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clowning around Circus owner calls for new recruits as Covid causes clown shortage

"When you go into the circus ring and you've got 700 to 800 people looking at you, no matter what sort of mood you're in you have to light up that circus ring"

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Jarl and Silly Tilly on their wedding day PIC: Pacemaker

Jarl and Silly Tilly on their wedding day PIC: Pacemaker

Jarl and Silly Tilly on their wedding day PIC: Pacemaker

Northern Ireland’s clown community has put out a call for new recruits after the pandemic led to a shortfall in performers.

That’s because when the first lockdown hit, many clowns opted to ply their trade in countries throughout the EU where Covid measures have eased more quickly.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme, David Duffy, part owner of Duffy’s Circus, which has been closed for over 500 days, said he’d like aspiring clowns to come forward.

Mr Duffy explained the how the clown drought came about, saying: “Because all the circuses in Europe and in England have been up and operational for the past six months, that huge pool of EU artists are already back at work and up until last week we haven't been able to even get visas issued for non-EU artists and entertainers.

"That's why we're trying to reach out for any of our folks at home who feel that they can give it a go."

He will be giving aspiring clowns the opportunity to perform a short routine via video call.

Describing the traits and skills he’s looking for in a clown, he added: “When you go into the circus ring and you've got 700 to 800 people looking at you, no matter what sort of mood you're in you have to light up that circus ring.

"A clown actually can be the loneliest place because you're in there on your own and you have to be able to read your audience, in a short couple of minutes you have to be able to get a rapport going with them and interact and feed off them."

Meanwhile, Noeleen Fries Neumann and her husband Henrick, both clowns named Silly Tilly and Jarl, who got married at a clown-themed wedding in 2017, set up a tent in their back garden where they put on their own performances.

Fries, offering advice to wannabe clowns, said interested parties must be able to “make themselves vulnerable”.

She added: "You have to be able to poke fun at yourself, it's not about poking fun at other people."

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