When engineer Dave Stancombe became Dave the Clown his wife Patricia wondered whether his new job was macho enough, but those concerns are long gone as the children’s entertainer waves goodbye to The Cresset’s Soft Play Centre after 21 years .
The centre will close on June 30 despite the well-wishes of parents who even signed a petition calling on Dave to stay.
But Dave said: “It’s going because there’s competition. It’s best to go out on a high.
“I have great memories. I will miss it. It’s really sad to close somewhere warm and friendly. People come down and feel comfortable like an old pair of slippers.”
Dave from south Bretton has been making children (and adults) smile for 33 years, packing in up to 500 shows a year. But having recently recovered from cancer it is time for the 65-year-old to slow down, although he will continue his party entertainments business.
It’s all a far cry from 1985 when Dave first started out in his new profession having been made redundant as an engineer at Brotherhoods.
Dave was also a youth worker at a centre in Copeland, Bretton, at the time, and he recalled: “It was difficult to get people in who knew how to entertain. Through frustration I started doing their discos every six weeks.
“One person said ‘would you do my daughter’s birthday party as she loves your discos’ and my wife said to go as a clown.” Patricia admitted she was not thrilled by her husband’s new job. “I found it quite difficult at the beginning. He went from a macho job to being a clown,” she said.
“As the years went on he was so good at what he did people said to me ‘you’re Dave the Clown’s wife!’ When he started doing his clowning job I said give it a year. If nothing came from it he would look for a proper job. Thirty-two years later he is still doing it.”
Dave was later approached by The Cresset to take over the Soft Place Centre - “they were struggling to make it pay so they asked if I could run it for six months to see what I could do.”
That six months has long been extended with his career also seeing him work with Mr Blobby at a baby and toddler show in Birmingham, but the thing he enjoyed most was “doing shows for kids that are poorly and seeing them laugh.”
Leaflets about Dave’s life will soon be sold at The Cresset for £3. The money will be donated to Crohn’s and Colitis UK after Dave’s son Bruce nearly died from Crohn’s last year. A farewell party at the centre with cake will also be held on Friday, June 29. Tickets are £2.50.
Head of Cresset operations Darren Buckman said: “We’re sorry to see Dave leave us after all this time, it’s obviously been a very difficult decision for him to come to, but we’re sure he’ll still be clowning around for a long time yet and wish him all the best.”