It’s no joke: Hackney clown museum’s fundraiser appeal
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Hackney clowns are pleading with the community to help save their historic museum and gallery - kicking off the appeal on April Fools’ Day.
The Clowns’ Gallery had several homes around Hackney over its more than half-century history, most recently Holy Trinity Church in Dalston, until a 2018 flood forced it to close its doors.
Its collection of clown memorabilia is now stored in archivist Mattie Faint’s Clerkenwell basement – but insurance and storage costs have racked up over the past year.
“It’s one of the happiest rooms in London,” Mattie, 68, told the Gazette. “It’s like being surrounded by old friends… It’s a pity I’m the only person who’s looking at it.”
Among its treasures are 20 pairs of clown shoes and 47 costumes, including the last costume of 1950s entertainer Coco the Clown. Some items are more than 100 years old.
But the “pinnacle of the collection” is the 300 eggs painted with clowns’ unique face paint designs, which have been exhibited across the UK.
Clowns International, which runs the museum, is hoping to raise £1000 to pay this year’s bills and preserve the collection for future events and exhibitions. Eventually, they want to reopen to the public at a new location.
The year has been made more difficult with the pandemic. Mattie said: “Smaller museums must be tearing their hair out because they have all the bills to pay, without having any opportunity to get any money in.
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“When we were open we had loads of tours, talks and film evenings and all sorts of things that generated funding. But that’s all ceased abruptly.”
The clowns hope Hackney residents will support their efforts to keep the museum in the area.
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“We’ve been in the borough for a long time and done a lot for the borough, like street shows in Dalston Square,” said Mattie. “If you ask any of the old folk about the clown’s church, everybody knows about it.”
Despite a “strange time in history for entertainers”, Mattie also hopes to return to performing soon – perhaps even in one of Hackney’s busy parks this summer. “Watch this space… because people are crying out for entertainment,” he said.