THE SIZE of Giffords Circus’s latest outing to Minchinhampton has prompted concerns about the strain it puts on the town and common – though the graziers and National Trust have stressed they and Giffords always rectify any damage.
Cars parking for the circus, which came to Minchinhampton in August, were not properly controlled, according to some parish councillors.
“It’s got bigger – they’re putting on three shows a day,” councillor Stan Waddington lamented to his colleagues during a meeting when the circus was in town.
A picture of the Giffords tent on the common last year. Photo: Simon Pizzey
Parish councillors also discussed whether Minchinhampton was feeling the brunt of fewer showings of the circus elsewhere in Gloucestershire.
Afterwards, councillor Nick Hurst told the SNJ: “I think there was a lack of marshalling around the car parking this year, and nothing to manage the exit out onto the Cirencester Road. That must be sorted out next year.”
More cars may mean more damage on the common, councillors also feared – a concern echoed by Lucy Offord, who runs a nearby campsite.
A photo taken by Lucy of cars and damaged grass on the common this year
“The circus absolutely destroyed the Common this year – the grass was obliterated,” she told us.
Minchinhampton is a regular fixture in Gifford’s annual tour, which sees the popular circus travel around the county and then head on to other parts of England.
The circus just had its final show of 2018 – in Stroud at Fennells Farm.
When it arrives in Minchinhampton, it puts up its big tent on a part of the common called the Great Park with the permission of the graziers – the farmers who put their animals out on the common in the summer.
Ultimately the National Trust owns both the Minchinhampton and Rodborough commons, but the graziers rent out the Great Park from the NT for their animals and, in turn, let Giffords use it, as they have for the last 15 years.
“We allow the circus because it brings fun and enjoyment to the people of Minchinhampton,” explained Steve Kilmister, the graziers’ clerk.
Photo: Simon Pizzey
“Circuses and fairs have been held on the commons for centuries and we are generally supportive of that tradition.”
“We are aware of the stress to the grass put by the circus.
“However we always meet with Giffords after they leave to agree a plan of rectification.
“I have explained this to the parish council and they can be assured any damage will be repaired.”
For its part, the National Trust is confident any damage to the common can be repaired.
A spokesperson told us: “Remedial work to repair localised damage to the grass by cars entering and exiting is being undertaken by Gifford’s and overseen by the Minchinhampton Commoners Committee.
“The National Trust will be encouraging the continuation of good dialogue between all parties to ensure the safety of the land and mitigate any future issues.”
On car marshalling, Steve added that the graziers are “also aware of the pressure of traffic”.
“The Commoners gave up some of the land for extra parking for parishioners a couple of years ago as the Council asked for help with their growing traffic problem which exists throughout the year.
“Giffords puts additional strain on this for a certain period of the day and I am sure we will address this with Giffords at our post circus review.”
But in the view of Lucy of the Tobacconist Farm campsite, the problems posed by Giffords go beyond the health of grass to the health of the town’s economy.
“They don’t put any money into the community. Everyone drives onto the Common, parks, buys Gifford’s merchandise and drives off.
“That does not bring business into Minchinhampton. There’s no pubs for them to go to, there’s no eateries, there’s no takeaways.
The Crown Inn, which closed in 2012. Photo: Simon Pizzey
“How many people go to an evening and walk down into a dead town? Nobody.”
But Paul Golding, who owns The Kitchen on the high street, disagreed.
When we asked if he his coffee shop reported a boost to business, he replied: “Definitely – we see a massive lift.”
“Just before the performances people are walking around the town, stopping in to buy cakes and coffee – even the circus’s workers come in for breakfast.”
“The circus is a massive help to us.”
Giffords declined to provide more comment for this story on top of what the graziers told us.
What do you think? Is Giffords getting too big for Minchinhampton? Or is it an asset to the community? Vote below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.