Dec 15 2021
Phew! What a year! From writing a book to designing a new three-month creative facilitation course, via online clown workshops, guest bespoke facilitation, one-to-one creative consultancies, chatting and blogging; 2021 was another creative explosion!
Developing My Creative Practice
2021 arrived with a sky-full of fireworks, I received a Developing Your Creative Practice (DYCP) grant from Arts Council England! This grant allowed me support and time to focus on writing a Handbook of Mindful Play for Group Leaders.
As part of my DYCP project, I redesigned my weekly course, The Mindful Play Inquiry, to work online and I got to run it twice with two different groups of participants. here’s how one of them described it: “Mindful Play is a gentle opening of the heart and loosening of the mind that enables you to find your playful spirit.” I am really delighted with how this course has developed and am looking forward to running it again in The Future.
In the summer, I started piloting Outdoor Mindful Play Sessions with my dear friend and colleague, Angela Hill. We explored ways of bringing together mindfulness, play and nature inquiry for adults… watch this space for open workshops next year.
Did I finish the book? No I didn’t! But I learned and grew a lot as a writer. I blogged about my rollercoaster writing process for other creatives to learn from, laugh at and to find a companion in the creative soup with. I’m hoping to find my way back to the book in 2022.
The book project directly led to me designing a new three-month creative facilitation course called ‘The Well-Held Space’, which I’ve just finished delivering in person for 12 UK-based facilitators and online for another group of 12 facilitators scattered across Europe, South Africa and the UK. Here’s how one participant described it:
“This is a brilliant opportunity to build your confidence as a space holder and facilitator, to begin to consider and implement the vital and effective tools that Holly has used over the years in creating her astoundingly safe, nurturing and inspiring workshops.” - Lexi Strauss
I loved designing and delivering The Well-Held Space and will endeavour to offer it again in 2022.
The Online Clown Academy
Way back in March 2020, fellow clown teacher Robyn Hambrook and I responded to the pandemic by providing playful digital clown workshops for clowns in isolation. We co-founded The Online Clown Academy and kept the play flowing throughout the whole of 2020. As the UK went back into lockdown in early 2021, we decided to offer our three progressive courses again (Zoom Clown 1 - Clown Play, Zoom Clown 2 - Clown Devising, and Zoom Clown 3 - Personal and Political Clown Performance). We also continued facilitating facebook live workshops and tending to our global clown community via our facebook group.
The Online Clown Academy gave us opportunities galore to explore the space where our respective passions met (Robyn is interested in clown as a form of activism / political protest and I am interested in clown as a form of personal development / self-inquiry.) In May 2021, we organised our second online conference, ‘Clowning Out Of Chaos,’ to invite other clowns into the exploration of where the personal meets the political; through performances, workshops and discussions. You can read about that and watch the panel discussion here.
After the conference, Robyn’s and my individual passion projects needed our full attention, so while I was writing my book and running my Mindful Play sessions, Robyn was offering ‘The Activist Clown Tool Kit,’ a series of online workshops, collaboratively delivered with an array of activists and clowns from across the globe.
As the world started to open up, Robyn was drawn to orchestrating clown activism in the real world in a series of performance laboratories with elements of nonsensical political public nuisance. Check out more about Robyn’s projects here.
Will we come back to running our online courses? At the moment we don’t know. The Online Clown Academy was born from a desire to offer release and connection for clowns in isolation. We recognise that there are still many people who prefer to attend workshops online for many reasons (eg geographical, physical and mental health, family and financial situations) and we will endeavour to keep making online offers when we can.
Beyond The Ridiculous
Back in spring 2021, I supported the fools of Beyond The Ridiculous (the solo authentic impro theatre company, which I am Artistic Director of) to design and deliver a series of 6 ‘Fools Play Online sessions’. I really enjoyed offering the company members training, supervision and guided evaluation. This was the first time the fools have run sessions without me witnessing them, which felt like a very exciting step towards a possible future of the fools facilitating their own foolish projects. Reading the feedback, the participants described the series as ‘healing and heartening’ (Riss Obolensky) and ‘A full and varied deck of playful investigation’ (Greg Champion.). You can find out more about the Fools Play experience here.
In autumn 2021, three of the Beyond The Ridiculous gang and I co-created a Fools Retreat in the Forest of Dean. We had a beautiful time playing outdoors, singing in the woods, dancing in the garden, exploring our procrastination in the village hall, and being introduced to VR fooling in the parlour. You can read a poem about what we got up to here.
One to One Creative Consultancies
Through 2021, I’ve continued providing one-to-one Creative Consultancies on Zoom and this year I’ve got to do some in actual real life too! In 2021, I worked with 12 artists and facilitators from across the globe. Some booked in for regular monthly slots, others booked me for whole days and a few checked in here and there when they’ve needed it. Through discussion, play and meditation, we’ve grappled with the themes of confidence, money, the inner critic, how covid is impacting their work, marketing and promotion and holding safe space for others. Some have asked for my support in creating material to be performed and others have asked me to support them in designing creative processes and workshops for their participants.
I’ve enjoyed every minute of the one-to-one work. It’s a real privilege to be witness and guide for these processes. It feels like a natural direction for me to be moving towards, so much so that I’ve begun training as a Clinical Supervisor to give my supervision practice more depth and rigor.
Bespoke Group Facilitation
I was so glad to be able to get back into rehearsal rooms to facilitate theatre companies this year! And what a fantastic selection of projects came my way! I feel very lucky to be able to dip into a multitude of different projects and and inspired by such a diverse range of artists:
- Taking Flight commissioned an online workshop for Welsh Theatre Makers called ‘Play Your Way to Resilience!’ as part of The Happiness Symposium.
- Deaf and Fabulous asked me to facilitate a 2-day online workshop in interactive clowning and devising for outdoor performance as part of their R&D for ‘Martha.’
- New company, The Guild of Gwens brought me in as part of their residency to hold space for them to explore ways of supporting their wellbeing within their organisation.
- Bobak Champion invited me up to Leeds to offer a day’s workshop in interactive clowning for a group of dancers and theatre makers and a day working with him one-to-one, as part of his devising process for his solo theatre performance, 'I’m Muslamic, Don’t Panik'.
- Hijinx Theatre Co enticed me over to Cardiff to offer a 3-day workshop in interactive clowning and ensemble play for their new street theatre show, 'Grumpy Unicorns'.
- Stepping Out Theatre Company in Bristol commissioned me to run a series of 6 sessions ‘Exploring Connection Through Play.’
- The Creative Arts Therapies foundation degree at City of Bristol College invited me back to run a day-long ‘Introduction To Clown-O-Therapy
- Kid Carpet commissioned me to run a 2 day group workshop in ‘Exploring Failure Through Clowning’ as part of his R&D for ‘Epic Fail.’
In 2021 I continued to get invited to chat about my work and I held space for others to chat about their work:
- Clown legend Angela De Castro invited me and our mutual teacher, Franki Anderson to have a chat about our work.
- Playfulness Facilitator, Andy Cain from Play Connect interviewed me for his podcast.
- Barnaby King interviewed me as part of his series of ‘Clownversations’.
- I got to hold space for a juicy panel discussion on the theme of clowning and chaos at our ‘Clowning Out of Chaos’ Conference
- I facilitated an after-show Q and A for Beverly Bishop as part of ‘Finding Magic’ at the Edinburgh Fringe.
My DYCP project seems to have uncorked a massive, never-ending flow of words. My blogs have been getting increasingly personal as I revealed my 4th baby loss and chronicled my heartbreak experience. I’ve had a lot to deal with this year on a personal level - but the writing and sharing has definitely helped.
My blogs have captured a year of deep processing. I’ve written about: creating the conditions for creativity, why I use red noses in my teaching, the role of surrender in creativity and grief, how covid is impacting my workshops, my top 10 facilitation tips, the story of my facilitation journey parts one and two, more about surrender - lessons from nature, more thoughts about clowning and covid, reflections on writing, snapshots of heartbreak and moments of delight, parts one, two and three.
This year, I got to attend a lot of soul-nourishing, brain-tingling trainings and retreats. I’d recommend them all:
- The Inner Clown with Mosche Cohen (online)
- Somatic Meditations for Soothing and Softening with Rachel Blackman(online)
- ‘Leading From Your Creative Practice’, a bespoke training for Creative Producers - fromArts Connect (online)
- Action Learning with Arts and Health Southwest (online)
- Dramatherapy South WestConference (online)
- Devoted and Disgruntled Open Space (online)
- Creative Arts Therapies Supervision training with Relight(in real life)
- Meditation retreats - Dimensions of Not Knowing with Martin Aylward (online), The Woodland Retreat at Sharpham (in real life), The Journey at Embercombe (in real life) and countless morning meditations with Sangha Live (online)
I’m so grateful for all the support I’ve received this year from friends and family, my incredible co-facilitators Robyn and Angela, my diligent assistant Dominique, my ever wonderful radministrator and poet-in-residence Beccy, my clinical supervisors Tone and Bruce, my coaches Kate Webb and Susi Tichener and of course three cheers for the ever-loving Mother Earth. Massive thanks to all the artists, facilitators and students who have let me into their hearts and souls and big up to you, dear reader for engaging with my words.