Many of us have dreamt of running away and joining the circus. Not many of us do, let alone decide to pump £200,000 of our own money into creating one and taking on the ‘godfathers’ of the trade.

But Gary Stocker, who is setting up one of the world’s largest 1,400-seater big tops in Highfield Park for the world premiere of Chaplin’s Circus, isn’t just anyone.

Aged seven he was skipping out of school in Westminster to go and watch street performers in Covent Garden. By 15, Gary decided to give it a go himself and performed magic tricks in a £1,000 suit just to befuddle punters.

“I found that if people think you have money, they’re more likely to give it to you,” he says, speaking to me from the middle of a field.

“I would convince people I had burned their bank note, absolutely convince them, and then produce a lemon and inside was an egg and inside was a walnut and inside was their signed bank note.

“The thing I enjoyed most was making them really angry because then it was amazing to see them tune from wanting to kill you to hug you in a split second.

“I remember one guy grabbed the knife I used to cut open the lemon and came round the table at me saying he was going to get me.”

It’s clear the 30-year-old loves a little risk, he’s invested all his savings in Chaplin’s, a joint venture with Watford’s Mark Foot who joined the circus aged eight, and Charlie Pakdel, one of the world’s greatest Charlie Chaplin impersonators, but so far fate has not been on his side.

Jeff Jay, son-in-law of famous circus owner Gerry Cottle, was due to bring his experience to the project but tragedy struck.

“We were sat waiting for him in a meeting and got a call saying he had died, aged 55,“ says Gary, a Waterloo resident, who read Law at St John’s College, Oxford, and until now has made his money writing for law publications, but will spend most of the summer living in a caravan.

“At that point I seriously considered pulling out, as he was a large part of why I invested, but we had started something that couldn’t be stopped.”

He says they have faced major resistance from the circus community and the Association of Circus Proprieters tried to block them getting insurance, prompting him to compare it to a ‘cartel’.

“If you haven’t got circus in your blood you’re called a jostler and if you have it you are royalty,” says Gary.

“I think they’re scared, but are realising we are serious about this.”

So is everything running smoothly now?

“Well my trampolinist broke his ankle yesterday,” he calmly tells me.

“It’s a shame as it was a really nice 15-minute piece we had put together, but we have a couple of people coming down to audition today.

“You can’t let everything get on top of you. Sometimes I do think ‘what have I done?’ though,“ he laughs.

The animal-free show is a unique theatrical performance set in 1924, with the audience watching as if from backstage, witnessing the life, love stories and rehearsals of the 12-strong cast and featuring juggling, acrobatics, high wire and a rare human cannonball finale.

It is hoped Starsky and Hutch actor David Soul will be attending on opening night as his daughter, singer China Soul, is among the cast, who are a mix of professional circus performers and actors.

But there are absolutely no clowns as Gary admits he along with many others ‘finds them terrifying’ and they wanted to keep the show family friendly.

They will also be offering not-for-profit workshops to teach local children some of their circus skills and a portion of the profits will go to the Highfield Park Trust.

Highfield Park, Russet Drive, St Albans, May 24 and 25, 3pm and 7pm, May 26-30, 4pm and 7pm, May 31, 1pm and 7pm and June 1, 1pm and 5pm. Details: 01727 555250,