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Grimaldi Memorial
David Tett

Everything you need to know about The Grimaldi Memorial Service

An east London church is sending in the clowns for this annual tribute to Joseph Grimaldi

By Alexandra Sims
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Spend my weekend at a memorial service? Sounds a bit drab.
You’ve got it all wrong! Here the congregation wear red noses instead of sombre expressions. All Saints Haggerston has the honour of being The Clowns’ Church, meaning every year on the first Sunday of February the pews overflow with the great and good of the Big Top. It’s where ‘Sunday best’ means frizzy wigs and squirting flowers. Whoopee cushions will be scattered throughout the congregation.

What’s the story?
Since 1946, hundreds of clowns have been travelling from all over the globe to take part in an annual service commemorating the ‘King of Clowns’ Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837). ‘Joey’ defined the appearance we associate with modern-day clowning. The painted white face, big shoes and acrobatics – it’s all down to him. The service is also a chance to remember clowns who have passed on to the great circus in the sky, so expect some reflective moments among the lols.

What happens on the day?
The shenanigans start at around 3pm, but it’s best to get there early – all those huge shoes really take up pew space. Circus tunes will be blasted out on the organ as a troupe of clowns in full regalia make their way to the altar to lead the service. Sit tight for Bible readings with puppets, balloon-animal-making by the pulpit, a reading of the ‘Clown’s Prayer’ and hymns littered with horn honks.

Can anyone join these jokers?
Yep, it’s free and open to anyone. If you’ve always dreamed of running off to join the circus, this is an easy, peasy, trapezey way to get your three-ring fix without leaving the city. 
All Saints Haggerston. Haggerston Overground. Sun Feb 3. Free.

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