Holly Stoppit (aka Holly Stoddart) grew up on the road with her family’s circus-theatre company, Arts Play Umbrella, performing circus-theatre and delivering workshops all around the UK. Gripped by clowning at a very young age, tiny Holly discovered an enormous sense of pleasure through provoking laughter from audiences.
On leaving the circus, Holly sat at the feet of many a wise clown and fool, diligently soaking up their particular take on comedy and assimilating it with further training in dance, physical theatre, voice work, meditation, therapy and communication skills (see below for a list of Holly's teachers).
For over two decades, Holly performed extensively as a musical clown in circus, street theatre, cabaret, rural touring, schools and theatres with so many companies that the list is frankly ridiculous, but includes: Nofit State Circus, The Honk Project, Oily Cart, The Invisible Circus, Ramshacklicious (the street theatre company she co-founded with her brother, Jack) and the Klezma-dub-pop party-show-band, Yupknuckle.
Wanting to share her performance knowledge with others, Holly began freelancing as a director of devised performance in her 20’s. Her directing work ranges from a trilogy of one-man autobiographical tragicomedies to epic promenade site-specific circus-theatre spectacular with a cast of 150. Between these two extremes, Holly has facilitated artists to create just about every type of devised theatre imaginable. Click here for a list of Holly's directing credits.
When not performing or directing, Holly worked as a playworker and drama workshop leader for children and young people (Bristol Playbus, Windmill Hill Adventure Playground, Travelling Light, The Egg Theatre, Activate UK's Urban Explorer's programme and with Elastic Concoctions, the company she co-founded with her sister Jesse). In 2007 she decided to start focussing her teaching and play work towards adults and began offering Adult Clown Classes to people from all walks of life.
In 2010, Holly's deep fascination for the transformational potential of creative process led her to studying for an MA in Dramatherapy. Her dissertation research focused on the potential therapeutic benefits of clown skills training for adults with mental health issues; a system which she has coinedYou can hear Holly talking about Clown-o-therapy in her 2019 Bristol TEDx talk, below.
After graduating, Holly gradually integrated more and more elements of Clown-o-therapy into her workshops, offering opportunities for self-discovery alongside clown skills training, within a range of weekend, 5-day and 10 week courses.
As well as running her own workshops, Holly began offering bespoke consultancy and training sessionshere for a fuller list of Holly's previous clients.for theatre companies, community organisations, businesses and universities, including creating a comedy module for Bath Spa University, an Artists Development Scheme for Bath Fringe Festival, two week-long immersive trainings for Educircation, the European Social Circus network and several courses for Stepping Out Theatre Company. Click
Holly has offered playful, interactive talks and workshops exploring Clown-o-therapy for conferences and events including TEDx Bristol, Dramatherapy Wales Conference, The Wellcome Institute, London Speciality of Psychiatry. Click here for a fuller list of Holly's appearances.
Holly has been the Artistic Director of Beyond The Ridiculous since 2014, when a group of her students asked her to facilitate a week's exploration of the art of Fooling - a form of solo improvisation where the performer plays with all the voices in their heads. Holly has been studying Fooling with master Fool Franki Anderson since the early 2000's and uses Fooling as a tool for performance, therapy and devising. This magical week of exploration led to the birth of Beyond The Ridiculous, a collective of solo improvisers who regularly trained together and performed at The Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol. It also led to Holly creating a range of Fooling courses and retreats.
During the pandemic, the fools of Beyond The Ridiculous moved online, exploringand improvised performance. Holly also collaborated with fellow clown teacher, Robyn Hambrook to form The Online Clown Academy, to offer video clown tutorials, live zoom workshops, performances and conferences ( and ) for clowns all over the world. Holly also began offering One-to-One online.
Holly's Creative Consultancy gave her a taste for supporting facilitators, directors and therapists and in 2021, Holly began training as a Creative Arts Clinical Supervisor with Relight. During that year, she also designed and delivered, a three month creative facilitation course.
Holly has been practicing meditation for 20 years and has received enormous benefit from regularly attending meditation retreats and courses. In 2022, in a quest to discover ways to make her work more sustainable, Holly made a radical decision to press pause on her own work and moved to a here.in Devon, where she was part of a team running retreats for a year. You can read about her journey
In autumn 2023, Holly will return to delivering workshops and one-to-one support. To find out more, sign up to her news letter at the bottom of this page.
Who's made use of Holly's services? Click here to find out.
Watch Holly talking about her life and career at TEDx Bristol:
Some of Holly's teachers
Here's some of the influences behind Holly's work. Holly would like to thank all her teachers for their generosity, inspiration and support.
- Dramatherapy MA: The Southwest School of Dramatherapy
- Creative Arts Therapies Supervision Relight
- Clowning: Sue Morrison (Clown Through Mask), John Wright, Vivian Gladwell (Nose to Nose) Emma Lloyd, Angela De Castro (How To Be A Stupid), Fraser Hooper, Mick Barnfather, Gerry Flannagan, Kevin Brooking, Julie Goell, Jon Davison, Aitor Bassauri (Spymonkey), Didier Danthois (Fool At Heart), Angela Halvorsen Bogo (We-Play), Moshe Cohen (The Inner Clown), Robyn Hambrook (Rebel Clowning).
- Fooling: Franki Anderson, Jonathan Kay
- Alchemy of The Archetypes: Peta Lily
- Improvisation: Phelim McDermott (Improbable), Jon Nicholson (Peepolykus), Brenda Waite (The Flummery Room)
- Physical Theatre: Amy Rose (Utility Room), Marcello Magni (Complicite), Al Nedjari (Gecko), Maxine Doyle (Punchdrunk), Guy Dartnell, Dominique Fester.
- Action Theatre: Brenda Waite
- Playback: Brian Tasker, Rose Thorn
- Forum Theatre: Laura Newton
- Dance: Joan and Barry Grantham (eccentric dance)
- Dance Movement Inquiry: Eleanor Buchan and Henry McGrath (Oran), Jamus and Lee (Embodied Presence), Bernadette Ryder (5Rhythmns)
- Acrobatics: Marcello De Ramos (Polichinelo)
- Mime: Desmond Jones
- Playful Voice: Mel McCree (Going Feral), Anthony Johnson (Realvoice), Polly Wilde, Verity Standen, Briony Greenhill, Aisha Ali
- Creative Writing: Anita McCallum (Loud Word)
- Public Speaking: TEDx Bristol Speakers training scheme, Dave Rock (flow speaking)
- Laughter Yoga: Joe Hoare
- Playwork: The Play and Early Years Training Unit (Take 5 For Play + Cache Level 2 Certificate)
- Meditation: Catherine McGee, Kirstin Kratz, Yanai Postelnik, Martin Aylward, Leela Sarti, Zohar Lavi, Laura Bridgman, Chris Cullen and Jaya Rudgard at Gaia House Retreat Centre (Insight Meditation), Simon Barnes at Being Mindful (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), Suvaco and Jake Dartington through the Bristol Insight Group, Smirtiratna at Dhanakosa (Triratna), Olly Frame and Lucy Chan (Mindful approaches to recovering from burnout), Nina Jankelson and Shoshana Moskowitz (Mindfulness in Nature) at Sharpham, Rachel Blackman (Somatic Meditation), Martin Aylward at The Moulin (Dimensions of Not Knowing, New Years retreats), Katherine Weare, Nigel Wellings, Ethan Pollock, Lucy Chan, Jenny Wilks, Ollie Frame, Rupert Marques, Ramiro Ortega, Gavin Milne, Shahin Popple, Will Evans (Dharma teachers at The Barn) and many more teachers via Sangha Live
- Nonviolent Communication: Seed of Peace
- Compassionate Inquiry: Gabor Mate (via Wholehearted self-paced learning)
- Circle Of Trust / Clearness Committee: Penny Williamson
- Action Learning: Arts and Health South West
- Small Business Training: Brave and Outset
- Leading Through Your Creative Practice: Arts Connect