27. Giffords Circus
Nell and Toti Gifford started Giffords Circus in 2000 and over the past 14 years their touring circus has amassed a loyal following in the Cotswolds and beyond, performing to over 250,000 people.
The Giffords' vision was of a miniature village green circus and their unique blend of bohemian artisan entertainment combines dance, comedy, acrobatics, juggling, live music and farmyard animals.
Their signature burgundy and gold showman’s wagons and billowing tent have become a summer staple in village greens and market towns throughout the Cotswolds, where most of their summer shows take place.
Giffords Circus is based at its headquarters in the heart of the Cotswolds where the Giffords team spends the winter months preparing staging, scenery and props. In early February, performers reconvene to start rehearsing for the summer tour.
In its relatively short existence, Giffords has experimented with the circus form, weaving theatre, opera, dance and puppetry into its show. Giffords has worked with circus artistes from all over the world, attracting some of the best names in theatre creation, including Angela de Castro, Barry Grantham and Molly Molloy.
Giffords Circus shows, whatever the theme, and whoever the director, are always idiosyncratic, beautifully designed family shows. There is always a live orchestra, a clown, handmade costumes and a much-loved goose.
The 2014 summer show The Thunders explored the magical world of Greek myth and legend, delighted audiences with more of the jaw-droppingly talented acts for which Giffords has become known.
Circus Sauce is Giffords' cheerful and twinkly 42-seat travelling restaurant. Every evening after the show a starlit three-course dinner is on offer to both the artistes and audience, using sumptuous seasonal and local ingredients.
Circus Sauce is also open during the show intervals serving freshly baked cakes, traditional ice creams, teas, fruit drinks and much more. It has been described described as: "One of the most memorable and enjoyable restaurants imaginable".
Giffords Circus 2014 summer itinerary kicked off with a run of shows at Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe, on May 23, with stop-offs to perform in towns and villages across the Cotswolds, including venues such as Daylesford Organic at Kingham, Blenheim Palace, The Fox Inn at Barrington, Minchinhampton Common and Cirencester's Stratton Meadows.
The tour was extended to Sunday, September 21, after seven extra shows were added at a new venue - Fennells Farm in Lypiatt, near Stroud - where Giffords Circus have now relocated their headquarters, having outgrown their home at Folly Farm, near Bourton-on-the-Water.
Nell Gifford, who is the driving force behind Giffords Circus, was awarded the Groucho Club Maverick Artist of the Year award in 2010. In May 2014, she launched a beautiful coffee table book entitled Giffords Circus – The First Ten Years, an autobiographical account of the Giffords Circus journey.