With this week came the sad news that Nell Gifford, who created the incredible Giffords’ Circus, lost her battle with cancer. When I was an early teenager, Nell was one of my best friends at school. We lost touch after we both moved schools, as so often happens, and, other than watching her perform at Giffords, I hadn’t seen her for twenty years.
Nell was a true artist. She was creative, imaginative, and original. She was one month older than me but always felt a great deal older and more mature. She was never interested in the petty, small world of school and seemed to exist on a higher plane.
This week, since I learned of her death, a whole flood of memories have come back to me. The times we sat on the back seat of her school bus bouncing up an down in preparation for the huge bump in the road we knew was coming. On hitting the bump we’d be catapulted up towards the ceiling of the bus before collapsing in fits of laughter (no seat belts in those days…). Nell taught me to ride a horse (in a rudimentary fashion) and one summer cajoled me into jumping over a hay bale on it, which was one of the most exhilarating and terrifying experiences of my life.
I used to adore staying at her house. To me, she lived the perfect Cotswolds existence. A rambling stone house in Wiltshire with a warm kitchen filled with her sister Emma Bridgewater’s mugs and freshly baked scones, threadbare sofas with dogs sleeping on them next to a tiny television. Enormous bath tubs and sufficient corridors to wander around and get lost in. Her home life was Bohemian, artistic and, to me, incredibly glamorous.
Nell was brave, clever, beautiful and funny and, although it seems odd to miss someone whom you haven’t seen in twenty years, I miss her. Our childhood friends are incredibly important to us, they hold up a mirror to our forgotten dreams and desires. I always assumed I’d bump into her on one of the rare occasions I return to the Cotswolds and we’d catch up, and knowing now that that will never happen makes me incredibly sad.
As well as her two children, Nell has left behind the most incredible legacy. Her circus was her gift to the world. Rest in peace dear Nell.
Shooting without a light meter is a great way to experiment with light, to boost your confidence and help you reduce the amount of kit you need to carry with you. Here’s how to do it.
As part of writing Enchanting Analogue, the film shooting course I’ve created with Lauren Keim, I have given a lot of thought to how film is kinder with our mistakes and how it throws us some magical surprises to encourage us and help us along our journey.