic creatures, always preferring domestic animals like goats, donkeys, sheep, geese, ducks, hens, and guinea pigs. Since 2011, no animals at all have been used.

After performances and rentals, the third pillar of the circus’s business links entertainment and food. During the cold months, the “Monti Variety” takes place in the winter lodgings – a combination of catering, music, and artistic show. The events, mainly targeted at business groups, allows Monti to generate extra revenue during a lean period. Monti offers business dinners followed by a visit of the circus, as well as holiday rentals of the caravans.

The 2019 season gets underway on August 9 in Wohlen, a town less than 20km (11 miles) west of Zurich.

The winter lodgings of the circus are used for rehearsals, living, and productions.

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