Letter: Clowning for our times

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The Independent Online
Sir: I much enjoyed the article about the fuss created over Gerry Cottle's import of an American clown (26 November). While I have some sympathy with Gerry Cottle's views about the state of British clowning, they are much exaggerated. Sadly there are very few circuses left and therefore very few circus clowns - hence Mr Cottle's dilemma.

But there are a lot of clowns who specialise in children's entertainment, publicity work, street theatre and many other types of venue, who are more than adequate and are well received. My clowning is done in church circles - the nearest I get to circus rings most of the year - and there are lots of other 'holy fools', too.

As a founder member of Holy Fools and a committee member of Clowns International, I want to vouch for the efforts that both organisations have made to ensure the highest standards of clowning. This involves not only the quality of performance but also attention to appearance and standards of behaviour.

There will always be bad clowns around, partly because anyone can stick a red nose on and try and get away with it, while others don't appreciate the real art and high calling of clowning. But the clown is a sign for our times and has much to say to us. If Gerry Cottle's superb publicity stunt heightens the clown's profile in society, and brings clowns to the attention of those who would otherwise have ignored them, then no harm has been done - indeed, the opposite may prove to be true.

Meanwhile I look forward to seeing a black female clown in action - it will he a first for me as well as Mr Cottle]

Yours faithfully (and foolishly),