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Clown Sunday – and other excerpts from my dear cousin’s letters

Clowns’ Annual Service at Holy Trinity Dalston

My dear cousin was a sister in an Anglo Catholic priory in the East End of London for over 60 years. The letters rarely showed the date, sometimes the day and month and I am finding them as I sort books so there will be no chronological order. She died in her late eighties and we miss her enormously.

25/2/2002 – Clown’s Sunday, with its chaos of buffet meals, celebration cakes, memorial candles and wreaths and mimed Scripture is over. We were concerned with the clowns’ homeward journeys, particularly those who have come from abroad. The Vicar sent her good wishes from Capetown. She is 1/2 way through her Sabbatical now and her husband says, “Too long!” It’s not too troublesome for me but the curate is run off her feet as well as her work here she having to move on after 3 years, and is searching for new work and accommodation. We shall miss her.

Date unknown – I’m just putting my feet up ‘till the washing machine stops and have been having such an unlikely time that I have something to write about.

The BBC decided to make a Songs of Praise with the clowns for Sunday April 1st and have just finished filming it at my parish church.* Oh, the work! They wanted to use the derelict gallery for cameras and some seating. It hadn’t been touched for about 40 years – pigeons’ nests, junk, broken pews, plaster and bits of brick, aged ladders – you name it – NO lighting and NO points, so all by hand up steep steps … and then the rehearsals for our West Indian congregation of the choruses and songs … and then the equipment, including their own fridge and cooker. And then moving the altar to make a place for the jazz band, space for BBC to eat, moving lecterns, altering pews, importing clowns and their equipment, housing and feeding clowns, you name it again….

The rehearsal was magic; the conductor could wheedle music out of a brick wall. The illusion was breath-taking. They promised to hide all the crumbling bits and so they lit it with coloured lights, purple, green and red, moving enough to conceal the walls and the jazz was actually not just bearable but very good, the kind of rhythm that we could all cope with though very fast and very     expert. They even laid a special carpet for the clowns’ mess – stilts, balloons, juggling, unicycles & puppet animals & buckets being sloshed about.

When it was all over we cleared up! It took me all morning to find things like the brass eagle lectern but we think the effort has bound the congregations together as well as giving some welcome publicity & we are not much out of pocket as they left us the carpet & are paying for odd repairs and things.

BUT should you catch a glimpse of it, remember it’s not like Sunday mornings!!**

* The annual clowns’ service is held at Holy Trinity Church, Dalston on the 1st Sunday of February in honour of Joseph Grimaldi and to remember clowns who have died. The Songs of Praise was held at All Saints, Haggerston.
** a joy to catch a glimpse of Claire at the back of the church singing away with gusto.

Submitted by Marj Abraham