For some people, running away to join the circus is a childhood fantasy where the opportunity to dress up as clowns and spend your one-figure years playing with ponies and elephants are meant to stay exactly that; in your childhood. But for me, I still have a very romantic notion of living gypsy-like amongst weird and wonderful folk where the days look like they're dipped in sepia and everyone resembles a character from a Baz Luhrman movie (i.e we all wear corsets and big, frilly knickers and wild hair. Even the guys).
So you can imagine my excitement when we left the working week behind us and actually went off on a dying summer's eve to see Giffords Circus. The rowdiest, most glamorous, unashamedly bohemian village fete I've ever been to; it has it's head in professional big production but it's heart is still nestled firmly in the honey coloured stones of the Cotswolds.
Giffords is the baby of Toti and Nell Gifford (he's a landscape architect, she is the only female circus ringmaster in Europe and she's also sister to Emma Bridgewater, yes her of the nice cups fame...as in china cups...anyway). The pair started this glorious affair with touring the West Country 12 years ago and each season, their glorious train of gypsy caravans take on a new theme.
This year's was The Saturday Book, a now defunct annual publication which began during World War II and commented on the artistic and literary talents at the time – lots of images by Cecil Beaton and words from Evelyn 'The Beautiful and the Damned' Waugh. Much like it's namesake magazine, Gifford's performance was a glamorous show, but not as in tits 'n' teeth and bawdy Hollywood glamour, but more of a gossamer glitter; not showy, just showmanship.
I was left totally hoarse from laughing at Tweedy the clown and whooping at the Eastern European gymnastic troupe (girls pay close attention); my hands were red raw from clapping Bichu and Bibi the jugglers and all of the horses left me a little choked. The band were fantastic and the singers impressive (anyone who can carry a tune when they're wearing a scarlet bodice that tight is a genius). I left with the child-like excitement that I, as a very blasé 20-something doesn't get very often. I think you can tell I may've liked it?
Giffords have now finished for the season, but they run courses and workshops over the winter from circus pony vaulting to cooking. They also sometimes have job openings... now who's packing their trunk and running off with me?
|Toti Gifford's cameo appearance with Brian the Goose|
|Ring-mistress, Nell Gifford|
And check out this gorgeous short film by Ellen Von Unwerth for Lula
Credit where credit's due: Me & Brian Moody