Are clowns scary? Why entertainer bringing global clown gathering back to Suffolk says they're not
PUBLISHED: 11:37 07 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:01 07 January 2020
To many, they are met with nothing but joy and laughter - but to others, they are said to bring back frightening memories of Batman's Joker and other evil creations.
But as the world's clowns prepare to return to Suffolk's seaside resort of Lowestoft for their annual global conference, its host says that while scary characters are no laughing matter, much of fear whipped up about clowns is hyped out of all proportion.
Andrew Davis has devoted his life to bringing smiles to children's faces as Andy the Clown.
The Lowestoft entertainer has become so successful that he is currently in the middle of a two-year term as president of the World Clown Association (WCA), effectively making him he globe's most foremost clown.
Since 2015 he has brought clowns together from as far away as America, Canada and Europe for a week-long conference in Lowestoft to share tips on the best magic tricks and slapstick humour.
"I do it because the clowns don't get the opportunity to get together, learn and share tips with each other," said Mr Davis, who wants clowns to bond talking about their over-sized suits and squirty water pistols.
"The whole aim is to give clowns a chance to come and network, rekindle friendships and see what other clowns are doing."
After a change from its usual venue last year, when the WCA Convention was held in Birmingham, it returns to the east coast for 2020.
Clowning, Mr Davis said, can sometimes be a lonely vocation because entertainers are often on stage alone.
He hopes this year's conference from Monday, February 3 to Friday, February 7 will "give clowns the opportunity to watch other clowns", both at workshops and shows at Pakefield's Seagull Theatre.
The clowns are even taking over Beacon Bingo to call out the numbers on the Monday evening.
Yet try as they might, one question often comes up - don't people find clowns scary? The fear of clowns - or coulrophobia, as it is known - has been around for decades but has not been helped by incidents in recent years where people dressed as clowns jumping out on scaring passers-by.
Yet Mr Davis believes the public know the difference between professional clowns and impostors - and believes media reports deserve a lot of the blame for an unfair perception of clowning.
"The public can be easily led by the media," he said.
You may also want to watch:
"The more focus there is on the negative side, the harder it is for us to do our jobs.
"We need modern and inventive journalism to break down these barriers."
Professionals like Mr Davis take great care to ensure their costumes do not cause unnecessary alarm, especially when peforming in front of young audiences.
They will also wear a lot less make-up in a school and will adapt their costumes depending on where they are working.
They are also careful not to place themselves in situations where someone might be frightened.
Mr Davis also said many people seem to believe clown performances are less popular than it used to be - but said: "We're so busy we have very little room for more work.
"If you're good at it, you'll get work."
What can we expect at the 2020 World Clown Association Convention in Lowestoft?
Comedy legend Freddie Davies is very much the star of the show at this year's World Clown Association Convention in Lowestoft.
Nicknamed Parrotface, Davies rose to fame on the historic television talent show Opportunity Knocks in the 1960s - the Britain's Got Talent of its day.
He went on to star in in more than 500 television and radio shows with his unique stand-up routine.
So the clowns gathering in Lowestoft for the convention are likely to be all ears for his lecture and workshop on comedy, stagecraft and slapstick on Tuesday, February 4.
Tickets are £40 and include a show in the evening with Simon Thompson - A Miller's Story.
After the clowns arrive in Lowestoft on Monday, February 7 to meet and greet each other, they go into a workshop between 3pm and 4pm ahead of their evening at Beacon Bingo.
Lectures and workshops dominate the Wednesday and Thursday before a debriefing on Friday - but not before the Wrong End of the Pier Show at The Seagull Theatre on the Wednesday and Thursday, starting at 7.30pm on each evening.
Tickets for the shows are £4 a person.