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Ideas / Album / Clown Service
The annual clown service in Dalston

Each year on the first Sunday in February, clowns from across the UK gather in Dalston (East London) and attend a church service in memory of the clown Jospeh Grimaldi. This has been an annual tradition since 1946. The service moved to Holy Trinity Church in 1959, and in 1967 permission was given for the clowns to attend in their costumes.

In 2013 the church service takes place starting at 3pm on Sunday 3 February (you are recommended to arrive early). The clown performance finishes at about 5pm.

1000 Clowns: More or Less - A Visual Journey
(photo book - commentary in English, French & German)
Author: H. Thomas Steele
Publisher: Taschen
Date: October 2004
Incidents in the Life of Joseph Grimaldi
Author: Giles Neville, Patricia Neville (Illustrator)
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Date: October 1980
Be a Clown
Author: Mark Stolzenberg
Publisher: Sterling Juvenile Books
Date: March 2004
Clown Skits for Everyone
Author: Happy Jack Fedar
Publisher: Meriwether Publishing Ltd
Date: July 1991


Joseph Grimaldi ("Joey") is regarded as the greatest British clown. He was born in London in 1778 and died in 1837. His performances at the Sadler's Wells and Drury Lane theatres were extremely popular and helped to establish the British clowning traditions which continues to this day. His tomb is in the Joseph Grimaldi Park (next to 154a Pentonville Road, between Rodney Street and Cumming Street; nearest Tube: King's Cross St Pancras or Angel; map). The plaque in front of the tomb reads as follows:


Joseph Grimaldi was 3 years old when he first went on the stage of Sadler's Wells with his father and worked there for 45 years as performer and part-proprietor. From his debut in 1806 at Covent Garden in Mother Goose he was adored by all and could fill a theatre anywhere. The name Joey has passed into our language to mean a clown. He lived all his life among the people of Clerkenwell and died at 33 Southampton Street, now called Calshot Street. Islington Council has called the park in which he lies buried the Joseph Grimaldi Park to commemorate a great artist and a great man.

"Joey" Grimaldi

The plaque on Grimaldi's tomb

Grimaldi's tomb

In 2006 there was a performance ...

...based on Grimaldi's life story


The main event is a church service which is dedicated to Grimaldi.
This normally takes place in Holy Trinity Church on Beechwood Road in Dalston, London E8 3DY.
(Tube: Liverpool Street, then bus 149 or 242; nearest train station: Dalston Kingsland; map)
Occasionally it is held in another nearby church: All Saints Church, Haggerston Road.
There is no charge to attend, but you may want to make a donation at the collection after the service.
The website for both churches is:

Many professional photographers attend
Say "cheese" :-)

Time for a quick game of football
outside ("clowns rules" apply)

We want YOU ...

... to have a good laugh

Clowning is often
a family tradition ...

... past down through
the generations

A lot of monkey business
goes on in the church

A portrait is presented
to a retiring clown ...

... and a wreath is laid for Grimaldi
and for other clowns who died last year


After the church service there is a performance by some of the clowns.
This is usually in a nearby school hall (in Holy Trinity School).

A bit of hanky panky

Some rock 'n' roll

Even juggling ... on his head!

This rabbit makes a guest appearance ...

... as do some snakes (can you see them?)

The audience all enjoyed the show

Do you think Mattie is natty or batty?


Following the clown's show there is sometimes a special opening of the Clowns Gallery - Museum.
This is the UK's only museum dedicated to clowns and their history.
It is normally open just once a month - on the first Friday (from 12 noon to 5pm)
(special arrangements can be made for group visits at other times)
The address is: All Saints Centre, Haggerston Road, Hackney, London E8 4HT
(Tube: Liverpool Street, then bus 149 or 242; map)
It is just a few minutes' walk from Holy Trinity Church to the Clowns Gallery.

One of the things to see inside the museum is the egg register. This shows the make-up (known as "slap") used by clowns both past and present. It is an unwritten rule that a clown never copies the make-up of another clown - each one is unique and is designed to suit the individual's face.

There are a wide range of pictures, costumes, props and artefacts on display in the museum.
There is an information board about Joseph Grimaldi and a copy of his most famous costume.
You can also listen to a recording made by Coco the Clown, talking about the importance of road safety.

The egg register:
showing clowns' make-up

Display about the life and work
of Joseph Grimaldi

Coco the Clown
speaks about road safety

You may want to combine a visit to the Clowns Gallery with a visit to two other nearby museums:
- Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA: (map)
- Geffrye Museum, Kingsland Road, London E2 8EA: (map)


Clowns International (the organisers of this event):

Theodora Children's Trust: This is a clown doctor programme, bringing fun and laughter to children in hospital. This important service is provided by a charity (donations are welcomed).

Cirque Du Soleil - Volume 3 - Alegria / La Nouba / Dralion / Saltimbanco (4 DVDs)
Studio: Columbia Tri-Star Home Video
Date: January 2005
Charlie Chaplin Complete Box Set [1921] (10 DVDs)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Date: September 2003
Chaplin [1991] (DVD; film about Chaplin's life)
Date: May 2002
Cirque Du Soleil (book)
Author: Tony Babinski
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc
Date: October 2004
Billy Smart's Circus: A Pictorial History (book)
Author: David Jamieson
Publisher: Aardvark Publishing
Date: September 2004

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Covent Garden May Fayre (Punch & Judy): Ideas/Album/MayFayre
New Year's Day Parade: Ideas/Album/NewYearsDayParade
Red Nose Day: Ideas/Album/RedNoseDay1
British comedy: Life/Entertainment/Comedy
Events in the UK in February: Ideas/Events/February

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