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Norwegian joins Dalston’s quirky annual “Clown’s Church” service to celebrate Islington’s clownfather

Clowns gather at the annual Clowns' Church Service for the memory of English actor Joseph Grimaldi at Dalston's Holy Trinity Church. Clowns gather at the annual Clowns' Church Service for the memory of English actor Joseph Grimaldi at Dalston's Holy Trinity Church.

Saturday, February 8, 2014
5:47 PM

Clowns from as far afield as Norway turned up to join in a quirky annual church service dedicated to ‘clownfather’ Joseph Grimaldi

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Clowns gather at the annual Clowns' Church Service for the memory of English actor Joseph Grimaldi at Dalston's Holy Trinity Church.Clowns gather at the annual Clowns' Church Service for the memory of English actor Joseph Grimaldi at Dalston's Holy Trinity Church.

Around 40 members of Clowns International turned up at Dalston’s Holy Trinity Church on Sunday in their full garb, to remember Islington’s father of modern clowning, Joseph Grimaldi – the first gagster to paint his face white.

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, which is now known as the Clown’s Church.

Secretary of Clowns International Antony Eldridge said it was one of the “best ever” services.

“Sometimes events can be a bit crunchy, sometimes they flow, but everyone enjoyed themselves immensely this year,” he said. “We even had a clown in the show from Norway, who wanted to see the service and be in the clown show.

Clowns gather at the annual Clowns' Church Service for the memory of English actor Joseph Grimaldi at Dalston's Holy Trinity Church.Clowns gather at the annual Clowns' Church Service for the memory of English actor Joseph Grimaldi at Dalston's Holy Trinity Church.

“He was a really happy bunny – clowning doesn’t seem to have lost its attraction.”

The world’s first clown lived in Pentonville Road for much of his life and made his name in nearby Sadler’s Wells.

His energetic act led to numerous injuries and he retired due to ill health in 1823. Virtually unable to walk, he spent his final years drinking in The Marquis of Cornwallis where each night the landlord would carry him home.

He died in 1837.

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.

Pip the clown also performed an act on the steps of the altar, which gave the impression she was creating water.

Mr Eldridge said: “That’s what clowning is about, keeping people wondering and capturing their interest. People like surprises, you know.”

Clowns treated children and adults alike to a clowning show after the service in the adjacent church hall.

The performer from the Young Actors Theatre who will play Grimaldi in “Islington The Opera” later this month also came along, in costume of course.

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