Whilst the world has been mourning the Great British Bake Off packing up their tent for the last time *seriously how am I going to get my weekly cake fix?*, us Cotswoldians fortunately have our very own magical big top; home to the quintessentially British Giffords Circus.
The Giffords Circus Season Finale
We left it late this year, waiting until their final homecoming show at Fennell’s Farm in Stroud to join the sold out crowd; tightly squashed onto the wooden benches, gooey wood fired pizza in hand. Without further ado, Tweedy the Clown began bumbling around the crowd, his pet iron Keith in tow, making everyone yee-hah, clap and cry with laughter at their antics (incidentally the last circus clown I met as a child made me cry for real so Tweedy is a pleasant, child-friendly change!)
By the way, for those of you who have yet to experience the Giffords Circus magic, this is no ordinary commercial circus. Giffords was established by Nell Gifford and her partner Toti in 2000 as a traditional village circus, with their close-knit circus “family” painting their own sets, training their animals and creating ever more imaginative shows at their farm.
This year demonstrated just how strong the troupe is; Nell was diagnosed with cancer towards the end of last season and therefore had to rely heavily upon everyone else to make the tour work. Needless to say, they did a wonderful job under the circumstances.
To say thank you for the support they have given Nell, Giffords generously donated the final show’s proceeds to Maggies, a wonderful Cheltenham-based charity who run a cancer drop in centre; Nell spoke passionately about the friendly chats, advice, support, and plentiful tea and biscuits that she received. An amazing £6500 was raised through the deep pockets and kind spirits of the audience; Maggies have decided to put it towards exercise classes to reflect the active and physical nature of Giffords Circus.
Back to the show, and it kicked off properly with a trained chicken taking centre stage. I’ve never thought of chickens bring trainable before but somehow Giffords have achieved it to hilarious effect. I rapidly found myself immersed in this year’s colourful Wild West story, ‘The Painted Wagon’. It featured all of the usual Giffords’ acts including high flying acrobats, horses jumping through rings of fire, and Bibi and Bichu, jugglers extraordinaire.
Bye Bye Bibi and Bichu
Sadly this was Bibi and Bichu’s last show after an incredible 14 year run with Giffords, as they plan to focus on the launch of their very own show, Circus Abyssinia. Their last performance was enthralling and they will be sorely missed. However, we really can’t wait to see what they dream up on their own. No doubt it will be as fast paced and gasp inducing as ever. Break a leg guys!
Whilst it would be easy to focus on the death defying performances, Nancy Trotter Landry’s quick wit and singing provided a brilliant counterpoint as compere; moving on the storyline and dragging the audience (literally at times) into the proceedings. Combined with Tweedy’s slapstick interventions, the show passed in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Sadly it was over all for yet another year. The traditional song and dance in the ring, energetically accompanied by the awesome house band, seemed like a fitting celebration to close the year’s tour. The performers encouraged children and adults into the ring to join them for an epic hoe down.
As the winter nights start to draw in, I am sure the Giffords’ family are hard at work on Fennell’s Farm, dreaming up next year’s spectacular. No doubt it will surprise and delight the Cotswolds and beyond once again; roll on summer 2017 when Giffords Circus will be only big top in town.
Tickets are already selling well for 2017 so make sure you get yours soon!