Dalton’s wacky clown church service gives thanks for the joy of laughter

Clowns gather together to celebrate the annual church service in memory of English actor Joseph Grim

Clowns gather together to celebrate the annual church service in memory of English actor Joseph Grimaldi at Holy Trinity Church in Dalston. - Credit: Archant

Dalston’s Holy Trinity Church was overflowing on Sunday as throngs descended to witness the quirky annual service dedicated to the art of clowning.

Clowns gather together to celebrate the annual church service in memory of English actor Joseph Grim

Clowns gather together to celebrate the annual church service in memory of English actor Joseph Grimaldi at Holy Trinity Church in Dalston. - Credit: Archant

Around 60 members of clowning organisation Clowns International turned up in their full garb to remember the father of modern clowning, Joseph Grimaldi - the first gagster to paint his face white.

Clowns gather together to celebrate the annual church service in memory of English actor Joseph Grim

Clowns gather together to celebrate the annual church service in memory of English actor Joseph Grimaldi at Holy Trinity Church in Dalston. - Credit: Archant

Dating back to 1947, the service began in a Pentonville Road church, but when it was destroyed by fire in 1959 it moved to Holy Trinity in Beechwood Road which is now known as the ‘Clown’s Church’.

Clowns International secretary Antony Eldridge was delighted with the deluge of interest, with an audience coming from as far afield as Peru and Spain.

“It’s because of us that they turn up,” he said.


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“They like to see everybody in costume.

“It’s only since 1968 the vicar of the day was persuaded to give permission for clowns to turn up in costume, which made it a rather wacky service.

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“I’ve seen photos of them in the old church all in their Sunday best looking very formal like people did when they went to church in those days. Of course it turned it more into a show, it’s not your usual straight laced church service and gradually it developed into more of a light hearted service, to give thanks for the joy and pleasure of laughter of someone who made so many people happy.”

Ten candles were lit during the service led by parish vicar and chaplain to Queen and Parliament, the Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, to remember clowns who have passed away over the last year – including former vice-chairman Eric Sykes of The Goon Show.

Clowns Gingernut, Zaz, Mr Mudge, Rainbow and Mattie treated children and adults alike to a clowning show after the service in the adjacent church hall.

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