Giffords Circus owner Nell Gifford ahead of their Windsor stop

PUBLISHED: 09:48 09 July 2019

You can expect to see some incredible acts in the big top (Mark Lord Photography)

You can expect to see some incredible acts in the big top (Mark Lord Photography)


Giffords Circus is coming to Berkshire this summer. We caught up with owner Nell Gifford about life in the big top

Giffords Circus is a magical village green circus that tours England throughout the summer. Founder Nell Gifford lives in Stroud in the Cotswolds on a farm, but she's bringing her renowned circus to Berkshire this summer and we can't wait. We caught up with her to hear what is in store for Giffords' audiences.

How did Giffords Circus come about?

I fell in love with the circus when I was 18 in America. The sawdust, the animals, the community spirit... When I returned to the UK, I knew what I wanted to do.

I built the circus with my then husband Toti Gifford in 2000. It was a mutual dream. We bought a tent and built a wagon and advertised for performers. People love live entertainment, tricks... It's always been somewhere that brings people together for fun.

What's the theme for this year's circus?

Xanadu: A new dawn is breaking. It's all about global untiy and the breaking down of boundaries, which is really relevant to this year. Think 1970s flower power, peace and love. I grew up in the 1970s. I remember psychedellic art, pop festivals and fairground art. This has all had an influence.

What can we expect to see?

Hungarian horses, jugglers, gymnastics, clowns and tumblers, and new music and a brand new set. There's also Circus Sauce, a restaurant that follows the circus to each ground.

You're coming to Windsor Great Park this year. What do you love about the Royal county?

We are touring the Cotswolds, Oxford, Henley, London and Windsor. It will be a privilege to perform in Windsor Great Park. I love the space, it's perfect for exploring. I love the old trees, the deer, the farm shop and, of course, The Copper Horse. There's a strong sense of community here.

You and your sister [Emma Bridgewater] are both very creative. Where do you get your creative streak from?

Creativity is a fragile thing. You hope that it will always be there, but you don't want to prod it. I think when you've started something it's best to stick at it and make it a success.

Does the circus fit with you being a mum of two?

Yes, the circus is all about family.

There has been a fascination with circus since the release of The Greatest Showman and now Dumbo. Why do you think that is?

Giffords has created a fanbase for circus. There has definitely been a revival in the interest for circus. Whether The Greatest Showman is a cause or symptom of that revival, I'm not sure. It's great that the film portrays positive images and songs of circus. It's nice to see circus in fashion.

What's your motto in life?

I recently read Lord Sanger's memoir [an English circus proprietor]. In it, he said: "Never pick a fight." I like that. I also think Woody Allen is right in saying: "80% of life is showing up." I believe 80% of success is turning up to work. Application and repetition is everything. If you keep doing something, you'll get better at it. I find it difficult when people only half-commit.

What are your goals for the future?

To raise the standard of UK circus. I don't think we need to make Gifford's any bigger than it already is but we can always increase the appreciation of it. We can always make it better. It has to keep changing and developing with new artists and circus skills. 

Nell has recently released her debut children's book, Nell & the Circus of Dreams (OUP Oxford, £11.99). Giffords Circus 2019 tour runs until 29 September. They will be at Windsor Great Park from 11-22 July;

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