NELL Gifford, co-founder of Giffords Circus, sadly passed away yesterday (Sunday, December 8).

Giffords Circus, based at Fennells Farm in Lypiatt, is a Stroud institution, with many families returning year upon year for each new show.

Nell was the creative visionary behind the circus, and also one of its glamorous performers.

A spokesman for the circus said: "It is with broken hearts that we announce the death of Nell Gifford – the co-founder, driving force and the visionary behind Giffords Circus.

"Her illness was well documented in the press, as she believed in transparency and openness.

"Nell was surrounded by family, both immediate and circus - left us on Sunday, December 8.

"We know many tears will be falling as Nell touched so many hearts.

"Her vision for Giffords Circus was to bring happiness, imagination and 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.

"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."

Nell created the circus with her former husband, Toti Gifford, in 2000.

Since then, it has been at the centre of her life and brought joy to thousands of people.

Low-fi and vintage in feel, Giffords is now famed for its magical performances.

Nell was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago and earlier this year was told the disease had spread to her bones and lymph nodes.