Remember the innocent laughter and the uncontrollable excitement you experienced at parties as a child? Remember the funny faces and big smiles awaiting you?
Remember The Clown?!
I had largely forgotten until Sunday 7th February 2016…
Here I experienced not just one happy clown but a gathering of weird and wonderful entertainers, sharing together in something magical.
The annual Clowns Church service is held on the first Sunday in February. Here clowns gather from far and wide, coming together to celebrate in the magic of laughter, and to honour the life of Joseph Grimaldi (considered the father of present day clowns) who died in 1837.
I had read about this event and was immediately intrigued by its nature. Clowns in church? I had not been to church for some time but couldn’t help wondering how the two combined. Isn’t Church serious, silent and rather ordered?!
Not this time…
On my arrival a jolly policeman greeted the public with a large red nose and a big grin. Attempting to usher the excitable audience and competing press into any form of order was not on the agenda. Instead, entertainment prevailed and visitors rose to the excitement, colours, and energy created by the first few clowns to arrive.
Attracting a diverse audience, arms and cameras pointed in all directions. Leaning on the head of an elderly lady, this extraordinary policeman included everyone, entertaining us in the build up to the service.
Above is an example of the magical outfits, extravagant face paints, top hats, flowers and bubbles that were just a few of the fabulous garments and props creating a kaleidoscope of colours.
To kick start the service a vicar as energetic as the awaiting audience entered the church followed by a continuous line of brightly coloured clowns. All ages, sizes and colours, the excitement was tremendous. Situated just ahead of the frame above, press cameras fired like an electric storm.
All seated and time to sing, the air filled with cheer and smiles. Energy lifting the room.
No ordinary speech. The clowns took to the floor for an inspiring collection of readings, poetry and song.
Throughout the service, huge shoes thumped across the floor. I was drawn to the feet of this particular clown as she recited to the audience.
Applauses of appreciation echoed up to the top balcony, rising from the densely covered pews below. Frail, slow and weathered, this ageing clown became radiant with life.
He soon took to the floor himself and gave a magical performance, reaching across to all four corners of the room.
The service continued to a climax of celebration. Smiles and laughter were contagious.
Here I captured one of my favourite moments. Set against a fading, over worn red carpet this clown’s energy set the room on fire.
I had chosen to document the event away from the press, at a height from which I could record the eccentricity of the service unobserved. Through the spade shaped carving in the wooden balcony above the vicar, I watched the service as if peering through a playing card. I was looking at a childish world inside my imagination, a world of clowns attending Church on a Sunday…here in front of me.
At this moment I was spotted and given the privacy of a more intimate experience through the lens. Receiving a rather piercing stare, I was thankful that I was not a very young child!
A large cake marked The Clowns International 70th Annual Service.
No ordinary day in the streets of Dalston, London. This was a surreal and magical afternoon. The clowns performed for the children after the service, taking their smiles back out into the streets after. I would encourage anyone to attend.
Remember the gift of laughter.