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'We were exotic strangers competing for notches on the bedpost'

Theatre: End of the pierrot show

Big shoes, little cars, custard pies: clowns have an image problem with the over-fives. But now our red-nosed chums have discovered tragi- comedy. And rebranded themselves as performance artists. By Clare Bayley

Fridge-freezers for Jesus

If a man strikes you, you should turn the other cheek, says the Bible. But if your assailant is one of the athletic evangelists known as the Power Team, it might be better to run away. They're spiritual, but they are also large.

Letter: School gimmicks

Sir: Ministers claim they are privatising Hackney education authority because they are acting on behalf of Hackney parents and children ("Hackney loses control of its schools", 20 March).

BOOK: PICK OF THE WEEK

You've read all her books. They transported and transformed you. I don't know who she was, that special writer, but there's a jolly high chance that she's in London this week. Margaret Atwood perhaps or Nadine Gordimer? Carol Ann Duffy or Doris Lessing? She's trying to decide what to read to you; she's going through her books, marking little passages with torn-off scraps of Post-it. Shall she bring the paperback? No, she's always preferred the cover of the first American hardback edition.

Hackney loses control of its schools

THE GOVERNMENT effectively took over key parts of a local authority yesterday, as Ministers prepared to put its controversial education service out to tender.

Blunkett to seize control of `failing' Hackney schools

THE GOVERNMENT is to seize control of one of Britain's worst education authorities after inspectors found it was still failing pupils.

Property: Stepping Stones, One Couple's Property Story

MANDY EVANS, a TV producer, and her partner Syd - who have bought three properties since 1984 - were the first of their peers to buy, but were surprised at friends' reactions. "One said: `You're really stupid.' They thought we were mad," Mandy remembers.

They say it's Europe's richest inner city. Try telling them that in Hackney

PINK CHAMPAGNE, you might have thought, was a bit decadent for a working lunch. But then this is the City of London, which yesterday learnt that it heads the European wealth league. Yesterday, inner London, of which the City forms a part, knocked the previous leader, Hamburg, into second place by a considerable margin.

Going Out: Comedy: hackney empire birthday party

The American stand-up Rich Hall (right) is as quirky as they come. He is given to singing random lines from Loot to the accompaniment of an electric organ: "Ford Escort. 376,000 miles. As new. Needs windscreen... Thirty metres of Number 4 grit sandpaper. No time-wasters, please... Sing along if you know the words." Not the sort of routine you'd expect from a run-of-the-mill "why are relationships so difficult?" raconteur. He shares a strong bill on Wednesday night with Ricky Grover, Tim Vine, Rhona Cameron, Junior Simpson, Hitchcock's Half Hour, The League Against Tedium and others at the 97th Birthday Celebration for the Hackney Empire. Mare Street, London E8 (0181-985 2424) doors open at 7pm, shows starts at 8pm

Comedy: Punchlines

Rich Hall

Racism costs director pounds 60,000

A FORMER local authority housing director who subjected a senior black colleague to acampaign of "grossly offensive" racial discrimination was ordered yesterday to pay him nearly pounds 60,000 in compensation.

`Easier than ordering a pizza'

SOPHIE SPENT pounds 250 a day to feed her addiction to crack cocaine. "I didn't look like a drug addict. I was losing weight, but I still took care of my looks and how I dressed.

PUNCHLINES

Lee Evans

Chinese stage circus

For an injection of energy and colour as the summer draws to a close, you need look no further than London's Hackney Empire this weekend, where the Chinese Stage Circus (above) is taking centre stage. The performers, some of whom were trained in China from the age of six, combine traditional circus skills with dance and extraordinary shows of physical dexterity. Catch them while you can - the show ends tomorrow.

American Times: Los Angeles: Doing the rich man's dirty work in City of Angels

ONCE UPON a time Los Angelenos, like all big-city dwellers in the United States, were asked to separate their recyclable rubbish into glass, paper and aluminium cans before putting it out for collection. But that was before the advent of the Big Blue Bins.
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