Gifford’s Circus 'Moon Songs' at Chiswick House

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Persuading Philip Treacy to design elaborate head-dresses for a group of Abyssinian Acrobats would be beyond the skills of most of us, but a chance meeting at a party with Nell Gifford, founder of Gifford’s Circus, resulted in Treacy volunteering to work on these extravagant circus creations for free.  To her amazement, as soon as the troupe put on their new hats, it completely transformed their stance, their walk and how they parade around the ring.

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It’s difficult not to fall in love with the enchantment of Gifford’s Circus, which arrived for the first time in London in June 2015 and has now disappeared off on a magical tour around the countryside.  We picnicked in the grounds of Chiswick House, while catching a glimpse of the big top and following handpainted signs, pointing the way to the circus. 

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Even the dogs were smiling in the circus ring, thrilled to be part of an eccentric act, where a brown bear rides a diminutive chestnut horse, led around the circus ring by a small, grinning dog.  We glimpsed the dogs after the show, who seemed to be feeling a bit out of sorts, no longer being admired in the limelight. 

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From the teenage Abyssinian acrobats to Nell Gifford’s 5-year old twins, the circus felt like one huge, warm family that we could all be part of, if only for one afternoon.  When Tweedy the clown pointed to my 6-year old daughter, asking her to catch him when he was fired out of the canon, she looked a little nervous and I felt relieved that, for now at least, she has no plans to run away and join the circus…

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