I don’t generally travel to rural Oxfordshire, the place in England where I grew up, for design inspiration. History, beauty, friends and family – yes, but design – no. That is at least until I discovered Giffords Circus on my trip this summer. Giffords is a family circus that spends the summer months traveling around Oxfordsire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire performing to small crowds in fields behind pubs and other such local landmarks. This is a tradition that has gone on in England for a century or more and to be honest most of these circuses are tired and a little sleazy – not so this one. From the beautiful and vibrant graphics of the program and map that shows the locations of performances; to the rigorous application of the ‘corporate identity’ on every vehicle the visual design of the circus is stunning. Beyond this the performance is delightful; a cross between Cirque de Soleil and vaudeville with inspirational music, amusing plot and loads of humor. The final touches include homemade cakes and drinks at the interval and even the option of a three course meal made from the best local ingredients with the performers at the end of the evening. A UK food magazine describes it as “one of the most enjoyable and memorable restaurants imaginable”.
This delightful experience is owned and delivered by Nell Gifford and her husband Toti (a landscape designer). It shows what can be achieved with the combination of imaginative design, enthusiastic entrepreneurship and talent.What would happen if our local school districts, city councils and health authorities exhibited the same imagination?