Gifford’s Circus, England

I am constantly in awe of creative people, artistic types, who can create anything with their ideas and their hands. They have a dream, a determination to follow their hearts, follow their beliefs. Nell Gifford is a perfect example of this. She studied English at Oxford but always knew that for her life was about creativity, entertainment, sharing. She thought about her childhood; ponies, dogs, dressing up boxes, and decided to recreate these memories. The result is the charming, eclectic and delightful Gifford’s Circus – founded in 2000 by Nell Gifford. It is a traditional, old-fashioned, summer circus that moves from town to town, during the summer months.


Each summer Gifford’s Circus is on tour, visiting the village greens, parks and commons of Southern England.  A few days ago they struck camp in the University Parks, Oxford. The wagons, gypsy caravans and trailers, many vintage, are all painted in a uniform dark brown, with cream trim. Emblazoned on the side of each vehicle, in bright blue lettering are the words Gifford’s Circus. The big top, a large white tent, is situated within the protective circle of the wagons and trailers. Gifford’s offers a show that includes horses, dogs, clowns, acrobats, trapeze artists, dancers, singers and a live band. It is Nell Gifford’s interpretation of an old-fashioned circus event. Even the arrival of Gifford’s Circus and the setting up of the ‘travelling show’ attracts attention and builds anticipation. The Box Office, in a gypsy caravan is set up and it’s open for business. Roll up, roll up, buy your tickets here.

Towards the back of the site a blacksmith tends to the hooves of a cast member. A very handsome pony, steel grey in colour with a long, luxurious mane. There’s a tent specifically for the horses, complete with individual stalls inside. This is home to at least half a dozen equine pals. They graze at their hay nets or doze contentedly. The space is light and bright. The horses look relaxed, content, happy, rueful even. Just behind the Box Office muscular young men lift weights and practise their juggling technique. The message is clear ‘the Circus is in town’ and anything can happen.