Tributes to Nell Gifford

Nell Gifford, founder of the hugely popular Gifford’s Circus, died earlier this month of breast cancer.

Tributes from her large circle of showbiz friends have been published in the national press and in the local papers in the Cotswolds, where the circus is based.

Helena Bonham-Carter wrote:

‘Giffords Circus has been, for 14 years, a beacon in my year. A sort of summer Christmas. Particularly the bit at the end when the troupe invite the audience into the ring to dance. I always try to bottle that feeling to last me for the year.

‘It was so long ago now, (that she became ill) we should really have got used to the fact that she would die but for those who had the luck to know her she really was a superwoman.

She wasn’t made to end. She was extraordinary. No one did chemotherapy like she did. I know no one else who would be flat out on her bed one moment and then on a horse in front of an audience the next, all smiling and in hopeful bridal white.

‘She was a true warrior, a poet, a magician’.

She leaves twins who are not yet teenagers, a boy and a girl. One of the last things she did was to write a book: Nell and the Circus of Dreams which is about a little girl who had to cope with her mother being ill, as she herself had to do when her own mother was seriously injured in a riding accident.

Image above: Nell & the Circus of Dreams, by Nell Gifford and Briony May Smith, published by Oxford University Press

Had she made it to 2020 she would have been celebrating 20 years of Gifford’s Circus, which she set up with her then husband Toti.

The circus will continue, as was her great wish, and will be performing their 20th anniversary show The Hooley in the gardens of Chiswick House, 25 June – 13 July.

‘Come and join our dance to the timeless Celtic rhythms and drums and get down with the fairy folk’.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: our review of the 2019 Gifford’s Circus show Xanadu here.

See also: All Star Turn Out for the Circus here.