Giffords Circus, Cowboys Never Say Goodbye, 2023


in support of Maggie’s Charity

In the run up to the 25th anniversary of Giffords Circus in 2025, Jeremy Houghton is delighted to be the Artist in Residence for this unique circus with cult status in the Cotswolds and beyond. Cherished by so many as a quintessentially English highlight of the summer season, Jeremy is excited to literally lift the curtain and get behind the scenes of the iconic institution.

In all his work, the artist likes to get under the skin and lift the glossy veil to reveal unseen,  intimate moments in shared complicity with the viewer. It is the stories and anecdotes of the personalities involved in creating this kind of intricate production that really interest Jeremy. The timidity behind the clowns smiling face, the many hours of (often tedious) training for the acrobats and tight rope walkers, the deep friendships forged amongst an international cohort of touring artists, together again, the highs and lows that come with life on the road. Laughter, tears, late night caravan parties, picture-perfect summer evenings, quiet dawn moments tending to horses, stocking up with fresh bread for after-show feasts, costume changes, storms, tuning violins and limbering up.

All of this with the strong vision of founders Nell and Toti Gifford never far away, the words ‘I held the jewel of my childhood up to my eye, and through it I saw ponies and a dressing-up box and a tent, and that was Giffords Circus,’ as a constant reminder of how far these magical circus tendrils extend, the joyous shrieks of small children and hearty laughter from delighted audiences everywhere.

In the same way that Degas sketched ballerinas lacing up their slippers, Jeremy will discreetly position himself in quiet corners of the rehearsal ring and get to know the acrobats and dancers, their rhythms and daily lives. He’ll rub shoulders with musicians and learn their French inspired tunes during rehearsals, share meals alongside Hungarians, Italians, sequins and moustaches and learn the names of the miniature spotty ponies that are everyone’s favourite.

The goal of this collaboration is to create a collection of work that can be sold in support of Maggie’s Cancer Centres, a charity that helped Nell in the last months of her life. Jeremy sees this opportunity as a privilege, not only to record the whimsical, eccentric, joyousness of Giffords Circus and celebrate a special anniversary, but especially to extend this legacy in helping individuals and their families who are facing cancer.

Les Enfants du Paradis will be interpreted by the artist through sketchbooks which will be mounted and framed, allowing the recipient to turn the pages whenever they choose and benefit from multiple drawings of this wonderful show. Houghton has specifically chosen this medium from both a practical and aesthetic decision. Drawing and sketching allow the artist to move around, quickly capturing moments and movement, standing or sitting, allowing him to be agile in his illustrations. The Giffords team loved the ‘unfinishedness’ of the sketches which suit the ethos of the circus – it’s energy, life, skill and joy but they also show the many marks, paint splashes and notes made by the artist, documenting the story in such a unique way. The result is a truly special momento of Les Enfants du Paradis to be treasured long after the circus tents are folded away.

Cowboys Never Say Goodbye

will be exhibited ‘in the ring’ at Fennels Farm, Lypiatt, Stroud

Everyone is welcome to come along to the Art Tent to hear Jeremy and a representative from Maggie’s introduce the collection

on Friday 29th September 6 – 8pm 

There are still cirucs tickets available here

and Sunday 1st October 6 – 9pm 

with 25% of proceeds donated to Maggie’s

followed by an online exhibition at and a short exhibition at Houghton Art Gallery until Christmas.

Details will be published by Giffords Circus nearer the time.