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Popular head of Circus School Will Chamberlain was a luminary of the arts and a force for good

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The artistic community in Northern Ireland has been shaken by news of the death of Will Chamberlain.

Most knew that he had been ill.

Over the past year he had been updating friends on social media about his spells in hospital, sharing photographs from the ward window of the Belfast skyline, and making jokes about the people he interacted with, such as the woman who appalled him with her use of hairspray on the ward.

That was on Culture Night, a sad time for a vice chair of the Cathedral Quarter Trust not to be out celebrating on the city streets.

Last month he was exchanging support with another cancer patient on Facebook.

He agreed with her that the treatment was emotionally exhausting, but added: "We'll get there."

Will Chamberlain was the director of the Belfast Community Circus School and was a professional clown for 12 years before taking that post.

The mission of the school was to 'Transform lives and communities through the power of circus arts and street theatre'.

A statement from the Circus School yesterday said: "Our thoughts and love are with his daughters Ellie and Bethany, and his great friend and confidante Cath.

"There is no doubt that Will, from arriving in Northern Ireland in the early 1990s, was a tremendous driving force behind the Circus School and we would not be the envy of the world without his foresight, drive and ambition for us.

"Will was also a wonderful friend to us all, inspiring us with his vision, drive and determination and his utter belief that we could achieve the dream."

It added: "The work of the Circus School cannot be overstated and the impact it continues to have on thousands of young people today.

"The world is a sadder place without him."

There was also a huge outpouring of sympathy for Will and support for his family on social media.

Artist Gerry Gleason said: "To me he was a man of courage, passion and integrity, a rare combination. I hope he is in the Pantheon of good souls."

Esther Haller-Clarke said: "Now there's a man you'd want to be fighting your corner. Such integrity.

"A massive contributor to life and the human race." Hanna Slattne of Tinderbox Theatre Company said: "Rocked to the core by yet another loss to the arts community.

"Rest in peace Will Chamberlain. You leave an enormous void."

For Will Chamberlain, circus and clowning were a serious business and he could be emphatic in conveying the importance he attributed to his work when he thought that it had been undervalued or misrepresented by the local media.

Many also commented on his energy and forceful character.

Paul McErlean, chair of the Cathedral Quarter Trust, said: "Will was a force for good, an agitator for change and a restless improver of things."

He saw his work as part of the answer to the division and dissension in Northern Ireland.

We have seen the death of a clown who maintained his spirits and his chipper demeanour so well that it appeared to many that his cancer was no immediate threat.

Belfast Telegraph

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