Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Nell Gifford RIP

Gifford Circus blog - see here
Nell Gifford, the owner, visionary  and co-founder of the incredible Giffords Circus, died from cancer on Sunday (i). The Circus has been based in recent years just outside Stroud and many of us make an annual pilgrimage to experience a mega bit of magic, wonderful creative genius, Tweedy the Clown, live music, tradition, retro-chic, costumes, horses, jugglers, tumblers and so much more (ii). Circus as circus should be, leaving us exhausted, inspired and aching from laughing and clapping. It is an understatement to say Nell will be very missed but I can sense that she has created something in the Circus that will long outlast her. 

2008 and my first visit to Giffords
News of her death from cancer initially felt like a blow, as she is someone who has lived life so fully and passionately. If Nell can’t survive then what hope is there for others?! Yes, this is nonsense and plays into a whole host of myths about cancer. Like if you die, you haven’t battled hard enough; see my earlier blog here (plus a draft video with drawings from my cousin) about how that language of battle, which Nell also rejected, is so unhelpful.

Photo from 2008
In a short documentary film (see below), ‘Nell Gifford: Behind the Curtain’, by film maker Gem Hall earlier this year, Nell's life with the circus and her no-nonsense approach to cancer is captured on film; indeed elsewhere she has described cancer as ‘boring’. But she also says in the film; “You live life better and more meaningfully if you understand every day you are going to die.” She went on to say; "I actually believe that cancer can change your life so much for the better. I’ve found, I have been more ignited by life, more creative and have a way stronger sense of self.”

All this resonates with me, although my own situation is different and I’m not sure yet that I am at the point of being grateful for cancer. Nevertheless there is something very immediate when life is threatened that makes you look at the world differently; some things become less important while others more so. It reminds me of a powerful talk by Fi Munro at Trew Fields Festival this year (iii). See below my powerful 70 second clip of this talk, 'Live Like You Are Dying’; similar to what Nell was saying.

Fi, who has just published her story, ‘How Long Have I Got?’ also has a great quote on her website; "It is my firm belief that the majority of the perceived problems and worries that are going on in our heads day in and day out could be changed by embracing the simple motto of choosing to live like you are dying. After all, would you stay in the job you hate or the relationship that makes you miserable if you thought your life would end in the next year? Hell no! You’d be out doing things that make you happy and you certainly wouldn’t be worrying about what dress size you were either!”

Thank you Nell for the magic - and the reminder about how we can all live each day to the full.

(iii) More from Fi Munro at https://fkmunro.com/

1 comment:

  1. Lovely article about Nell from Helena Bonham Carter: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2019/dec/16/nell-gifford-remembered-by-helena-bonham-carter-giffords-circus?fbclid=IwAR0iQDYUaSgUCGo9kO4DxGrk-Ztn7OS8nT96DMeHNLSDShsGp4RA9Pabivs


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