CLOWNS are expected to attend the funeral today of one of the founders of their convention in Bognor Regis.
The funnymen and women will be dressed in character when they pay their respects to Hal Brooks.
Hal was a joint organiser with the late Trevor Pharo, or Bingo the Clown, of the first Clowns’ Convention in 1985. He toured all the local schools to get the youngsters involved – and hundreds took part in the procession.
Some went on to become entertainers and often thanked him for introducing them to the profession.
Hal, otherwise known as Kerby Drill the Clown, was familiar to classes of schoolchildren to whom he taught road safety in his unique style.
His funeral service will take place at 1.15pm at Chichester Crematorium. His family have asked those attending to dress in a light-lighted fashion to reflect Hal’s lifetime in entertainment.
Tributes to Hal, 97, have been paid on social media. Town councillor Jeanette Warr said: “Always fun, gave his best to this town. RIP Hal.”
Zaz the Clown, who grew up in Bognor Regis, said: “RIP Dear Kerby Drill, aka Hal Brooks, a truly inspirational clown, artist, prop maker and gentleman – you will never be forgotten.”
Hal passed away on June 4. He was bon on February 23, 1921, in North Kensington, London, and christened Harry Dennis Brooks. He was the youngest of seven children – all are now deceased.
He was in a reserved occupation at the start of the Second World War as a maintenance carpenter with a London engineering company. But he chose to serve in the army where he trained as a signaller.
He was put in charge of a gun emplacement on Mumbles Lighthouse, near Swansea. While there, he met his future wife, Deena, at a dance.
His entertainment career started in Collins Music Halls where he appeared as a lightning sketch artist.
Hal came to Bognor Regis from Mumbles in 1960 with his late wife, Enid, and two sons, Jim and Michael, when he was head-hunted by Butlin’s to be in charge of children’s entertainment at its new holiday centre.
They became known as Uncle Hal and Auntie Deena to avoid a name clash with Redcoats and other entertainers there and the names stuck throughout their time in the town.
Hal was famous for turning people’s names into cartoon faces. Many people in Bognor Regis will have one of his ‘Face Names’ or laminated wooden pine sculptures.
As Kerby Drill the Clown, he did extensive tours of schools teaching road safety in the London boroughs.
He also toured extensively with the late Pierre the Clown, and a Model T Ford car act, and later with his son, Jim, as The Super Sausage Squad in galas and a TV appearance with Robert Brothers Circus.
They also appeared several times on children’s TV programmes such as Blue Peter and Crackerjack.
Closer to home, Hal frequently staged events to raise money to help the town. In the early 1980s, he built the large yellow character of Billy the Bulb to raise funds for the seafront and Christmas lights and it became the mascot of the town’s illuminations fund.
Hal was known for never turning down a request to help others, through entertaining, whether playing a piano or a talk about his painting.
His family would like to thank all those who shared their memories of him on Facebook and the kind card of sympathy they have received.