Off Pentonville Road in London’s Kings Cross neighborhood sits an unassuming park. At first glance, a passerby may not take much notice of this small plot of shrubs and patchy grass. But this park’s modest appearance belies the fact that it is an important site in the world of clowns.
Like many London parks, Joseph Grimaldi Park was once a graveyard that has since been repurposed. It’s named after one of the people buried here, Joseph Grimaldi, who lived from 1778 to 1837. Grimaldi is considered the father of modern clowning, and his grave, and thus this park, are considered pilgrimage sites for the clowning community.
Unlike the aged monuments stacked around the boundaries of the park, his restored tombstone stands tall in the center, surrounded by a black fence, fronted by the sock and buskin. On any given visit, visitors might find streamers, balloons, and other celebratory leftovers attached to the fence.
On the side of the park closest to Pentonville, a musical installation honors Grimaldi, as well as Charles Dibdin, a British musician who died in 1814. Two coffin-shaped inlays, designed by the artist Henry Krokatsis and unveiled in 2010, rest among the bushes. Visitors can dance atop them—the title of the work is “An Invitation to Dance on the Grave…”—and the bronze plates will make sounds. According to a press release from the time, it is actually possible to play the song “Hot Codlins,” which Grimaldi himself made famous.
The park was redesigned between 2008 and 2010. It consists of four sections, or “rooms” as Latz+Partner, the landscape architecture firm responsible for the park’s transformation, refers to them. Each “room” has its own function, some of which include sports facilities and gardens. So if you aren’t interested in paying tribute to a clown forefather, you can always head to another “room” for more standard park activities.
Know Before You Go
The park is open all hours.
Just a 15 minute walk away, at 56 Exmouth Market, is the former home of Mr. Grimaldi.