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Clowns prepare for annual Grimaldi Service in Hackney

Grimaldi Service

Dig out your squirty flowers and polish your red nose - a memorial service with a difference is coming to Hackney and clowning around is mandatory.

Hundreds of clowns in full circus regalia from all over the world are preparing to descend on Haggerston for the 73rd annual Grimaldi Service at the All Saints Church on Sunday February 3 (3pm).

The service is in memory of the legendary clown Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837) who was just three-years-old when he made his debut performance at Sadler’s Wells. He went on to define the appearance and characteristics we associate with modern-day clowns.

Everyone’s welcome but get there early to avoid disappointment. It’s a surreal sight – many of the congregation will be wearing clown make-up, wigs and baggy trousers and you may even see pedal cars being driven up the nave!

The service first started in 1946 at the Chapel of Saint James on Pentonville Road but when it was deconsecrated in 1959 the service moved to the Holy Trinity Church. Clowns weren’t granted permission to wear their full costumes until 1967.

The two-hour service includes performances, gospel songs, puppetry and bible stories. Clowns in full costume usually perform for members of the public in an adjoining church hall afterwards.

Joseph Grimaldi is buried in the Joseph Grimaldi Park in Islington and visitors are invited to dance on his musical grave.

The service is free but donations are welcome.

(Picture credit: BasPhoto /

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