Grimaldi service: Clowns gather in Hackney for annual commemoration

The first memorial service took place in 1946

A church service with a congregation of clowns has been held in east London.

The annual service takes place on the first Sunday in February and commemorates the life of the "father of clowning", Joseph Grimaldi.

The date was chosen to be "at a time of the year when mental health tends to be at its lowest, to provide a place for connection and laughter," All Saints Church said.

The first service took place in 1946 and clowns of all nationalities attend.

The clowns turned out in their finery

Grimaldi's influence on modern-day clowning is still celebrated and the annual service gives current clowns the opportunity to pay their respects to comedy stars of the past.

The service included a mix of hymns and circus songs
Some of the standout clowns in attendance included a man and young girl who wore matching orange hats, glasses, red noses and thick drawn-on eyebrows.
Clowns of all ages joined the congregation
Travelling to the church in style

The congregation sported red noses, bow ties, painted faces and spotty garments as they paid their respects.

A mix of hymns and circus songs were performed by the alley of jesters (alley is the collective noun for clowns).

The comedy stars were in fine voice

Joseph "Joey" Grimaldi, born in 1778, first appeared as a clown in 1800.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Grimaldi's clown was "exuberant, mischievous, larcenous, and amoral" and epitomised the retributive desires of the Regency period.

He attacked watchmen, tripped up old women and stole incessantly, whether sausages, fruit, letters, loaves or tablecloths. He possessed no respect for property, propriety, or authority.

A time for reflection and rainbow hair

The clown also satirised aspects of contemporary British society, as in his ridicule of the Regency dandy and in his comic mockery of absurdities in female dress.

Grimaldi was renowned for his transformations, in which he assembled models of living creatures from props such as household objects and vegetables, and created absurd stagecoaches from brooms and large cheeses.

He died aged 58 on 31 May 1837.

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