Creative visionary behind Giffords Circus dies

Nell Gifford

One of Gloucestershire’s most inspiring creative visionaries has died aged just 46 years old.

A statement on the Giffords Circus website said:

“It is with broken hearts that we announce the death of Nell Gifford – the co-founder, driving force and the visionary behind Giffords Circus.

“Her illness was well documented in the press, as she believed in transparency and openness. Nell was surrounded by family, both immediate and circus – left us on Sunday 8th December.

“We know many tears will be falling as Nell touched so many hearts. Her vision for Giffords Circus was to bring happiness, imagination and enliven people’s souls.  Giffords Circus shall continue to do just that. Whilst the world is a dimmer place today, Nell will continue to live through the Circus.

“In 2020 we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Circus. Nell wanted it to be the showstopper and it will be just that. Next year’s production, The Hooley will celebrate the first 20 years, the next 20 years and Nell’s incredible life. Nell built a circus to last. It is poised to grow and fulfill Nell’s plans for the future.

“Nell was a creative genius, a daughter, step-daughter, sister, friend, leader and mother. She leaves behind the next generation – her twins Cecil and Red – who are both part of the Giffords Circus DNA.

“We love her. May she rest in peace.”

Nell began Giffords Circus with her husband Toti in 2000. Toti, a farmer’s son, grew up on the Cotswold hills. Nell grew up in Oxford and after she left New College Oxford she wanted to realise a childhood dream of starting her own village green circus.

The couple bought a round white tent from the Trade It newspaper and some  maroon and gold showmans wagon to live in. They advertised for performers in The Stage newspaper and held auditions in a little dusty theatre in Cheltenham.

Giffords Circus was born, and every summer the team took a new show out on the roads of England. Its vision was a miniature village green circus, bursting at the seams, packed, rowdy, tiny, a little band of performers who live nomadically, performing daily, engrossed in the serious business of making magic.

And they succeeded in every way. Giffords Circus is a brilliant, colourful, noisy must-attend annual event which draws the audience in and sends us all home buzzing with energy.

Since 2000 it has entertained more than a million people, and has worked with some extraordinary circus performers and creative:– the mercurial comic genius Tweedy; Attila, a Hungarian horseman from the Great Hungarian Plane, Gabor Vosteen who played Mozart on five recorders, three in his mouth, one in each nostril and many more.

This magazine celebrates and pays tribute to a woman who had the courage and creative vision to build the most wonderful circus that entertains and enthralls and has raised the profile of Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds to the wider world.