The funeral of Anthony Bowen, better known as the Lynn street entertainer Juggling Jim, has taken place in the town this lunchtime.
Hundreds of people attended the service for Mr Bowen, who died last month aged 62, at the King’s Lynn Minster.
Before the funeral, a procession led by town entertainer Sally Beadle made its way along the High Street to the Minster, passing the spot where Mr Bowen regularly stood.
Many of those taking part wore red Santa hats in tribute.
At the service, Mr Bowen’s woven coffin, adorned with juggling balls and a guitar on the top, was brought in to the tune of The Entertainer by Scott Joplin.
This was the central theme of the sermon, led by Canon Christopher Ivory, rector of the Minster, who described Mr Bowen as “first and foremost an entertainer who wanted to make people smile”.
Rev Ivory told the congregation that Mr Bowen, who was born in January 1955 in Magdalen to Len and Evelyn, did not have life easy.
He said that after Mr Bowen’s mother passed away in 1978, he and his father took care of one another, but this relationship broke down when Len moved from Magdalen to a care home in Gayton.
After his mother passed away, Mr Bowen went to London to “look for his fortune” – and was at one time signed as an Andrew Lloyd Webber lookalike and was in comedy duo Bowen and Pitcher.
Rev Ivory said that many believe when the young woman that Mr Bowen was courting left to live elsewhere in the 80s, he was deeply affected by it.
It is understood that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the 90s.
“From what I understand of schizophrenia, it means that there is disordered thinking. There was a mismatch between what he thought or intended to do, and this was very different to what we saw. His performance was very carefully rehearsed and in his own way, it was very sophisticated, a very lengthy routine which took all day to perform,” Rev Ivory said.
“Any lessons learned from his life would be to be kinder and more accepting of people who live differently from ourselves, and to be more supporting of people who live with mental ilness. We should celebrate oddness,” he added.
Fellow entertainer Ms Beadle, also known as Crazy Bananas, juggled Santa hats at the altar after Rev Ivory’s invitation, as it was “fitting” to have some entertainment while remembering Mr Bowen.
At the end of the sermon, his coffin was carried out of the church to One Man Band by Leo Sayer, after which a private burial was held at Gayton church, where Mr Bowen was to be laid to rest next to his father, who passed away just a matter of days before him.
Following the funeral, Ms Beadle said: “It was amazing to see so many people come out who knew him. A couple of people who like their beer came in, and the biggest tribute from them was them putting their beer down to come in the church, which is a mark of how much they thought of him.”
Maureen Grimes, who knew Mr Bowen for more than 20 years, said: “He had that warmth about him. He touched the lives of thousands. When he smiled he had the most lovely eyes, his whole face smiled.
“We’ve got to say a big thank you to A J Coggles – the funeral directors firm who arranged the service – I am absolutely overwhelmed at how well they did it. They were absolutely perfect choices of music, they didn’t just give him the basic package.”
A number of people who attended the service also praised how it was handled.
Zach Taylor, from Lynn, said: “The service was quite happy, it wasn’t dreary at all – it was definitely very fitting. When he passed away it was a big reality check that we’re never going to see him again. But this has actually brought a lot of people together and it has made them realise just how happy he made them. He can rest in peace of mind knowing that he was successful.”
Rachel Hovell, of Denver, went to the service with her son Brett and said: “He was part of the fixtures and fittings of Lynn, everytime I came here I would see him. I thought the funeral was conducted really well. They decorated his coffin really nicely with flowers, juggling balls and a guitar.”
Donations were collected on the day, and can still be made for West Norfolk Mind via A J Coggles online at www.ajcoggles.co.uk or sent to: A J Coggles Family Funeral Directors, 1 Blackfriars Street, King’s Lynn, Norfolk. PE30 1NN.