Publishers have paid tribute to Nell Gifford, the co-founder of Giffords Circus, who has died at the age of 46.
Gifford had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and she died on Sunday (8th December), surrounded by family "both immediate and circus", Giffords Circus confirmed in a statement.
"We know many tears will be falling as Nell touched so many hearts. Her vision for Giffords Circus was to bring happiness, imagination and to enliven people’s souls. Giffords Circus shall continue to do just that. Whilst the world is a dimmer place today, Nell will continue to live through the Circus," the statement read.
Amid plans to celebrate the travelling circus' 20th anniversary next year with recently announced anniversary shows, it continued: "In 2020 we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the circus. Nell wanted it to be the showstopper and it will be just that. Next year’s production "The Hooley" will celebrate the first 20 years, the next 20 years and Nell’s incredible life. Nell built a circus to last. It is poised to grow and fulfill Nell’s plans for the future.
"Nell was a creative genius, a daughter, step-daughter, sister, friend, leader and mother. She leaves behind the next generation—her twins Cecil and Red—who are both part of the Giffords Circus DNA. We love her. May she rest in peace."
Gifford, who wrote about her circus life in Josser (Virago, 2000) and Giffords Circus: The First Ten Years (The History Press), had been signed by Quadrille, along with Ols Halas of travelling restaurant Circus Sauce, is to publish the Giffords Circus Cookbook in March 2020 to coincide with the circus’ 20th anniversary. She had also produced a children's book, published by OUP in May of this year, called Nell and the Circus of Dreams.
Gifford's publisher at Quadrille, senior commissioning editor Céline Hughes, commented: “We were devastated to learn about Nell and our thoughts go out to her family and the whole Giffords Circus community, who were consistently inspired, guided and nurtured by Nell. Quadrille is immensely proud to be publishing Giffords Circus Cookbook, and we hope it will be a fitting tribute to Nell’s extraordinary creativity and vision.”
Helen Freeman, director, OUP Children’s, said: "All of us at OUP Children’s were deeply saddened to hear this morning that Nell has passed away. She was a true inspiration to us all, not only as the creator of the iconic Giffords Circus, of which we are all huge fans, but also as a hugely talented and creative author. It was a true honour to publish her book, Nell and the Circus of Dreams, earlier this year, which has brought the magic of Giffords to bookshelves and bedtimes around the world. From the moment Nell arrived at an OUP sales conference, accompanied by both a strongman and her hen, Rosebud, we were all captivated, and we knew we were incredibly lucky to be working with her. We will miss her very much."