Phare Wins Guinness Title for Longest Circus Act

Not spared by Covid-19, Phare circus, which lost half its income, followed by the death of its co-founder, has bagged the Guinness title for its longest circus act in 2021
The 24 hour circus 2021. Kiripost via Rath Phallin
The 24 hour circus 2021. Kiripost via Rath Phallin

A Cambodian pride, Phare Ponleu Selpak circus has won the Guinness World Record for the longest circus show, which was performed over 24 hours, 10 minutes and 30 seconds in a “last ditch effort” to raise funds for survival in the height of the pandemic last year.

In a statement on Friday, the circus said it received news of the award during a live multimedia event on Thursday, where Guinness recognised the catastrophic impact of Covid-19 on Phare due to the reduced number of performances and tourism.

“Phare was desperate for funding and despite not having wealthy support networks or fundraising budgets, came up with something truly creative to grab attention,” Guinness said.

The Phare circus stint on March 7, 2021, which was watched by some one million people online, raised more than $150,000 to help the organisation sustain after a 50 percent drop in income due to Covid-19.

It featured 31 performances from Phare’s 20-year history, which were presented by 90 professionals. The acts comprised acrobatics, magic, dance, theatre, clowning, contortion, puppetry, breakdancing, live painting and unicycling.

Strict conditions were imposed, including performers must be paid professionals, acts must not be repeated, and independent witnesses must be present throughout. “The performers took to the stage in shifts, grabbing short naps between acts.”

For Phare, the award made their day special, which comes more than a year after the death of its co-founder and artist, Srey Bandaul, due to Covid-19 at the age of 49 last August.

“Many people told us that the 24-hour circus provided inspiration at a dark time,” said Khuon Det, co-founder of Phare Ponleu Selpak, in relation to Covid-19.

“We still face huge financial challenges at a time when tourism hasn’t bounced fully back and the world economy is struggling, but hopefully this record will grab the attention of people who might donate to us to help us keep going,” he added.

The circus, which has an awe-inspiring rags to riches story, has helped many artistes, who joined the organisation from poverty.

Heng Dara, Phare student, performer, acrobat, and clown said it was an “incredible experience” to be on stage knowing that the world was watching Cambodia set a record.

“I was sharing the stage with my older brother and all the other circus students I have been growing up with. They are like my siblings too,” said Heng Dara, Phare student, performer, acrobat, and clown.

“Phare helped me and my family get out of poverty. I want them to continue doing that for other kids like I used to be. That's why I urge everyone to donate to keep our school and circus alive,” he added.

The Guinness record is Cambodia’s sixth, having earned the title for the “longest woven scarf”, “biggest sticky bun”, “longest alphabet” and “largest religious structure in Angkor Wat” previously.

“Despite being a small organisation in a small country, Phare has achieved something that world-famous names like Cirque Du Soleil and the Moscow State Circus haven’t, putting it on the global map,” the circus said.