Clown service draws the crowds in Dalston

Clowns came from across the country for one of the most colourful and quirky events in Hackney’s calendar.

More than 60 performers in full professional motley were joined by hundreds of well-wishers at Holy Trinity church in Beechwood Road, Dalston, on Sunday (February 6) to commemorate the life of Joseph Grimaldi.

Members of Clowns International ate lunch in the church hall before donning their garb for the ceremony.

They paid tribute to Grimaldi – who is seen as the grandfather of British clowning – remembered colleagues who have died in the past year, and gave thanks for the gift of laughter.

Tony Eldridge, aka Bluebottle, secretary of Clowns International, said: “The service gets bigger and bigger every year.

“It is something novel – a lot of people have never heard about a church service where 60 or 70 clowns turn up in full motley.

“It’s a service that’s bright and breezy but a lot of people still find it very moving.”

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The service was conducted by the Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, vicar of the parish and chaplain to the Queen and the House of Commons.

Hundreds of people packed into the church hall where a video link was installed, and where clowns entertained children with jokes and tricks.

Among on the onlookers were John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, with his wife and three children.

The annual event started in 1947 to mark the beginning of the clowning year as well as the start of Clowns International, or The International Circus Clowns Club as it was known then.

Holy Trinity is now ‘the clowns’ church’ and has a stained glass window depicting Grimaldi.

For more photographs, a history of Grimaldi and a closer look at clown make-up, see this week’s Hackney Gazette