2018 Reflections

Dec 11 2018

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: 5-day clown group / Beccy Golding

As 2018 quietly grinds to a halt, I'm taking a moment to reflect back and savour the deliciously tangy, rich, fruitful experiences that have made up my year. 2018 has been like one massive, fancy, cake tasting party.

Thanks to all the people who've told their friends about my work, the press for taking an interest in me and Beccy Golding, my wonder-administrator, 2018 has been the year of high demand!

Introduction to Clowning Weekends

"A masterclass in being human." - Introduction to Clowning participant, September 2018

My Introduction To Clowning Weekends have been in super high demand, with up to 3 times the amount of applicants for places available! Trying to keep up, I've delivered nine Intro to Clowning weekends this year, nurturing exactly 105 new baby clowns into the world. 

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: The November Clown gang / Becca Lewis Jones

Every time I teach this workshop, I learn something new about clowning, facilitation or human behaviour, so I'm enormously grateful to all those who came and played. If you didn't get in, keep trying, we'll squeeze you in eventually.

The Mindful Play Sessions

"Holly is developing such an amazing mastery of this field of working. Breaking new ground. I have found all of the these sessions immensely valuable for my personal growth." - Mindful Play participant March 2018

In the spring, in an effort to reconnect with my writing, I brought back The Mindful Play Sessions. Each session was themed to tie-in with the first four chapters of my book; play, flow, spontaneity and connection. I gave a ted-style-talk before offering meditation and play activities connected with the theme. 

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Mindful Play Sessions / Cat Murphy

The Mindful Play Sessions were drop-in and were attended by an astounding 126 people in total. Seeing people engage with the theory and practice so keenly, gave me fresh energy to take back into my writing. The chapters started to take shape.

Later on in the year, I gave myself two, week-long writing retreats, to hone the chapters. I didn't get as far as I wanted to, but I learned an awful lot about myself as a writer. Mostly, I learned that writing is a process and process takes time. You can read about my learning here and you'll be pleased to hear that I've allocated more time to my writing for spring 2019. Hoorah!

5-day courses

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Clowns in Town - 5 day clown course / Beccy Golding

Back in workshop land, I decided to focus on presenting 5-day courses through the summer months. In April, I ran my 5-day Clown course which culminated in public clowning on the last day, the group went on a big adventure, to make friends with strangers in Bristol City Centre. 

"A whole week of playing, prancing, making friends and opening my heart wide open!" 5-day Clowning participant, April 2018

In May, I led a brand new 5-day Comic Storytelling course, which amazingly, came out fully formed! Many of the participants went on to tell their stories in public performances, so proud! 

"Holly’s workshops are designed to create a community within a week as part of that community each participant is in a very safe and held space into which they can enter a deeply creative personal development journey... there is ... a huge amount of permission and support to explore and express yourself in order to find your own style of storytelling and your own story that you would like to tell... This is about being able to stand in front of an audience and share something of yourself that only you can offer, own that and be loved for it." Comic Storytelling participant, May 2018

Through the summer holidays, I led two, 5-day Introduction To Fooling courses, which you can read all about here. One participant described their experience as:

"A process of softening and unfolding, seeing the beauty in others and yourself, falling in love over and over again, realising how unique and similar we all are."

Finally, I moved onto Assembling Your Inner Cast, a new advanced fooling course, which I then repeated again in October. Here's one participants description of the week:

"We all have many different masks - those different voices in your head, different ways you present yourself to others and yourself, different roles you take on - in fooling these are called masks. During this course we took a snapshot of the masks that were presenting themselves to us that week, we found their places, voices, and physicality in the playspace, explored their motives, and played them out for ourselves and others - presenting short and long solo, unplanned performances for each other that made us laugh, cry and everything in between. We discovered new masks, or ones that often hide away, and got to know even better the ones that are familiar to us. Holly facilitates the process through meditations, check ins, movement and dance, and her clever, magic process where step-by-step you hardly notice that you are delving deep and flying high through the full ridiculous experience that is humanity. It is moving, bonding, hilarious, daft, sacred and very very special."

I love the 5-day format. I love holding space for groups to drop deeper and deeper into their authentic playfulness. I love what they bring out in each other. I love watching them support each other to take their space in the world; it moves me every time.

Autumn Weekly Courses

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: The fools of the 6-week fools performance course

In the autumn, wanting to take people through deep journeys that run along-side “real life,” I moved into weekly courses. I've been leading 2 groups of brave explorers through The Inner Critic Inquiry and a group of 10 fools through a 6-week performance-focussed evening course. The fools performed a double bill of improvised solo shows at the Bristol Improv Theatre last Saturday, to a lovely, warm reception. Here's what one audience member wrote to us:

“So I have been fortunate enough to attend many of these shows and each time I wish I had the words to give some praise, feedback and thank yous. Last night I was lucky enough to meet another fellow audience member who also is rendered speechless by the bravery of these amazing performers....during the interval we set up an appreciation group where we can feel comfortable in simply nodding with a moist eyes and a beaming smile and we point out the parts of the performances that render us useless to comment. Thank you, for the every single moment of bravery, vulnerability, laughter and honesty. A real feat for the soul”

I love my job!

Over 300 people have passed through my workshops this year and one thing I've really loved, is the opportunity to take several people through a succession of my workshops. It's an incredible honour to guide and bare witness to people's journeys as they explore their inner worlds and develop more and more bravery to share themselves with others. I'm very lucky to have my job!

Facilitating, Directing and Out-side-eyeing

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Joe Rosser / Holly facilitating the comic storytelling gang.

On top of my own workshops and book-writing this year, I've been facilitating, directing, dramaturg-ing and outside eye-ing for various companies and individuals in England and Wales. I facilitated a clown-o-therapy workshop for the Dramatherapy Southwest conference, continued to support Liz Clarke through her tour of 'Cannonballista,' facilitated R&D for Helen Duff's 'How Deep is Your Duff,' Facilitated the creation process of Emily Souter Johnson's 'Polyester,' leant my outside eyes to Queen C*nt - Sacred or Profane, held a play day for Likely Story at the beginning of the creation of their new show, 'Red' and co-facilitated Bath Fringe Street Arts Development Scheme.

Beyond The Ridiculous

In April my company of fools, Beyond The Ridiculous held a fundraiser for people with mental health issues to get access to Many Minds drama workshops.

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: April fools fundraiser / Holly Stoppit

In October, Beyond the Ridiculous had our very first fools retreat in the country. 

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: fools go nuts in the country

Fools go nuts in the country

Fools danced and fools played and fools rolled on the ground,
Fools ate and fools laughed and fools fooled around.
Fools let in the trees and the birds and the sky,
Becoming like tea bags, without questioning why.
Fools spoke from their hearts and sang from their guts,
and I think I can tell you, the fools did go nuts!
Nuts deep in the earth, awaiting the spring,
Planting intentions for the future to bring.

2018, The Year Of Visibility

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Holly in the museum / Joe Rosser

This year, I've been approached by Radio 2's breakfast show, Heart FM, Bristol Community FM and The Guardian to talk about my work. Granted, that's all radio and print, so I wasn't actually visible, but my voice and opinions have been in the public realm more than ever. I feel these opportunities are only coming now, because of the work I did last year on my stage fright. I am finally ready to be seen, apparently! Bristol Museum obviously got this memo, as they invited me to be their Clown In Residence, offering a programme of workshops and performances to tie-in with Clowns: the Eggs-hibition. 

Performance Research

I designed a performance research project to run along-side the clown residency and have loved wrangling with the data to produce a series of blogs. The learning has had a profound impact on my teaching and facilitation. It feels important to have delved into performance again and I hope I can find other opportunities in the future to do more of this. Patricia, my academic clown alter ego, had a whale of a time at the museum, I can't imagine being able to keep her away from the public for long...

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Patrica, pleased as punch / photographer Joe Rosser

Thank you!

Wow, when I see all these projects together in the same blog, I feel amazed at how much I've managed to pack into a year and I couldn't have done all this without excellent support. 

I'd like to express my gratitude to everyone who's been there for me this year and especially; my wonder-administrator, Beccy Golding, who pulls the courses out of my brain and finds the people to attend them, my clinical supervisor, Tone Horwood, who helps me keep my practice safe, my photographer / filmmaker / boyfriend Joe Rosser, who makes me look good and takes care of me, all my assistants and Play Enthusiasts who've supported me in the room and the artists and photographers who help the world understand what it is I do, the teachers who have held and inspired me this year; Vivian Gladwell and Penny Williamson (The Inner Teacher, clown and insight retreat), Franki Anderson (fooling facilitators gathering), Shantigarbha (NVC level 2 - Empathy), Suvaco (4-week meditation course - on emptiness), Leela Sarti (meditation retreat), my friends and family for remembering who I am, even when I don't see you for ages and finally, thanks to all my students, for dedicating your time and energy to the pursuit of creativity, play and connection, without you, I'm nothing!

What next?

To find out about my Spring 2019 workshop programme, click here.

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